Palm Springs Weekend

UPDATE:  Since I wrote this post Lyon’s English Grille has closed permanently and the Horizon Hotel had an ownership change, was closed for extensive remodeling and has reopened as L’Horizon Resort & Spa, a more upscale and pricier hotel.

 

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.]

 

Saturday

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).

 

huddles

Huddle Springs Restaurant, William Cody, 1957 – photo by Palm Springs Preservation Foundation

 

 

Lord Fletcher's - image by The Jab

Lord Fletcher’s – image by The Jab

 

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.

 

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image by The Jab

 

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.

 

main dining room, Lord Fletcher's - image by The Jab

main dining room, Lord Fletcher’s – image by The Jab

 

Shakespearean room, Lord Fletcher's - image by The Jab

Shakespearean room, Lord Fletcher’s – image by The Jab

 

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.

 

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Lord’s cut of prime rib w/Yorkshire pudding, spinach and creamed horseradish – image by The Jab

 

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.

 

fireplace, Lord Fletcher's - image by The Jab

fireplace, Lord Fletcher’s – image by The Jab

 

 

 Sunday

 

view from my patio at Horizon Hotel - image by The Jab

view from my patio at Horizon Hotel – image by The Jab

 

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.

entrance to Lyons - image by The Jab

entrance to Lyons – image by The Jab

 

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.

 

main dining room at Lyons - image by The Jab

main dining room at Lyons – image by The Jab

 

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.

 

Bar dining room at Lyons - image by The Jab

Bar dining room at Lyons – image by The Jab

 

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.

 

Sir Winston Churchill - image by The Jab

Sir Winston Churchill – image by The Jab

 

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.

 

image by David Lansing (davidlansing.com)

 

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.

 

Renaissance Room - image by The Jab

Renaissance Room – image by The Jab

 

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.

 

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steak Diane tableside – image by The Jab

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.

Lord Fletcher’s
70385 California 111, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270
(760) 328-1161
Open Tues-Sat 4:30pm-8:30pm, closed Sun-Mon

Lyons English Grille
233 E Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92264
(760) 327-1551
Open Mon-Sun 4:30pm-10:00pm, closed Tuesday

Melvyn’s
200 W Ramon Rd, Palm Springs, CA 92264
(760) 325-2323
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

The Broadmoor Hotel’s restaurants, Colorado Springs, Colorado

On the occasion of Le Continental’s second anniversary I took a couple of weeks off, but I’m back with my first restaurant post of Le Continental’s third year. Thank you for reading, commenting, and especially for visiting the fine establishments I’ve included on these pages.

Recently I was looking at photos from my 2008 visit to Colorado and remembering a wonderful meal I had at The Tavern steakhouse in the historic Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, so I thought I would look up the restaurant and see what its current status is. I was happy to find that the Tavern is still there, but saddened to hear that they remodeled the amazing Mayan Room only this year. Here is a photo I took of the Mayan Room during my visit.

 

Mayan room details

Mayan room, 2008 – image by The Jab

 

 

The Broadmoor Hotel was opened by Spencer Penrose from Philadelphia in 1918 at a cost of two million dollars. It was designed by the New York architecture firm Warren and Wetmore, designers of New York City’s Grand Central Station, Ritz-Carlton, and Biltmore hotels. The grounds were designed by the Olmstead Brothers, who designed Central Park.

 

Early photo of hotel and gardens. Image by Broadmoor History facebook page.

 

The Tavern restaurant (opening date unknown) was remodeled in 1939 and still has many of the original architectural elements on the ceiling and walls. As far as I was able to find out online, it has not been remodeled in this year’s renovations.

 

Tavern at the Broadmoor – Image by WineryExplorers.com

 

bottle chandelier

bottle chandelier – image by The Jab

There are some interesting details at the Tavern, like the lighting fixtures made from old bottles. Spencer Penrose was strongly against Prohibition, so he purchased and stored large quantities of liquors and wines before the law went into effect. In 1933 when Prohibition ended he moved his stockpiles to the hotel. Many bottles from his collection, some quite rare, are on display in the restaurant and in adjacent hallways.

 

booze bottles on diplay in the Tavern

image by The Jab

 

more bottles line the hallways

image by The Jab

 

Chateau Lafite, Pernod, Bacardi, etc

image by The Jab

 

 

How about a 1903 Chateau Lafite?

 

 

1955 Cristal anyone?

image by The Jab

 

 

 

 

 

Or perhaps some 1955 Cristal Champagne?

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the Tavern was renovated in 1939 the Tavern Lanai was built next to it, probably in a Hawaiian motif. Hawaii was popular destination for Spencer and his wife Julie so it became a popular theme at the hotel in the late 1930s. in 1938 the Lanai suites were added in the back of the hotel and in 1939 the Hawaiian Village rooftop garden and nightclub opened with live Hawaiian entertainment.

 

Hawaiian Village – Image by Broadmoor History Facebook page

 

 

In 1953 the Tavern Lani was enclosed and remodeled into a mid-century modern version of a an ancient Mayan temple, called the Mayan Room, and the patio at the tavern was enclosed to become the Garden Room, which had plants, trees, and a fountain with two live flamingos! The flamingos occasionally leaped on tables with dining patrons so they had to be moved to the hotel’s zoo (yes, it even had a zoo!). Both of these rooms have been remodeled this year.

