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Mille Fleurs has lighter look and feel after renovation

Mille Fleurs, the legendary Rancho Santa Fe restaurant nestled in the heart of the village, is boasting a new look and feel not only to its décor, but to its menu as well.

The renovation of the bar area was completed in early July, just in time for Del Mar’s racing season and the summer crowds. The bar, which opens up to the charming tree-filled patio area, now has a lighter, airier feel to it, glistening with light blues and silvery grays. The dark wood is gone, new artwork adorns the walls, and a huge blue-tinted mirror covers the side wall behind the bar, creating a magical optical illusion.

The renovated space is testament to the fact that Mille Fleurs is invested in remaining a part of the Ranch’s culture and entertainment indefinitely, despite recent rumors it was closing.

“Everybody has responded very well,” says Mille Fleurs owner Bertrand Hug. “They love to see that I’m caring for the place and that, in fact, I am spending money here to show that I’m staying.”

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Artist Marie Najera created all the new artwork for the redesign, just as she had done for Hug’s Hillcrest restaurant, Mr. A’s.

“Everything was done specifically, size-wise and content-wise,” she explains. “I did some research about the Ranch and the eucalyptus trees and the flowers and the birds to get an overall feeling of the Ranch and just put it into the artwork.”

Along with the lighter décor, the menu has lightened up as well, modernized by Chef Sean McCart who used to be a chef at Mister A’s.

“Sean’s created new bistro menu items that are served at the bar and are light, airy, fresh and modern,” describes Hug. “We still go to Chino’s every day and get all our ingredients fresh, and Sean has definitely created some great new menu items with our fresh ingredients.”

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The casual bar menu includes tasty bites such as steak tartare toast, tostadas, and artisan pretzels for starters. There’s also a garden salad featuring Chino Farm vegetables, a soup du jour, four-cheese ravioli, and Pacific prawns with asparagus. You can also order an eight-ounce prime burger, a mouth-watering New York steak, or the ever-popular wienerschnitzel. All items are reasonably priced from $6 for the “bites” to $27 for the steak. The more formal dining room offers a different, more extensive menu.

Hug wants to keep some of the traditions Mille Fleurs is known for – like its white tablecloths – but he’s hoping the updated bar menu and décor will attract a new clientele interested in lighter fare, happy hour deals, and live music.

“I want everybody to come back and try it out,” he says. “I think we’re doing a good job.”

Connie McNally, a longtime friend to Hug and interior designer, helped with the updated look.

“I’m happy with it – it’s brighter, it’s more up-to date and people seem to like the colors and the openness of it.” McNally is an antique dealer and a silver expert who owned the McNally Company Antiques shop just down the street from Mille Fleurs until recently.

McNally said she had to close down her store due to one big problem that, in her opinion, has usurped the overall customer experience of the village -- lack of parking.

“Customers would call me and say ‘I’ve circled the block six times and can’t find parking, so I’m not coming.’”

She attributes the lack of parking to the onslaught of real estate and financial institutions that have leased most of the buildings in the village, taking up all the parking spaces and pushing retail establishments out.

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Hug shares the same feelings of frustration as McNally.

“I used to serve a minimum of 70 to 80 lunches here every day. They came from La Jolla, from all over, to this beautiful village. They would shop, they would have lunch, and everybody benefited. But now all these real estate and financial offices, they took up all the parking space. This is sad, and I don’t believe there’s any way of changing this. This was never addressed. And now, it’s too late.”

Hug describes the village as a “ghost town” on the weekends, which is unfortunate for visitors to the area.

“On Saturday or Sunday, the people staying at The Inn (at Rancho Santa Fe), they come out and you see them on the street and they ask, ‘What can we do here?’ And I say, nothing. All the retail shops have closed.”

Hug realizes his restaurant may very well be one of the last bastions in the village to defend against the trend. But there’s no doubt he’s sticking around. “I will stay until my last breath,” he says, “but I want to be sure that people will keep coming.”

Mille Fleurs is located at 6009 Paseo Delicias. It’s open for lunch on Thursday and Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The casual bar menu is offered from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Dinner is served Sunday through Friday after 6 p.m., and Saturday after 5:30 p.m. Go to millefleurs.com for more information or call 858-756-3085.

- Business spotlights are developed through this newspaper’s advertising department in support of our advertisers.

Photos by Jon Clark


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