the idea that known physics will be able to account for the brain is enormously far in the lead
You're making an error in your analysis here, by assuming that the physical facts determine all of the facts. A functional/materialist description of the brain does not solve the "hard problem". The only solution to the hard problem I've ever read is one that simply denies it exists. Not a very satisfying solution. Let me ask you a question: once all of the forces, fields, particles and laws of physics have been enumerated, will there be anything else left to explain?
I also read both Hoftstadter and Dennett. The former made a similar mistake to the one you accuse Penrose of making: attaching almost mystical properties to the concept of recursion and the emergence of complexity. Dennett has similar problems, but more than that he has mistaken a model of cognition for a model of conscious experience. He side steps the explanatory gap by simply denying it exists, just as Hoftstadter denies it by promoting the idea that it is simply an emergent property, without being about to explain exactly what the nature of that property actually is.
Explain fMRI studies that indicate that one actually makes decisions PRE-consciously yet still makes consciousness relevant
Penrose included the implications of these experiments in his book, Shadows of the Mind. But to turn the argument on its head, what would be the point of evolving any kind of conscious awareness at all if consciousness is simply a detached observer of events in the brain? The argument that it must have some causal role is a powerful one, even if it is not immediately obvious (and I'm sure you'll agree that this one set of experiments is not the last word on the matter).
I think Penrose is on much firmer ground when he states that QM effects are taken advantage of by the brain. After all, large scale QM effects are taken advantage of in other biological systems (photosynthesis for example). A relationship between QM and consciousness has long been suggested and I think it would be foolish to simply dismiss it.
I find that his basic argument that there is something missing in our conception of reality that makes understanding of conscious experience impossible, to be fundamentally correct. Philosophers differ on whether or not consciousness and the mysteriousness of QM are related. Intuitively I would suggest that they are, but science by intuition isn't very robust so I won't explain why.
It's important not to forget that Physics and Mathematics are good tools for describing the regularities of experience, but they have absolutely nothing to say about the nature of that experience. Philosophers like Dennett would do away with the entire problem by simply denying it. David Chalmers would take the opposing view, that conscious experience can never be explained with a purely functionalist or materialist world view.
Perhaps the most interesting recent advance in this area was the discovery that plants take advantage of quantum effects in optimising photosynthesis. Evin Harris Walker makes a convincing argument for quantum effects in the brain (although he tends to focus on tunnelling, rather than the microtubule coherence that Penrose points us to). I would find it extraordinary if the brain did not take advantage of such effects in order to increase its efficiency.
I think the most important point in all of this however, is that we know very little about consciousness and we know very little about how the brain works. But more than that, it is my belief that even after science has enumerated all of the particles, fields and laws of physics, there will still be something left to explain. This is the central mystery of conscious experience that Penrose talks about and it is why Chalmers says that conscious experience does not logically supervene on the physical.