June 27 cannot arrive soon enough
June 27 cannot arrive soon enough
Anne Marie Panoringan

Cucumber Cobbler at Aqua Lounge at the Island Hotel Newport Beach, Our Drink of the Week!

I was supposed to meet someone for a drink at the lounge inside the Island Hotel last month. Instead, I found the property deep in construction mode. The "bar" was a handful of stools across from check-in. Turns out it had been this way for months, with a buffet-style cafe set up for hotel guests on the second floor. I left wondering what would become of the space formerly known as Palm Terrace.

That answer was explained when we met the management team of Oak Grill and Aqua Lounge. While Chef David Man continues to oversee food service for Island Hotel guests and groups, a complete overhaul of the dining space led to the creation of two concepts meant to break the stereotype of ho-hum hotel dining.

Chef Marc Johnson (who worked under James Boyce at Montage's Studio and Cotton Row in Alabama) will be Executive Chef, executing dishes for both grill and lounge. One manager's interpretation of the space was a blend of Pelican Grill, Gulfstream and Bungalow. An approachable, dual-purpose space, diners would start with a casual meal and migrate outside for drinks--or vice versa. With craft beers and 50 California wines by the glass available, I was getting thirsty.

My Cucumber Cobbler was right at home with its poolside surroundings. Lemon juice, green apple and cucumber puree sound almost more Jamba Juice than cocktail. Coastal sage-infused Hendrick's gin, however, keeps things cool. Add some housemade (of course) ginger syrup, and all that's missing is our fedora. It's my take on summertime juicing. Pass the sunscreen, please.

Aqua Lounge and Oak Grill will be open Friday, June 27.

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