It isn’t surprising that I fell in love with Fable & Spirit the moment I stepped inside. From the moment I pulled open the Georgian-gold door with the rabbit door knocker, to the wonderland effect of stepping into the splendid interior, I felt I was being transported into a different world. My eyes darted around the room, taking in the stunning deep cobalt blue hues which ran throughout the restaurant. I suggest taking a stroll around and taking in all the little touches especially curated by the Coyle family, owners of F&S, as well as Dublin 4 Gastropub, and Wineworks For Everyone in Mission Viejo.
I was first invited to a media preview of the restaurant, but then couldn’t wait to return again for more. The restaurant features so many Irish touches, including “the snug” an Irish tradition at pubs where families may escape the rowdiness of the bar, to enjoy a meal with family. The glorious expansive bar runs along the entire far end of the restaurant, complete with gold-yellow bar stools, and it is the best spot if dining alone, or wanting a casual drop-in for one of their fantastic cocktails.
The bar program is one of the best in Orange County, featuring some innovative creations and concoctions by Drew Coyle. If you’re into wines, then by all means relax with a selection from the extensive list curated by sommelier, Ali Coyle.
Some notable and gorgeous not-to-be-missed libations include:
Morrigan’s Dream ($15) Brokers gin, celery, pineapple, yellow chartreuse, lime.
Friends in High Places ($15) Ford’s gin, pomp & whimsey, raspberry, lemon, lavender, egg white.
Let It Linger ($15) Milagro tequila, pear, rosemary, lemon, agave, egg white.
Hare’s Looking At You ($15) Wheatley vodka, canton ginger, pressed carrot, lemon, basil.
The latter two were my favorites!
When it comes to cuisine, Executive Chef David Shofner has outdone himself with a from-scratch menu, showcasing hearty, yet elevated dishes that teases and tantalizes the palate.
Seafood lovers will love Hawaiian Blue Prawns ($18) a perfect culmination of smoky, sweet, and savory. Ingredients such as corn, red belly pepper, pickled shallots, and citrus mojo paired with beautiful charred prawns are delicious. I’ve had this dish twice, and would not hesitate to order it again.
Being a huge fan of octopus, Wood Fired Octopus ($20) is a must. Sofrito and piquant chorizo Bilboa make up the base of this dish, but let’s not forget the incredible smoked potatoes and padron peppers. Flavor-wise, the octopus was spot-on, albeit the texture just a touch too soft for me, especially the thinner pieces.
Rabbit Fricassee ($20) is truly one of the best experiences you’ll ever have. The rabbit is fork-tender and accompanied by truffle potato puree, baby turnips, and morels, finished with a rich braising jus. The entire plate bursts of earthiness and soul-warming goodness.
Another favorite was Potato Boxty Dumplings ($15) reminiscent of gnocchi, and enveloped in a luscious Baley Hazen blue cheese sauce. Beautiful slices of hedgehog mushrooms add another level of texture to the dish. Bits of garlic scapes — or garlic chives, what I grew up calling — dotted the sauce lending hints of garlic without overpowering.
When at F&S, I highly suggest ordering an array of vegetables to share. They are simply sensational, and absolutely worth it. Coal Charred Sweet Potato ($11) is stunning, served in slices with vadouvan and rich, creamy burnt onion soubise.
I always swear if I see another Brussels sprouts on the menu I’d shoot myself. But when chefs take overused ingredients and give them a different twist, I sit up and pay attention. Brussels Sprouts ($14) here are beautifully roasted and then tossed in a bourbon barrel aged maple syrup married with dijon mustard and citrus zest. Bits of smoked bacon add a savory component, resulting in a mouthwatering dish that you want more of. Just keep telling yourself you have to eat your vegetables!
Roasted Cauliflower ($13) is another fantastic offering with green harissa, curry caramelized onions, and shaved almonds, I am convinced it is the green harissa that makes my pulse race when I bite into the cauliflower. It is absolutely heavenly.
I’ve never been a huge fan of carrots, but Heirloom Carrots ($12) is unlike any I’ve ever eaten. The combination of chimichurri, hazelnuts, goat cheese, feta, and Meyer lemon turned humble carrots into an elevated and complex offering.
When it comes time for entrees, there are so many to choose from. We tried Smoked Bone-In Shortrib ($38) at the preview, and while I’m not usually a fan of shortrib, I will give kudos when it is deserved. The shortrib here is prepared to perfection, tender enough to fall off the bone, but not dry. The heirloom potatoes, whole grain mustard, red cabbage, horseradish gremolata, and BBQ jus only enhanced it further. This is hands-down, a stellar choice for meat lovers.
For me, the Fish & Chips ($22) is one of the best I’ve ever eaten in Orange County — perhaps THE BEST — using Icelandic cod. The coating is so thin, yet so crispy, and not in the least bit greasy. It is definitely a skill not many chefs have here in southern California to prepare fish & chips at this level. Hand-cut fries are tasty, and the elegant pea puree is a perfect take on mushy peas. The dots of curry remoulade on the plate are a tease because I’m left wanting more … more to dip my fries in … more to smear my fish with … more to just lick off my knife. Definitely ask for more!!
A true family affair, Darren and Jean Coyle’s Fable & Spirit is absolutely one of the best new restaurants Orange County has seen this year. With son Drew and daughter Ali running the drinks programs, everything about F&S makes me want to come back for more. It’s one of those places you’d best Uber to because you’ll be drinking and eating more than you plan to, because it’s simply too difficult to stop.
When the check arrived tucked within a Ladybird book, I was over the moon with joy! Growing up in Malaysia, these books were a staple of my childhood and it brought back so many memories of the time when I struggled with learning to read English. Now, if the next time I’m in and there’s an Enid Blyton book laying around somewhere, I think I might just lose my mind!
**complimentary parking is available in the lot next to Bear Flag, as well as the lot by Starbucks**
Fable & Spirit
3441 Via Lido
Newport Beach, CA 92663