'Tis the Season 8

A Unique Holiday Celebration Starts With An Unexpected OC Locale

December is flooded with festive happenings. Galas, dinners and charity events dot the calendars of the county’s most illustrious residents. However, the occasions that we most fondly remember are the comforting meals that we share with our closest loved ones. Whether it’s an intimate dinner or a large dance party affair, Orange County is afflux with hidden gems, such as Laguna Beach’s Mozambique Steakhouse, that make for an ideal, albeit unexpected, backdrop for a spirited holiday soirée.

Since it opened in 2005, Mozambique has transported diners to a South African-inspired Bedouin hideaway. The cobalt blue tiles and green palm fronds at the restaurant’s Pacific Coast Highway entrance add to its hacienda-style architecture. The restaurant’s avian ambassadors, colorful macaws named Byera and Pemba, welcome Mozambique’s guests with lively squawks and caws. A friendly toucan named Nancy and a violet turaco called Beep complete the feathered menagerie. The birds seamlessly fit with the restaurant’s exterior, which is accented with dusty red bricks and iron-rod light fixtures.

Mozambique’s décor is a vibrant mélange of African art melded with a Mediterranean flair and enhanced with subtle modern flourishes. The owner, Ivan Spiers, spent several summers of his youth trekking through Mozambique and South Africa with his family. The restaurant’s menu and ambiance are an ode to his fond childhood memories. The cavernous rooms that wind throughout the restaurant add to its rustic hideaway allure. The rooftop bar, which is a notable local hotspot, provides unique views of Laguna. From this vantage point, you see both the blue Pacific and the expansive, highly coveted homes encased in the hills.

On a recent evening, the lavender-tinted clouds speckled the horizon as the sun set into the ocean. The vibrant swashes of orange and fuchsia danced off the palapas hoisted outside. Mozambique is packed each evening, thanks to its extremely popular rooftop happy hour service, but the restaurant’s 12,00- square-feet space dedicated to private events is what really impresses OC party planners. Based on the size of the event, Mozambique strives to make each experience unique, from customizing menus to staging photos with the restaurant’s resident macaws. The space is so massive that gatherings range from small and intimate family affairs to expansive large parties with up to 350 guests and live entertainment.

Mozambique is well known for its lively music and refreshing libations. Fortunately, the staff is also aware that one too many drinks can lead to a disastrous outcome. So, the owners devised a genius plan. Mozambique provides complimentary local transportation for up to 45 guests. Which means your partygoers will not only arrive safely, but in style. The luxury black car service is another one of the highlights of hosting a celebration at this Laguna Beach destination. Another reason is the food.

For newcomers, Mozambican cuisine is a culmination of several cultures blended together. Spices from Africa and Asia combined with Portuguese-inspired dishes create a cornucopia of vibrant flavors. For expats, Mozambique’s peri peri seasoning is the closest thing that one can get locally to the flavors of their homeland. Over the years, Spiers honed his taste for southwestern African-inspired art and, at the same time, he also grew quite fond of the area’s flavorful cuisine. Wood-grilled prawns with a smoky essence are served shell on, with sweet mango salsa and the restaurant’s signature peri peri sauce, which is a blend of several ingredients, including crushed chilies, paprika and citrus peels. The menu features seafood towers of chilled Atlantic lobster tails, freshly shucked oysters, large prawns and ceviche to hearty 22-ounce prime bone-in rib eye steaks.

However, Spiers’ commitment to Mozambique’s patrons extends beyond the dining room. When a small fire ignited in June 2013, the restaurant was forced to close temporarily. The one problem: Mozambique was scheduled to host a wedding that evening. Amid the chaos, Spiers jumped into action. He knew how special this day was for the couple and their families. So rather than disappointing the bride, he instructed his staff to pack up everything for the wedding into two trucks. To the surprise of everyone, the trucks headed directly to Spiers’ own home. He saved the day and left a lasting impression on Laguna. MozambiqueOC.com