I’m going to try something different this time and post on the go, in Palm Springs! This may give the reader an impression of my typical weekend excursion.
[Tech notes: I started this post on Sunday morning on my iPad using WordPress mobile (prone to frequent crashes) but since I was taking photos on my Samsung Galaxy Nexus Android I switched to WordPress mobile on that device (which was more stable). But writing text isn’t as easy on that device’s small touch keyboard so after adding photos I switched back to the iPad app. I got tired of switching apps so I didn’t finish the post until I returned home where I could work with a keyboard and full web browser. But I did write all of Saturday’s and part of Sunday’s sections on the mobile apps. On returning I discovered the photos I uploaded from my phone were too small so I had to re-upload larger ones.]
4:30pm – checked in to the Horizon Hotel, built in 1952 by William Cody in the modernist post and beam style with his flair of using oblique angles. The hotel was commissioned by movie producer Jack Wrather and his wife, actress Bonita Granville as a private retreat for them and their guests, and was restored into a hotel in 2004 using original plans and historic photographs. I love this adults-only hotel but prefer its original name, L’Horizon. Of course!
William Cody aka “Wild Bill” designed many other important buildings in Palm Springs, including residences for Walt Disney and Frank Sinatra and commercial buildings such as the Del Marcos Hotel (still open, and highly recommended) and the Huddle Springs Restaurant (sadly demolished in 1991 for a proposed hotel that wasn’t even built).
6:00pm – dinner at Lord Fletcher’s (sometimes called Lord Fletcher Inn) in Rancho Mirage. Opened in 1966, it was the first restaurant on what is now called Restaurant Row on California highway 111. The restaurant is filled with antiques, art, bric-à-brac, and artifacts in the Olde English style, all collected by Ron Fletcher in England. The restaurant is still in the same family, now run by Mike Fletcher, Ron’s son.
There are three rooms: the pub, with a fireplace and a large collection of Toby character mugs, the main dining room, which shares the fireplace with the pub, and the Shakespearean dining room that is decorated with dozens of 200-year-old etchings depicting scenes from Shakespeare’s works. The restaurant is jammed full of things to look at, in the best way possible, and there is nothing new or tacky to distract the eye (apart from a small TV behind the bar). No mini white lights – thank goodness!; all the lighting appears to date back to the 1960s.
The menu is what you would expect from an Olde English restaurant – meat and fish dishes prepared in the classic way. Their specialty is prime rib of beef, which comes in two ways: the Lord’s Cut without a bone (about one pound of meat!) and the King’s Cut, served with the bone. For serving the dishes come out with covers and are placed on folding trays and served – a nice touch that you don’t see in restaurants very often anymore. Entrees come with homemade soup or salad, tossed tableside.
The sand dabs Queen Anne sounded enticing, but I had to try the prime rib, which was excellent. The spinach was not creamed style so it was a bit dry, but I mixed in a little creamed horseradish and voilà! The potato leek soup I had was very delicious and served piping hot. Also excellent was the house made bread served with a large ramekin filled with butter. The service was very good. I asked for more au jus and was promptly served a large sauce-boat of it. They have several Fuller English ales available in the bottle. Perfect accompaniment to prime rib. Try to save room for the rice pudding, made in-house daily.
9:00am – complementary continental breakfast (Le Continental breakfast, if you please!) on patio outside room (pic above is the view from the patio).
1:00pm – brunch at The Tropicale, a newish restaurant that has been decorated in a great swanky 1950s tropical style. And it has terrific food to boot. Lucy and Ricky Ricardo would have felt right at home here!
5:00pm – Martinis poolside by the fire pit at the Horizon Hotel!
7:00pm – pre-dinner cocktail at Lyons English Grille. This Olde English restaurant was opened in 1945 by the Lyons family. David Lyons is owner, and to my knowledge has been since the opening! Jeff Lyons is the manager. Previous co-owner Arthur Lyons, a successful writer of crime novels and nonfiction, member of the Palm Springs City Council, and co-founder of the Palms Springs Film Noir Festival, passed away in 2008.
