The Coyle family—Darren, Jean, and adult offspring Ali and Drew—conjures fresh magic at Newport Beach’s Fable & Spirit. It’s palpable not only on the plate and in the glass but throughout the sumptuous space that evokes the dreamy Celtic realm of myths and creatures. Images of goddesses adorn the dining room, odes to hares with fairy skills grace the menu, velvet teal curtains and a stand-alone snug (small, private room in Irish pubs) create mini worlds.
But don’t assume this is an Irish restaurant serving cottage pie and corned beef sandwiches akin to Dublin 4, the Coyles’ urbane gastropub in Mission Viejo. Instead, they elevate the venue across from Lido Marina Village with lush surroundings and inventive fare sure to lure upscale locals. Here you start with Hares Looking at You, a cocktail starring Wheatley vodka and carrot juice, move on to the refined beet agnolotti ennobled by chèvre foam, lemon, hazelnuts, and balsamic vinegar, then indulge in prawns with sweet corn, pickled shallots, and citrus mojo.
Open since June, Fable & Spirit is thriving for good reasons. The beguiling space has an indie vibe, thanks to family operators steeped in the art of hospitality. No corporate overlords here. Parking is free and accessible. Cocktails and wines are high in quality and imagination. And that menu: It’s a mashup of California goods, captivating flavors, and the refined genius of executive chef David Shofner.
Shofner and his stalwart crew are showcased by an expansive window, a welcome improvement on the trend of open, noisy kitchens. But you needn’t watch your dish made to relish every mouthful. I didn’t see my wood-fired pizetta assembled but still appreciated how meticulously its toppings of duck confit, blistered tomatoes, fontina, and Brussels sprout leaves were placed so that every bite of the crisp-chewy crust delivered the full concept. This utility player could be a shared appetizer, first course, or light meal. Weeks later, I still crave it.
Potato boxty dumplings are a hearty nod to the humble Irish pancake, gussied up with hedgehog mushrooms, garlic stems, and melty blue cheese. Share this indulgent cast-iron terrine or enjoy it with cocktails. Start things on a lighter note with a side of sugar snap peas, their green crunch tamed by yogurt and brightened by grapefruit and fresh mint. If the season lasts, try the citrus salad, a tone poem of orange triangles with bass notes of chèvre and a twinkle of crispy quinoa grains.
Fish and chips is proof of life in any Irish-owned kitchen, so of course the ones here are fryer-hot ivory chunks of Icelandic cod, batter dipped and golden brown to match the hand-cut fries riding shotgun. Bright green pea puree cools things down, but curry remoulade heats things up. Balance is one of Shofner’s many strengths. Not into fried seafood? Great alternatives include Kona kampachi crudo with pickled radish; avocado shrimp toast with onion petals, smoked tomato, and watermelon radish (lunch only); and sauteed Alaskan halibut with chanterelles, though halibut might disappear until summer.
When temperatures drop and appetites awaken, look for some impressive options on the robust side. Of course, there’s a brawny house burger stacked with pork belly, caramelized onions, good American cheese, and a duck fat-fried egg. Mighty fine dinner entrees (called large plates here) with cold-weather heft include a top-selling bone-in short rib vivified by a horseradish gremolata and comforted by heirloom potatoes under barbecue jus. I’m thrilled to report the Coyles say Shofner’s rabbit fricassee sells well; it’s so satisfying and tender with its delicate white meat, baby turnips, morels, and braising juices. Prime beef fans should consider the grilled rib cap, a precious cut packed with steak juiciness and flavor oomph.
Desserts are a limited lot. Because chocolate affairs tend to be like many others, go for the lemony blueberry bread pudding. It’s a shareable treat with tender fruitiness and perfect cakey texture. Better yet, have Darren’s signature Dublin 4 Irish coffee, a dreamy potion he has been concocting since he was a boy working at his family’s Irish B&B. Carefully poured with Power’s Irish Whiskey, local Honor coffee espresso, a touch of dark brown sugar, and a crown of fresh hand-whipped cream—if you find better in O.C., please tell me where.
Service is gracious and informed, especially once you get to know a Coyle, and it seems most do by now. Even when no Coyle is present—a rarity—the staff is patient and friendly.
It’s widely assumed that enchanting Newport Beach is the whole package, absent of nothing. But somehow, the arrival of Fable & Spirit brings a mystical essence we didn’t know was missing but that will magically lure us back for more.
3441 Via Lido
5 BEST DISHES
Wood-fired duck confit pizetta
Fish and chips
Grilled Prime rib cap
Lunch, $13 to $29; Dinner, $13 to $40
One more fun twist: Your tab arrives in a “vintage” storybook.