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Michelin Guide nod lifts Newport Beach pub’s spirits

Fable & Spirit in Newport Beach
Fable & Spirit in Newport Beach has been included in Michelin Guide’s 25 Inspector Discoveries in California.
(Kyle Fierro)

A Newport Beach restaurant has been crowned one of the Michelin Guide’s 25 Inspector Discoveries in California.

Fable & Spirit, a relative newcomer (opened in the summer of 2019), is a sophisticated neighborhood pub, both classy and comfy, in Lido Marina’s growing culinary scene.

Darren Coyle, who co-owns the restaurant with his wife Jean, said they were blown away when they heard the news.

“I wanted to jump up and down,” he says. “Michelin anything is the ultimate recognition that a restaurant can get.”

The list, posted online Oct. 27, was unveiled with an introduction: “This year’s annual Star Revelation in California may have been postponed in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and devastating wildfire season, but in its place … a collection of 25 inspector discoveries; a snapshot of new and inspiring culinary talent across California.”

Fable & Spirit in Newport Beach
An employee at Fable & Spirit in Newport Beach mixes drinks. The pub has been included in Michelin Guide’s 25 Inspector Discoveries in California.
(Kyle Fierro)

It goes on to note Fable & Spirit’s “elegant design … and yet, it never rests solely on its good looks.”

Specifically, the list gives a shout out to the warm Guinness brown bread with honey butter and sea salt, “an absolute delight, especially paired with plump P.E.I. [Prince Edward Island] mussels bathed in a thyme butter so heady that you’ll want to slurp up every drop.”

Also noted: “The Cracked Pepper Bucatini — studded with clams and pancetta — is a glorious tangle of goodness.”

The Fable & Spirit culinary team is led by chef David Shofner, who is also executive chef of the Coyle clan’s popular Dublin 4 Gastropub and Wineworks for Everyone, both in Mission Viejo.

Fable & Spirit’s made-from-scratch menu is progressive, yet approachable, focusing on fresh ingredients. The Fable in Fable & Spirit is a play on farm-to-table, as well as a wink to Irish fairytales.

Nordstrom announced in late October that it would be opening two service hubs — one in Newport Beach, which opened Friday, and one in Manhattan Beach.

Dishes range from classic fish and chips made with Icelandic cod flown in fresh on ice to Wood-Fired Octopus with sofrito, chorizo Bilboa, smoked potatoes and Padron peppers. The restaurant, by the way, is a family affair. The Coyle’s daughter, Ali, a level 3 sommelier, is director of wines. Their son, Drew, is director of spirits.

“It’s lovely to have them all involved,” says Darren Coyle.

Fable & Spirit in Newport Beach
Mangalitsa pork belly and rabbit fricassee at Fable & Spirit in Newport Beach, which has been included in Michelin Guide’s 25 Inspector Discoveries in California.
(Anne Watson Photography)

Darren and Jean grew up in County Mayo and later lived in Dublin 4 before moving to Philadelphia in the early ‘80s and then migrating to Orange County. Their vision for Fable & Spirit, Darren says, was to create a restaurant that was “refined, yet whimsical … capturing the grandeur of Ireland’s country homes. We want to share the spirit and magic of our rich Irish heritage.” Guests enter through a gold Georgian door, just like those seen on the streets of Dublin. On the walls hang paintings of Irish goddesses and hares, revered shape shifters in Irish mythology.

The bar is topped with sleek black Nero Marquina Spanish marble. The upholstery is a mix of leather, teal velvet and elegant prints. Guests can also ask to be seated in the Snug, a cozy private booth — a fixture in old Irish pubs.

While the menus are globally inspired, some of the dishes and cocktails are nods to Ireland. A delicate Rabbit Fricassee is on the menu, as is a Dublin Irish Coffee made with Irish whiskey, espresso, dark brown sugar and hand-whipped cream. My favorite is the Ritual, a sexy bourbon cocktail with chai and allspice which arrives with a bit of smoking sage clipped to the rim of the glass.

Guests can also choose from more than 180 boutique wines by the bottle from the wine cellar, and 40 wines by the glass. Coyle said they have stayed strong during the pandemic, adding 30 seats outside and another 35 under the neighboring Lido Theatre’s vintage neon marquee for three-course Chef Dinners on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

“The clientele has been extraordinary,” Coyle says. “I can call many of them friends.”

The writer is a contributor to TimesOC.

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