The City of Newport Beach transitioned its Civic Center from an outdated facility on the Balboa Peninsula to a beautiful new location in Newport Center in 2013.
What to do with the old property? Simple: let Bob Olson and his Newport Beach-based R.D. Olson Development build a boutique hotel dubbed Lido House on the property, an award-winning hotel that draws inspiration from the Cape Cod aesthetics of the hotel developer’s former home on Balboa Island.
Within the 130-room Lido House, which opened in 2018 as part of the Marriott’s Autograph Collection, is The Mayor’s Table, a restaurant overseen by Executive Chef-Partner Riley Huddleston, whose culinary bio is as noteworthy as the Lido Hotel.
Earning his chops as a chef, mixologist, pastry chef and restaurateur in elite New York and Chicago establishments, Huddleston is known for elevated fare that blends classic French training with modern cooking techniques.
The Oregon native served as part of the opening team at the award-winning LondonHouse Chicago, a luxury Chicago hotel. Huddleston served as executive chef and beverage director, curating everything from food and beverage menu concepts to music selections.
Prior to that, Huddleston was in Boise, Idaho, where he served as the chef of a fine dining restaurant and later helped open a successful restaurant chain called Boise Fry, which grew to six locations before Huddleston sold his shares.
He then went to Timber Cove Resort on the Sonoma Coast, at the time owned by Olson. He became the director of food and beverage, a heady title for Huddleston, who was 24 at the time.
After two years of success at Timber Cove, Olson sold the property and Huddleston went to Chicago before being lured back to California by Olson and his new Lido House hotel.
Huddleston is a partner in the project and oversees several Marriott hotel restaurants, but he and Olson niched out a special agreement with the Marriott to run the Lido House.
“Our mission here at Lido House is to create an experience exactly like nothing else. That ethos transcends into everything we do here, especially our food and beverage programs,” Huddleston said.
New Chef Addition
At Mayor’s Table, appropriately named for its location at the former site of the city’s town hall, Huddleston highlights the vibrant flavors of seasonal ingredients during breakfast, lunch, and dinner service, plus weekend brunch.
Huddleston also has a new executive chef at Mayor’s Table, Jonathan Delacruz, who has taken the reigns in the kitchen, leaving Huddleston time to create new dishes and new cocktails.
“We were becoming a well-oiled machine, but the pandemic derailed us a bit,” Huddleston said. “Now it’s finally felling really good, it’s really shaping up and coming together.”
With the Lido House’s location on Balboa Peninsula, Huddleston has learned that their clientele is not typical for a hotel restaurant.
“We are actually about 70% locals and 30% hotel guests,” stated Huddleston. “That is very unusual, but that was the philosophy of opening the hotel and restaurant. Bob wanted it to be of the community, and the community was behind us to build the hotel.
We cater to the community, we want them here. It’s the nostalgia of being in Newport, the locals come in and bring their friends. To be a boutique hotel, you need the locals. It creates genuine hospitality.”
Steaks to Seafood
Huddleston said the menu has evolved since the restaurant first opened.
“It was seafood and vegetable-focused when we opened, which you would expect, you don’t drive down the 405 Freeway and see cattle. You are next to the ocean. But steaks became our top seller. Then during the pandemic, everyone was cooking steaks at home, few people were cooking seafood.”
So now, the demand has reverted back to seafood.