By Ron Bernthal
Located on the site of the old Newport Beach City Hall, on Balboa Peninsula, Lido House is one of southern California’s newest and most modern hotels. Opened in May, 2018, the Orange County hotel property, and its signature dining venue, The Mayor’s Table Pacific Pub & Kitchen, has been buzzing with local residents, out-of-town visitors and LA celebrities during its first summer.
A companion and I visited the restaurant and toured the hotel during a recent visit to Newport Beach, about a one-hour drive south of downtown Los Angeles. The restaurant focuses, of course, on fish and seafood, offering not only fresh salmon, halibut and scallops, but other delicious menu items like Thai-seasoned lobster roll with black bread, Hinoki-scented black cod, Pacific seafood chowder, steaks, and a popular Duffy Boat Salad with local baby greens, blackberry and goat cheese preserve, candied almonds, and ice wine vinaigrette. The salad is named after Marshall “Duffy” Duffield, the current mayor of Newport Beach as well an inventor and longtime owner of the Duffy Electric Boat company that bears his name, known for the ubiquitous “Duffy” electric boats that visitors can rent to explore the sun-splashed Newport Bay and Newport Beach Harbor.
The Mayor’s Table, with its tastefully designed furnishings, colorful artwork by local painters, a large bar serving eclectic cocktails, and its beautiful, glass-enclosed “open” kitchen, has become a destination in its own right, and the synergy that exists between the restaurant and the design-friendly, 130-room Lido House hotel and cottages surrounding the restaurant makes for an enjoyable and unique hospitality experience.
Lido House developer and Newport Beach resident and entrepreneur, Bob Olson, turned the old city hall site into a deluxe boutique hotel. Although Orange County is now awash with new hotels (Three openings in 2018 — Hampton Inn & Suites in Irvine, Hilton Huntington Beach, Lido House — three openings in 2017; four new hotels in 2016; and nine hotels under construction), Lido House has seemed to hit the right nerve, partially because of its culinary reviews and innovative design, but also because Mr. Olson, who lives nearby on Balboa Island, was determined to include community input and support in his original proposal to develop the site.
“The ‘Newport nautical’ style of the hotel is described as Cape Cod, with a Newport Beach twist, and it really resonates with guests and residents,” Olson said during the hotel’s opening ceremonies in May. “Our whole concept here is, ‘We’re locals, we’re for locals, we’re about locals, and we want our hotel guests to feel as if they’re locals as well, and to feel like a part of our community.”
Newport Beach, along with Lido Isle, a large recreational harbor, and nearby Balboa Peninsula, has a style similar to the architecture of coastal New England. In Newport Beach many homes and beach houses line inland waterways and feature a Cape Cod aesthetic, but on the sun-splashed California coast, with its balmy climate and year-round outdoor vibe, Newport Beach and the other seaside towns from Los Angeles down to San Diego, have expanded their home environment to include large windows, indoor/outdoor patios and modern, art-filled interiors.
Many of the hotel’s design features, including most of the artwork, comes from artists and crafts people from Newport Beach and the surrounding communities. The Cape Cod design theme means dark roof shingles and gray clapboard siding, fireplaces inside and out, and a lighthouse tower in one corner. A lovely rooftop lounge and bar, called Topside, offers comfortable furnishings and views of the ocean. In the lobby are photos of Newport Beach’s former celebrity resident John Wayne, and blueprints for Wayne’s 136-foot yacht, Wild Goose, are displayed in the hotel’s lobby. There are also two large “landmark” ficus trees on the front lawn that have remained on the site since its city hall days, and the developer worked hard to include them in the final design.
In addition to the hotel’s 130 guestrooms, there is a presidential suite, several executive suites, and five exquisite and pricey custom-designed, three-story cottages. Each cottage is 1,300 square-feet and includes a rooftop patio, personal barbecue and fireplace. Five local designers (Grace Blu Designs, Mehditash Design, Brooke Wagner Design, Erica Bryen Design and Blackband Design) were hired to give each cottage a separate identity, and all overlook some of the private hotel spaces, including a saltwater swimming pool with private cabanas and an English garden.
Lido House, a member of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, is located within walking distance of the Lido Marina Village shopping and dining district and nearby beaches.