Before I visited Orange County last month, all I knew about the area came courtesy of pop culture: Disneyland, The Real Housewives of… franchise, Lauren Conrad and of course, the fictional teen drama The O.C.
I spent the duration of my Orange County visit based in Newport Beach, famous for Balboa Island millionaires and nautical vibes.
I was a bit worried whether Newport Beach would resonate with me. It seemed decidedly jetset – much too spendy to be gypset. What’s more, I’m not much of a beach-going sunseeker. What would this coastal community hold for me?
And then I stumbled upon the epicentre of Newport style…
Lido Marina Village
Take a walk with me.
Strolling its white-washed streets, this shopping plaza evokes a starched nautical crispness. I’m swooning. Local boutiques curate niche goods, from baubles to hand-mixed perfumes to bespoke monogram stationary. I want to buy into each shop’s lifestyle – except my wallet is stuffed with paltry Canadian dollars.
For now, I window shop.
How to pass an afternoon in Lido Marina Village
It’s in Lido Marina that I pick up on a new term: “Duffy”. Duffy, noun, quintessential Newport Beach electric boat that drives as easily as a golf cart. They’re the best way to putt-putt the marina, Champagne in hand, and an even better way to peep Balboa Island’s lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-famous mansions. Don’t forget your oversize sunglasses, gawking is so gauche.
Once you’ve worked up a sun-kissed appetite, take a page from the Newport Beach playbook and dock n’ dine: park the Duffy, totter ashore and pull up a chair at a dockside eatery.
Where to dine in Lido Marina Village
Dining options in Newport Beach have been affectionately described to me by locals as “high tide/low tide”, a nautical play on highbrow/lowbrow.
“You can be sitting in a dive bar next to a guy in an untucked Hawaiian shirt drinking a $3 beer and not know he owns one of the $16-million mansions on Balboa,” laughs my companion, Sara Gorgon from Visit Newport Beach.
Lido Bottleworks, Newport Beach
I’m not dressed to “be seen” this evening, so I skip high tide Nobu.
Instead, I shore up at Lido Bottleworks, an inviting eatery serving plates made with hyper-local ingredients, craft brews, California wines and draft kombucha. The warmth of the interior timber accents, hand-painted tiles, and Mexican frazada textiles make it a place I want to loiter. The menu is small and all of the bites compete for my attention.
Paralyzed by indecision I order Iberico “secreto” pork, cauliflower, burrata, and short rib croquettes. I rule out the tuna tartare and rockfish ceviche only on the basis of being pregnant. Dessert is a chocolate mousse with sea salt and olive oil, a surprisingly well-paired flavour profile. It’s a delicious end to a Pinterest-perfect afternoon.