Memory is a powerful thing! It’s what has kept one desert haunt happening for 50 years. Oh the stories of what happened behind these doors. Opening the door to Lord Fletcher’s restaurant is like stepping into the past. Like time travel to a time when dining was more than a warm meal, a time when the host knew your name, and the bartender, your drink.
Lord Fletcher’s is that place that has managed to stand the test of time and seemingly, stop time. The Rancho Mirage restaurant opened its doors in 1966. At the time, Michael Fletcher was 10 years old and remembers his father Ron, meticulously selecting everything that would decorate the space.
Ron Fletcher originally from England, wanted to create a warm pub atmosphere, with a dining room like an English countryside inn. The antique dealer traveled the English countryside for more than a month procuring every print and mug that you see in the restaurant.
The walls are full of odds, ends and antiques among the goodies, English Toby mugs, horse brass, copper pots, fine china, an officer’s sword and the family’s own grandfather clock. In the Shakespearean Room, stained glass, and two-centuries old black and white etchings of scenes from Shakespeare’s plays. And since opening day, so many moons ago, the rooms and decor have not changed.
The Fletcher’s have always felt that they want their guests to feel that it’s not just a restaurant but it’s actually their home and that they have been invited over for dinner.
Fletcher says, “It’s not just for us to come in and do what’s expected of us. We go beyond that because we actually enjoy being here and doing what we’re doing because of the people who come in.”
Over the years, the Fletcher family has welcomed countless celebrities into their home. It was one of Frank Sinatra’s beloved desert haunts for 30 years. In fact he gifted the Fletcher family the portrait which still hangs over his favorite table. There was a time when a dress code was in place, Fletcher laughs when he recounts how Bobby Kennedy was the first person to dine there without wearing a dress coat. “He wore a nice sweater and a tie and that was close enough for Bobby Kennedy.” Fletcher says, Steve McQueen was the second person to rebel against the fancy dress code. “He had just wrapped up filming Thomas Crown Affair and came in wearing a tan lamb skin long jacket. He was Steve McQueen, he wasn’t supposed to follow the rules, so we let that one slip too.”
It’s not just one thing that stands out at Lord Fletcher’s, it’s everything, the stories, the food the atmosphere, the Royal Brandy Ice. That drink will get you…it’s strong! “I tell people it’s like having an after dinner drink and ice cream at the same time so I tell people you accomplish two tasks with one cocktail.” And it’s a tradition to offer that cocktail to guests after a meal. Michael Fletcher says Frank Sinatra loved it so much that he had the recipe taped to the refrigerator in his desert home. He recounts that Sinatra would often send his driver to the restaurant to pick up a gallon of the praline ice cream that is blended into the after-dinner drink.
Fletcher chuckles, “Sir Andrew here, is probably one of the best guys around to fix any ailment you have.”
Sir Andrew is the current bartender and only the third to tend bar at Lord Fletcher’s in 50 years. And get this…their main chef, has been in the kitchen since 1977.
So if you’re wondering what the restaurant is known for, wonder no more. It’s the Prime Rib. Fletcher says it’s perfect! The perfect cut, the perfect preparation, the perfect, most succulent, most delicious piece of meat. It’s served with Yorkshire Pudding and mouth watering spinach and did I mention, it’s perfect?
If memory is tied to taste and good memories to nostalgia, this tiny time capsule has the corner on the market. Night after night and year, after year, after year, this restaurant institution manages to bring people back to a place in time and that place is Lord Fletcher’s.
Fletcher says, “Lord Fletcher’s is one of those places that exists in the desert that to me, brings people back in time a little bit, to how the desert was in the sixties and seventies when things were a little different. We have preserved that unique experience that increasingly is a little harder to find.”
A small side note. I have become quickly obsessed with Lord Fletcher’s and the heartwarming, fascinating, and inspiring story of the Fletcher family. I only started to dine here again in recent months, and only because of an (inside) promise I made to my husband, which happened to include a ‘grand finale’ dinner date here. We finally, after years of waiting, had our date and that was all it took. We were hooked. The cozy restaurant inspired me to pitch the story for a Wander List episode and the rest is history.
All that said, before our most recent visits, the last time I had dined at Lord Fletcher’s, was when I was 6-years-old. It was around the holidays and my entire family went out to dinner. I remember the maitre d’ giving my father a dress coat to wear (he has an aversion to dressing up and he’s not Steve Mcqueen or Bobby Kennedy). The restaurant was slammed, we waited for a table for a long while. We were seated at a charming table, with a long booth along the wall-side. At 6-years-old, 8pm felt like midnight. I remember lying my head on my mother’s lap while waiting for our meal and then being lulled to sleep by the buzzing conversations of that evening’s patrons. I took note of that table, it’s still there, of course, and just begging for another family dinner. This time I assure you, I will not sleep though it.
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