A new chef is continuing her predecessor’s penchant for whimsicality and local eats.
On a coldish Sunday in February about eight or nine of Orange County’s most notable food reporters and editors – palate’s sharp as a chef’s knife – gathered at Lido Bottle Works for brunch.
(A nod must be sent to Lido Bottle Work’s PR team for supporting local journalism and letting West Oceanfront come along for the ride.)
It was an imposing crowd, DSLRs and camera phones at the food-snapping ready, resting on the long, copper tables of an outdoor patio sectioned off for the event. A flower-box garden lined three sides of the space, vegetables growing brightly against a backdrop of calm bay.
Though subtle, the vegetables and herbs offer constant reminders that when Lido Bottle works says it’s a restaurant devoted to sustainability, it means it. Ingredients are sourced from this little garden (or a nearby garden in Costa Mesa), honey is purchased from a maker in Yorba Linda, yogurt is handmade in the kitchen, fish is plucked from an Orange County swathe of ocean by fishermen who sell their catches at Balboa Peninsula’s Dory Fleet.
Lido Bottle Work’s PR rep, who sat at the table with us, explained the small, three-sided garden, once under the purview of former Executive Chef Joel Harrington, would soon be divided by box. A box would be given to individual members of the kitchen staff for care and seeding, “so you’ll start to see their personalities shine in each one,” he said.
A small change, arguably, but one reflective of Lido Bottle Works’ same-but-different philosophy as expressed by new Executive Chef Amy Lebrun. Lebrun, who worked previously as executive sous chef before her promotion in mid-February, is something of a local titan. She’s a graduate of the Culinary Institute of American in Napa Valley and alumni of The Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel, The Resort at Pelican Hill, 24-Carrots and Wyndham Avenue of the Arts.
As our seven-course brunch meal would display, Lebrun’s style, like Harrington’s before her, is also rooted in a sustainable, local ethos (the brunch menu from the onset was entirely her creation). Unexpected combinations delight and in some cases, dare.
The gem lettuce salad with polenta croutons is her play on a traditional Caesar salad—”there are a lot of fun flavors in that Caesar salad dressing,” she tells us—piled high on the plate like a royal’s bouffant hairdo. And if you’re questioning lettuce for breakfast, don’t. The dish is light and airy, a crunch you never knew you needed at 10 o’clock in the morning.
Other standouts from the menu included the cold-smoked salmon toast on rye, rooted in a buttery avocado mash with green olive relish piled on top and an olive cream to dip into if you’re feeling saucy. There was also the buratta—what could ever, ever be bad about about burrata?—with a swipe of pomegranate and dusting of candied pistachios.
For the more traditional diner, Lebrun’s in-house yogurt is a win, reminiscent of a Greek-style variation, creamy though not too thick. She tops it with homemade granola and fresh fruit. There’s nothing bad to say.
If you’re opting heavier, try the granola-crusted French toast, deep fried and decadent as you’d expect and finish your meal with the caramel apple cake and soy ice cream. (An off-the-menu tip: Ask about the ice cream Lido Bottle Works has eight flavors of ice cream and they range from the traditional to the outrageous. On this Sunday, Lebrun served us a trio: Mexican chocolate, burnt honey and tangerine.)
The Spanish chorizo hash is the main egg dish of the brunch offerings, a poached egg accompanied by crisp fingerling potatoes, poblano hollandaise and guajillo aioli. The bite is spicy, refined and unabashed.
“There are a lot of bold flavors going on there,” Lebrun explained about the hash as she set it down on the signature copper tables now under her domain. “And that’s me. Bold.”
Heads nodded, forks plunged, and the group carried on with the lavish brunch tasting, sipping intermittently on beach-inspired cocktails like the Shore Break (Kombucha, bubbles and lavender) or the Coastal Tide (coconut-infused port, pineapple, orgeat).
Lido Bottle Works // 3408 Via Oporto Suite 103, Newport Beach // (949) 529-2784 // Menu