UPDATE – Lyons English Grill closed in 2014 and was gutted of its Old English decor (except for in the foyer), reopening as Mr. Lyons in 2015.
Similar to Lord Fletcher’s in decor, but perhaps a bit more “over the top”, and I mean that in a good way. Coats of arms, heraldic flags, suits of armor, large stained glass portraits and scenes, art, Toby mugs, and much bric-à-brac. Much of the decor was collected by David Lyons, who is originally from England.
There is the main dining room of large vinyl booths and tables, and the piano bar dining room with wonderful sparkly red vinyl high-backed chairs and red vinyl booths. Tuxedo-jacketed, bow-tied waiters will be at your service in either room.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to dine there this time. The menu is mainly hearty English fare prepared classically, such as prime rib and steak that are aged on the premises. The prices are less expensive than Lord Fletcher’s, so it’s a good choice if you are on a budget (they offer early bird specials nightly) or if Lord Fletcher’s is closed (Sundays and Mondays). But you should try to visit both, as they are equally wonderful in atmosphere. If I had time I would have tried the aged New York Steak at Lyons since I had prime rib at Lord Fletcher’s.
8:00pm – My favorite restaurant and bar in Palm Springs is Melvyn’s, a place I dined at on my second visit to Palm Springs in 2000. Melvyn’s originally opened in 1975 at the Ingleside Inn, which was built as a private estate in the 1920s and later became a small inn that catered to an exclusive clientele of movie stars, politicians, and prominent businesspeople. Melvyn Haber, a businessman from New York, purchased the Ingleside Inn in 1975, restoring it and opening Melvyn’s restaurant and the Casablanca lounge and piano bar. Since that time the inn has again hosted celebrities and politicians.
Melvyn’s is a fine dining restaurant with elegant decor and atmosphere. It is dark and soothing – the perfect amount of light, day or night, as there are no windows in the dining room I was seated in. There are four dining rooms: the Ruth Hardy Room, the Garden Room, the Carrie Birge Room, and the Renaissance Room, where Sinatra used to dine, and where I dined on this visit. I didn’t want to bother other diners with a flash so my picture is pretty dark.
The menu at Melvyn’s is true Continental, and quite extensive. They offer several dishes that are prepared tableside, some that are flambéed (steak Diane, steak au poivre, bananas flambé, cherries jubilee, and crepes Suzette). Steak Diane was Sinatra’s favorite, and it has long been a favorite of mine, since my mom made it for our family back in the 1960s. The classic version: thin beef tenderloin medallions, sautéed in butter, with a simple pan sauce of shallots, mustard, and a demi-glace, flambéed with brandy. Melvyn’s also adds Worcestershire sauce and garlic, which is fine with me. No mushrooms, thank you very much.
The service was wonderful. Attentive, gracious, and friendly. It was easy to strike up a conversation with my veteran waiter. He notified me that in Palm Springs it is impossible to open a new restaurant with flambéed dishes these days as it is illegal to do so! Only old places like Melvyn’s can continue to serve flaming food. Such a shame! It makes me appreciate such places all the more. I think the Iron Gate in Belmont is the last restaurant left in the Bay Area that serves flambéed dishes (since Buena Vista closed)!
After your dinner at Melvyn’s be sure and visit the famous piano bar the Casablanca Lounge for after dinner drinks and dancing.
One final tip: people eat early in Palm Springs (at least in the older restaurants), so plan accordingly. Lyons English Grille offers early bird specials nightly except Tuesdays from 4:30-6:30pm.
70385 California 111, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270
Open Tues-Sat 4:30pm-8:30pm, closed Sun-Mon
Lyons English Grille
233 E Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92264
Open Mon-Sun 4:30pm-10:00pm, closed Tuesday
200 W Ramon Rd, Palm Springs, CA 92264
Open Mon-Fri – lunch 11:30am-3:00pm, dinner 6:00pm-11:00pm
Sat-Sun – brunch 9:00am-3:00pm, dinner 6:00pm-11:00pm