The buzz at Hive & Honey
Food editors and writers love such debates, and the lists that they inspire. But one of Irvine’s “top” choices is settled, perhaps forever: The best view in Irvine is found at Hive & Honey Rooftop Bar, on the 16th floor of the new Marriott Irvine Spectrum. And it’s not even close.
We might go so far as to say Hive & Honey has claimed the title of “Best view of any OC bar or restaurant not on the beach.” And yes, we’re including Orange Hill, which some lists inexplicably conclude has the best view and is also the county’s most romantic restaurant in OC.
The Marriott Irvine Spectrum debuted last year, but the owners and management held off on opening of the rooftop a few months. The wait was worth it. Unless you’ve spent time in the Great Park Balloon, it’s easy to lack appreciation of Irvine’s beauty. With open-air seating on three sides of the hotel tower, one can walk to the edge and admire the gleaming urban core that is the Spectrum, especially dramatic at night.
In other directions one can gaze at the open space and communities of Quail Hill and Shady Canyon, with the Laguna Greenbelt and Newport Coast beyond, the grand expanse of the Orange County Great Park and the peaks of Saddleback. On a clear day, Catalina, Palos Verdes and even downtown Los Angeles are visible in the distance.
The view can be almost as good looking inward around the lounge area. The design is contemporary and on-point for an outdoor lounge, with comfortable seating, fire features and (for once) attractive heat lamps. And the crowd isn’t bad, either. Historically, Irvine hasn’t been known for having great bar scenes (though that is improving in recent years). But it’s clear that the fashionable, young and cool OC crowd will be making the rooftop their after-work headquarters. Especially once the weather warms up: it can be a tad chilly up top. All the better for cuddling, one imagines.
Hive & Honey’s cocktail culture comes sweet, and with a sting: the signature drinks all play on the name of the locale, and most have house-made syrups in the mix. Bee’s Knees is the simplest, just Nolet’s gin, honey syrup and lemon juice. Wasp’s Nest is made with El Silencio mezcal, aperol and chipotle-honey syrup, while the Pollination is Hive & Honey’s take on a Pisco, with pamplemousse, lime wildflower honey and egg white.
Orange County loves it’s Veuve Clicquot Champagne, but at $22 per glass it’s a pricey solo option. Perhaps there should be a California sparkling wine added to the list, or a Prosecco, even. The craft beer selection is limited, though reasonably well curated with SoCal selections that include Smog City, Barley Forge, Ritual, Karl Strauss and Belching Beaver breweries. A few more unexpected Orange County choices would be welcome, however.
The 10-item food menu on the rooftop is limited intentionally (go to Heirloom Farmhouse Kitchen on the first floor for a fabulous full-menu experience), but the chef goes well beyond mere bar bites in concept and execution. There’s a great grass-fed burger with bits of jalapeno worked into the patty, avocado spread on the potato roll and a big hunk of honey-cured bacon speared into the top of the bun. The menu says only 25 of the $17 burgers are made a day, but so far we’ve had no problem procuring one.
The hand-cut fries are a separate order, but well worth it. Guacamole comes two ways, either North of Tecate, which includes bits of pork belly in the mix, or South of Tecate, which comes with shrimp. The turkey meatballs in buffalo sauce with blue cheese crumbles can be addictive, as are the cornbread puffs served with Fresno peppers and honey sour cream.
If all the honeys and syrups haven’t satisfied your sweet tooth, don’t miss the chef’s soon to be famous brick oven cinnamon bun, topped with butterscotch. It’s a delicious end to a night on the town: and with this new room with a view, that cliché is meant literally.