Heirloom offers heightened hotel dining at the Spectrum
According to an un-scientific sampling of servers and bartenders, potential patrons have been popping into the new 271-room hotel hoping to take the elevator up to the penthouse, and have left once learning the rooftop isn’t an option. Their loss, because the lobby restaurant is available, and it’s one of our favorite new finds in Irvine.
The full-service dining spot is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Its full name is Heirloom Farmhouse Kitchen, which we find hard to remember. Especially since it seems like a branding exercise designed to capture a trio of trendy dining words in one moniker. It could have just as easily been called Sustainable Farm-to-Table Locavore Lounge, or something. The name notwithstanding, Heirloom is a memorable new addition to the Irvine dining scene.
The interior is beautiful, with bright natural light and an open and airy indoor/outdoor design that flows well from the lobby to the swimming pool. The overall design aesthetic of the hotel is described as “elevated farmhouse,” and is intended to pay homage to the heritage of the Irvine Ranch. This mission is accomplished in a sophisticated, yet comfortable setting, with high ceilings, handsome wood accents and an inviting indoor/outdoor bar.
It’s all amplified by a touch of whimsy in the art of Paul Bond of Laguna Beach, including a pastoral view of a Saddleback Valley orchard and field complete with a slightly surrealistic giant bee, and large oranges falling from the sky.
When so much hotel art is designed not to offend, or even be noticed, the choice of Bond displays an innovative and creative touch from Marriott that’s on display throughout the hotel.
The restaurant’s menu has a similarly confident and creative touch, thanks to Chef Paolo Buffa, a native of Italy. It features produce and meat from California farms with names familiar to foodies, such as Manassero, Brandt and Weiser.
It’s instantly one of the best places to have breakfast in the Spectrum area, joining the casual S’wich Bistro and the daily bakery and weekend brunch at Habana.
The choices at lunch and dinner include six large plates, each offering Euro-California takes on favorites such as braised pork shank, rack of lamb and salmon. At lunch, the Heirloom Burger and the Bahn Mi sandwich are standouts, with the latter a carnivore’s delight, featuring Black Forest ham and roasted pork belly.
The chef doesn’t skimp on the greens and veggies, either. Small plates include an amazing Mac-n-Cheese made with cauliflower and bacon, all drenched in a delicious and decadent fiscallini cheddar fondue. Roasted Myrna potatoes are prepared with charred leeks and broccolini, accented with a smoked Romesco sauce.
Living kale salad, charred nopales, honeycomb cabbage and red kuri squash soup are a few of the varied vegetable choices.
The bar offers a nice selection of craft cocktails, including one called “Master-Planned Perfection.” The draft beer list is local, including choices from OC-based Evans, Towne Park and Left Coast brewers, and the limited wine list offers a decent selection.
Perhaps most impressive about the new restaurant is the ubiquitous presence of the chef. After dining at Heirloom numerous times, morning, noon and night, Buffa has never failed to make an appearance, chatting with diners and greeting regulars with a signature Italian charm.
One quibble about the experience is (you guessed it) the parking. It’s valet only, and the restaurant validation only saves diners $10 on the $20-for-two-hours charge. That doesn’t compare well to local competitors like Hotel Irvine, where valet is complimentary when visiting EATS Kitchen & Bar and/or Red Bar and Lounge, or even the luxurious Resort at Pelican Hill, where valet is also free.
7905 Irvine Center Dr. 949.759.0200