When you enter the Portland Marriott at Sable Oaks, which – despite its name – is in South Portland, you are confronted with one of those choices that might stay with you forever. Do you head to the left and check in for an overnight stay, or do you head to the right and have a drink at Fire & Water, its bar and restaurant? I think you can guess which option I chose, and I have no regrets.
The restaurant side was a mix of hotel guests and locals; the bar tends to be mainly hotel guests. I had a few doubts as I headed to the bar portion. It really is right next to check-in, reminiscent of the Alamo, now located in the heart of downtown San Antonio with vehicles whizzing by outside the walls. I thought it might be distracting and hard to forget that I was in a hotel bar, but I was wrong, and our surroundings soon faded into the background as my friend and I settled in for our visit. We sat at the main bar on the comfortable barstools with backs, but there was also an inviting seating area at a separate standalone island, with multiple charging stations for electronics, and a more relaxed seating arrangement in front of the fireplace. I’m also pleased to report that the main bar had purse hooks under it.
The beer menu didn’t list prices but had seven beers on tap and another 25 in bottles. Much to my OCD’s delight, the beers were listed alphabetically. Also pleasing to me was the discovery that wines are sold in 3-ounce, 6-ounce and 9-ounce pours, with 11 reds and 11 whites for $8 to $14 a glass. Much more extensive than what I expect from a non-luxury hotel bar.
Most importantly, there was a specialty cocktail menu starring 11 original cocktails – be still, my beating liver! My drinking companion ordered the $11 Bistro Sidecar (two brandies, Frangelico, lemon juice and orange juice) and I went with the $13 London Punch (gin, pomegranate liqueur, lemon juice, simple syrup, and bitters). Mine was far too drinkable, definitely living up to its name. The Bistro Sidecar was autumnal with subtle nutty undertones thanks to the Frangelico, which paired with the other ingredients much better than I would have predicted.
Bar patrons can order food from the full restaurant menu, but we stuck with the smaller and more reasonably-priced bar menu. The menu was divided into quick bites, small plates (hello, $12 tequila-infused mussels), big plates and desserts (including a $9 crème brulee trio), but my eyes immediately noticed that the description of the French onion soup began with the words “sherry-laced.” After much deliberation, my friend and I ordered the $6 house-made kettle chips with chipotle-cinnamon spice and a bacon bleu cheese dip, as well as the $8 pesto flatbread with marinated tomatoes, stewed leeks, fresh mozzarella, basil and arugula. The chips and dip were great, but the flatbread was amazing, accented by the perfect amount of balsamic. Both portions were large, and we left feeling glad we had been there.
WHERE: Portland Marriott at Sable Oaks, 200 Sable Oaks Drive, South Portland
PHONE: (207) 871-8000
HOURS: 11 a.m. to closing (usually around midnight) daily
AMENITIES: If you hit it off with someone at the bar, it’s easy to get a room.
BOTTOM LINE: Probably not worth a special trip, but a good option to keep in mind if you’re in the area and need a satisfying bite to eat at the bar.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes