Staycation – An Island You Can Drive To

Staycation – An Island You Can Drive To

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In the center of a nice enough office park in Newport Beach is an impressive oasis.  The Island Hotel is a luxurious respite from the hustle outside.  Although the hotel sports nearly 400 rooms, it maintains an intimate feeling.  There are 64 executive suites and 19 luxury suites in addition to the 300 guest rooms.

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Upon entering the spacious lobby, we were impressed with the calming interior décor, a blend of marble and foliage. Our room looked out to the Newport Harbor.  The oversized bathroom was well-appointed, with a glorious shower.  The Italian linens and goose down duvet made for heavenly sleeping.  A pair of flat screen TVs could have been used, but we chose to spend some time poolside.

There were a sufficient number of deck chairs, without a cluttered crowded feeling. The palm trees enclosed the pool area such that all sense of being surrounded by buildings was eliminated.  Hence the sense of being on an island. Service was prompt and friendly, and the exotic drinks were suitably fresh.

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By late afternoon we were ready for our visit to The Spa.  It is certainly arguable that any nice spa is a good spa, but again the Island Hotel surprised us.  With over 4000 square feet, the spacious spa was tranquil, comfortable and calming.  We enjoyed a ‘Travel Recovery Massage’ which met its goal of getting us to unwind, relax and gain mental clarity.  The rejuvenating essential oil sequence left us perfectly relaxed.

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After regrouping for the evening, we were shocked at the quality of the dinner at the hotel’s casually elegant Palm Terrace Restaurant.  After an interminable trend of mediocre dining at nice hotels, the Island Hotel is one of a growing number of venues that insists on a fine dining experience to match its luxury hotel status.

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Executive Chef Bill Bracken comes from a family of food purveyors, and his expert touch is evident throughout the menu.  His emphasis is on taste, which seems obvious until one steps back and recalls that many chefs focus on the visual instead.  Bracken strikes a tasteful balance.

We were wowed with dish after dish, which is possible without any sense of gluttony via the restaurant’s ‘Small Bites’ menu. The truffle-infused macaroni and Taleggio cheese was succulent, as was a delicate seared ahi tuna with ginger aioli. For the larger dish, I opted for the Scottish salmon with butternut squash and my wife had a fine potato-crusted sea bass.

The meals were served piping hot, a litmus test for my wife.  The understated service was cordial and thorough.

On balance, at every turn we were pleasantly surprised during our visit to The Island Hotel Newport Beach.

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Brad Auerbach has been covering the media, entertainment and technology scene for many years. He has written for Time Out London, Village Voice, LA Weekly and once upon a time won a New York State College Journalism Award.

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