On the west coast of Ireland lies the iconic Cliffs of Moher, where a troubled sea crashes wildly into the tall edge of the Emerald Isle in the most beautiful way. If you ever visit, you’ll reach a fence saying, “Private Property, no trespassing,” and you’ll be tempted to not go any farther. Yet, just to the left of the sign, there’s a permanent trail dug in by thousands of adventurous people willing to pay whatever fine there might be to absorb the absolute finest view Ireland has to offer.
After getting back from trip there, you may find yourself hitting the equivalent of that trespassing sign at the average American Irish-style pub, where adventuring past cliché dishes and sad Guinness pours are what would make Saint Patrick cry green Bud Light tears to eternity.
That is, until I stepped into Fable & Spirit, a brand-new eatery in Newport’s hip Lido Village. A mere 10 steps into their dining room, and I felt as if I’d hiked to the end of the Cliffs of Moher trail. Was it the big, gold Dublin-style front door? Or maybe the huge smile and wave across the room from a bartender I’ve never met? The vibe here instantly brought me back to those back-country rural Irish pubs, where you’re greeted by a charming family that runs the place—you know, where the dad is behind the bar pouring pints, mom is serving pub snacks, and the kids are ripping a trad sesh on the fiddle and squeeze-box as a few locals slap their knees to the beat, smiling with squinty eyes.
Fable & Spirit is easily the only spot in Newport Beach where the publicans are akin to the culinary version of Pixar’s Incredibles. Mom Jean and dad Darren Coyle, who also run Dublin 4 Gastropub and Wineworks for Everyone, are behind this new spot. Son Drew is behind the bar, with an inspired bar menu worthy of Bartender of the Year, and daughter Ali, who is a musician in her own right, curates the wine list with her mad, multilevel sommelier skills.
Chef David Shofner, who is a dead-ringer for a young Jim “Reverend Horton” Heath, can be seen just beyond the dining room with his sick sideburns, sizzling his menu in the windowed kitchen. Not only does his food pay homage to true gastro-Irish fare, but it also goes a hike beyond what I’d expect for Newport—or even Orange County—with new spins on age-old classics such as a hard-to-find prime rib cap steak, roasted rabbit fricassee, or the highly recommended short rib with plump morels and purple fingerling potatoes that have been butter-poached and porchetta-drizzled to achieve maximum unctuousness.
Maybe it’s the cocktail menu that works in mythological whimsy with dashes of Italian Amari, or perhaps the taps of all local craft beer—aside from a Fergal Murray-approved Guinness draught pour—or the wine cuvenee stocked with a grape geek’s cellar. I pinched myself sitting at the bar. Fable & Spirit is an instant classic.
Fable & Spirit, 3441 Via Lido, Newport Beach, (949) 409-9913; www.fableandspirit.com.
Greg Nagel has been writing about beer since 2011, is an avid homebrewer of wine, cider, and beer, is a certified Cicerone Beer Server, level 1 WSET in Wine, a podcaster with the Four Brewers Show, and runs a yearly beer festival called Firkfest happening on June 29th in Anaheim!