By J.C. Thomas
Irvine is commonly characterized by the hundreds of corporate headquarters whose high-rise office buildings tower over the city’s neat and sunshiny master-planned landscape. This makes it easy to overlook Irvine as a vacation destination, but look beyond its businesslike veneer and you’ll uncover the vibrant urban epicenter of Orange County. Unlike the region’s famously fancy beach communities, Irvine has the feel of a real city, diverse and busy with plenty to do in its vicinity. Plus, those beautiful beaches are just 10 minutes away.
A benefit of Irvine’s big business-traveler market is ample accommodation options, top among them Hotel Irvine. The 520-room, 16-suite hotel opened in 2014, taking over the former Hyatt Regency Irvine property. With a recent and major remodel, it’s a bright, modern and cheerful high-rise of a hotel that’s equally ideal for families, solo travelers and visitor groups of all kinds. Hotel Irvine hosted my family of four’s recent stay, and I couldn’t recommend it more.
On the ground floor of Hotel Irvine is a striking and expansive lobby with bold and contemporary décor brightened by mandarin-hued furniture and abstract art. A couple of installments are particularly eye-catching: a light fixture of hanging steel pendants over the check-in desk, and as an organic contrast a faux-living wall of succulents arranged in waves of varying greens. All around the lobby are comfy armchairs and banquettes arranged as “pods” around ample outlets, USB ports and big-screen televisions. The overall vibe is cool and sophisticated yet wholly unpretentious. It’s a space that encourages guests to hang out for a while and check out the adjacent dining and entertainment hub.
Hotel Irvine’s recently renovated guest rooms range from 275 to 285 square feet. The décor is a more serene version of the bright and modern theme elsewhere, with pops of color (sometimes mandarin, sometimes seafoam) over light neutrals. My family stayed in a balcony double room on an upper floor and it proved more than spacious enough for two adults and two small children. The bathroom with its glass-enclosed shower was agreeably roomy, and our accommodations lacked for nothing. All rooms at Hotel Irvine feature plush down bedding and high-end linens, 42-inch flat-screen televisions, Bluetooth speakers and an ergonomic workstation with ample outlets. Huge windows face the city, mountains or pool.
I highly recommend an upgrade to one of Hotel Irvine’s Club 12 packages. These give guests access to a 2,000-square-foot indoor-outdoor lounge on the 12th floor. Along with a tech hub and dedicated concierge, the club lounge hosts a bountiful breakfast buffet and in the evenings a spread of drinks and bites. Other perks of Club 12 packages include nightly turndown service and priority check-in at the lounge.
Starting in the late afternoon, Club 12 offers cold beers, a choice of wines, soft drinks, coffee and hot teas, along with food ranging from popcorn to freshly made grilled cheese sandwiches. The cheese plate is almost (but not quite) too pretty to disrupt but go ahead because it’s fantastic. If you’re a grazer, the evening spread is probably substantial enough to enjoy instead of dinner. Breakfast is equally satisfying, with plenty of hot and cold options including fresh bagels, parfaits, bacon and eggs, pastries and cereals.
Drinking and Dining
A major highlight of Hotel Irvine is the 16,000-square-foot dining and entertainment hub on the ground floor. It includes three dining and drinking venues: the all-day restaurant EATS Kitchen and Bar; Red Bar and Lounge with a bar snacks menu as well as drinks; and the Marketplace, which brings together a coffee shop, to-go eatery, artisanal boutique and convenience store in one location.
Dinner at EATS Kitchen and Bar, which is also open for breakfast, lunch and a popular weekend brunch, is enticing enough to bring in plenty of locals as well as hotel guests. Given that we were staying at the hotel, there was no reason to dine elsewhere. Just a glimpse at the creative new American menu confirmed that we were in for a delightful dining experience in a bright and lively setting.
EATS Kitchen and Bar offers indoor and outdoor seating, with fire pits and live music outside. There are some rustic-chic elements to the décor, complementing menus of farm-fresh fare, local craft beers and hand-crafted cocktails. Chef Jeff Moore’s thoughtfully edited dinner menu is split into shareable small plates, thin-crust pizzas, salads, burgers and specialties, together presenting mix-and-match options for all appetites. There are comfort food classics like the award-winning burger, and some globally influenced creations.
We opted to share the shrimp ceviche small plate as a starter, a light and zesty dish with a great balance of flavors and textures from avocado, grilled pineapple, cilantro, lime, chile and a coconut-aji marinade. To follow, we ordered the Tuscan kale salad and the filet mignon entrée to share (the kids chose their favorites from their own menu). The kale salad was perfectly prepared in fine shreds – the only acceptable texture for raw kale, I feel – and tossed with generous helpings of tender roasted chicken, substantial and salty strips of smoked bacon, plus capers, pine nuts, currants and a scattering of parmesan and breadcrumbs. The dressing, a mustardy vinaigrette, held its own against such flavor-packed accents, completing an impressively composed salad.
The filet mignon, a thick hunk of Colorado beef seared to order (medium-rare, please), had its own sides of marble potatoes, carrots, creamy chevre and a bordelaise sauce. However, pairing it with the Tuscan kale salad made for an especially memorable two-person meal. The menu encourages a sharing approach with its compatible plates, but of course you might prefer to guard your own delicious dish.
One item that is definitely designed for sharing is the banana split, the highlight of a small selection of desserts. It comes with big scoops of French vanilla and chocolate ice creams, liberal swooshes of chocolate and caramel sauces, plus whipped cream, chocolate sprinkles and a graham cracker crumble. It takes at least two spoons to duel over such a decadent confection.
Hotel Irvine also offers the following amenities:
- Complimentary shuttle to/from John Wayne Airport
- A recently enhanced fitness center on the second floor
- Outdoor swimming pool with cabanas and lounge chairs
- Backyard games including giant chess and beanbag toss
- The “Reach Me” personalized concierge text service
- Bicycle rentals
- Pet-friendly rooms
- Complimentary Wi-Fi throughout
- Numerous beaches
- Fashion Island
- Irvine Spectrum Center
- Irvine Ranch
- Orange County Great Park
- Disneyland Resort
- Angel Stadium
- Honda Center
17900 Jamboree Road, Irvine, CA 92614
#hotelirvine #eatskitchen #redbarandlounge
Photos courtesy of Hotel Irvine
Disclaimer: California News Press and its contributors received goods, services and/or other professional courtesies to facilitate this review. All opinions are those of the author.