 

The Mayan Room before 2013 remodel – image by ForbesTravelGuide.com

 

 

In 1961 the hotel expanded greatly by building a nine-story south tower, crowned with the elegant Penrose Room, which is still open and has been a AAA five-star restaurant since 1977. Jackets are still required for gentlemen diners.

 

Penrose Room, 1977 – image by route40.net

 

Penrose Room, 2011 – image by Elizabeth Dorney at elizabethdorney.com

 

Also in 1961, the modern conference center called the International Center was opened, which included the Golden Bee, an original turn-of-the-century English pub that was in storage in NYC for many years until it was shipped to the Broadmoor and reconstructed.

 

image by route40.net

 

image by route40.net

 

The Golden Bee was most likely relocated because on my last visit there was no International Center anymore, but the pub was still there with all of its hand carved mahogany woodwork. Just last spring it was enlarged and renovated, but from the pictures it looks like it still has much of the original decor and a ragtime piano player still performs.

 

Main hotel bar, 1961, still there but remodeled – image by Broadmoor History facebook page

 

 

Even if you can’t afford to stay at the very expensive hotel, it’s very much a worthwhile visit to walk the grounds and have a meal at The Tavern, Penrose Room, or the Golden Bee, which all still retain much of their classic decor and atmosphere. And there are many fabulous nearby attractions to visit, particularly the cog railway to Pikes Peak (once operated by the Broadmoor), Garden of the Gods, and the town of Manitou Springs for its vintage arcade and small town charm.

 

cheers!

Yours truly enjoying a 16-ounce t-bone steak and a Manhattan in the Tavern, 2008 – note the mini silver ice bucket to keep the rest of your cocktail chilled, a touch I really appreciate! –  image by The Jab

 

The Broadmoor Hotel
1 Lake Ave, Colorado Springs, CO 80906
(719) 577-5775
Tavern open daily 11am-11pm
Penrose Room open Tue-Sat 6pm-9pm, closed Sun-Mon
Golden Bee open Sun-Th 11:30am-12:30am, Fri-Sat 11:30am-1:30am

 

 

The Cafe Royal, Edinburgh, Scotland

Last year I had the pleasure of visiting Edinburgh and Glasgow in Scotland, and I realized that I had neglected to post about my visit there when I covered my Europe trips on the blog last year.

On a side street near the central train station, the Cafe Royal in Edinburgh is probably the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the city (though I have not verified that), and perhaps its most beautiful. It opened in 1863 in a Parisian style building by Edinburgh architect Robert Hamilton Paterson, moving from its original 1807 location nearby.

Cafe Royal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cafe Royal

 

 

 

The opulent Victorian and Baroque interior is filled with original carved wood paneling, ornate plaster ceilings, stained glass windows, and Doulton ceramic murals from Edinburgh’s 1886 International Exhibition of Industry, Science and Art.

Cafe Royal inside 2

In 1965 Woolworth bought the building and planned to replace the restaurant with an expansion of its store, but a public petition saved the building, which was then listed on the National Register in 1970.

Cafe Royal inside 1

The restaurant specializes in oysters, seafood, and traditional Scottish meat dishes, and the bar has a selection of local real ales on tap and a good whisky list. For an elegant dinner in Edinburgh it will be worth seeking out this restaurant.

The Cafe Royal
19 West Register Street, Edinburgh, Scotland EH2 2AA
Phone:  0131-556-1884
Open Mon-Wed 11am-11pm, Thu 11am-12am, Fri-Sat 11am-1am, Sun 12.30pm-11pm

Henne Alt-Berliner Wirtshaus, Berlin

There aren’t many historic restaurants or pubs in Berlin that are as old as Henne Alt-Berliner Wirtshaus (translation: old Berlin inn or pub) in the happening Kreuzberg neighborhood. What wasn’t destroyed in WWII was probably demolished in the former East Berlin to make room for housing and public buildings. I couldn’t find an exact date when it opened, but many sources state it’s been open for a hundred years or more. So the Nazis probably visited it in the 1930s and 40s. And the Berlin Wall was built right in front of it. That’s a lot of history.

Henne’s specialty is chicken, organic and milk-fed, served in half-chicken portions. I’m pretty sure it’s broasted (cooked under pressure) because it’s cooked to order but only takes about 30 to 45 minutes (roasting would take longer). However it’s cooked, it comes to your table piping hot with dark brown, crispy skin and juicy, tender and delicious meat. Some of the best chicken that I’ve ever had. Popular side dishes are the excellent potato salad and cabbage salad. If you don’t feel like chicken there are other German classics on the menu such as wurst. Beer on tap is the excellent Schultheiss.

Henne, Berlin, chicken

The decor is classic cozy pub, with beautiful decorative wood, old tables and chairs (with plaid tablecloths), vintage lamps, and many pictures and paintings on the walls. When I was there in October on a Tuesday night at 9pm it was pretty quiet, but it’s usually very popular so reservations are recommended.

Henne, Berlin, interior

Henne
Leuschnerdamm 25, 10999 Berlin, Germany
Phone +49 30 6147 ext. 730
Hours Tues-Sat 7:00pm – 12:00am, Sunday 5:00pm – 10:00pm