The good life doesn’t get much better than taking in panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean off Southern California’s Laguna Beach while holding a group dinner at upscale Las Brisas, one of the beach town’s most historic restaurants.

Las Brisas itself is living its best life, in the midst of a major three-phase renovation that is scheduled to wrap by the end of 2019.

Under the eye of Executive General Manager Michael Gaines, a culinary veteran who has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants in Northern California, Belgium and France, Las Brisas revamped its menu in April 2019, further emphasizing its sea-to-table cuisine to focus on the region’s ample Pacific bounty.

“We’re focusing on coastal California cuisine with hints of Mexican flavors,” Gaines said. “We’ve really put a lot of effort into streamlining the menus. It’s a smaller menu than this restaurant has ever had.

“It’s a big space—it’s nearly a 500-seat restaurant,” he continued. “From an operational standpoint and a chef’s standpoint, it’s very important to focus more on quality than quantity.

“We really designed this menu with a supper club in mind,” Gaines added. “And what does a supper club do? They provide that consistency and the dishes people come back to.”

[Featured Recipe: Smoked Salmon Tostadas by Las Brisas Restaurant]

The venue began as the Victor Hugo Inn in 1938, drawing the celebrities of the day, and transformed into Las Brisas in 1979.

The three-phase renovation—coinciding with the restaurant’s 40th anniversary—debuted a redesigned bar in early June, highlighted by new seating, light fixtures, hand-pointed accent walls and a revamp of its lower cabana area that leads to the patio overlooking the ocean.

Reserved Booth at Las Brisas Bar, Credit: Las Brisas
Reserved Booth at Las Brisas Bar, Credit: Las Brisas

“We’re replacing everything from silverware to doorknobs, light pendants, furniture, carpets, the flow—all of the details,” Gaines said.

The final phase of the renovation will focus primarily on structural work to the building.

Group Dining Options at Las Brisas Restaurant

Gaines said the restaurant is a popular offsite dining option for groups staying at nearby luxury properties such as Montage, The Resort at Pelican Hill and Surf and Sand Resort.

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“We have packages ready to go and a director of events—that’s what she does all day long,” Gaines said. “We sell different tiers of packages, but also accommodate special guest requests.

“I always use the car wash analogy,” he continued. “Do you want the silver, gold or platinum? We have four tiers for our dinner packages. If someone just wants to do passed hors d’oeuvres or cocktails, we can do that, as well as customize any experience.”

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Las Brisas can accommodate events ranging from small groups to a full buyout for hundreds.

“Our most common event here is groups of 23 to 30 in different sections of the restaurant, so we can sell different experiences and accommodate what the client is looking for, whether it’s a corporate event with privacy or a bar setting to watch the sunset,” Gaines said.

Groups can also indulge in culinary teambuilding programs such as hands-on tortilla- or margarita-making classes, followed by cocktails and a sit-down four-course meal.

Regardless of what’s on the group dining and teambuilding agenda, the main course will always be the stunning view at Las Brisas.

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