In honor of its 30th year, Mille Fleurs is revisiting its first year.
The award-winning Rancho Santa Fe restaurant is offering a $30 three-course, prix fixe menu, featuring items that were among its offerings in 1985. From now through Feb. 8 (with the exception of Saturdays), patrons can commence their dining experience with a choice of Pumpkin Soup With Ginger, Blood Orange And Pistachio, or the House Salad In Vinaigrette. For the main course, there’s the Lake Superior Whitefish “Meunière” with spinach, steamed potatoes and lemon butter; or the Chicken Breast in Porcini Mushroom Sauce, served with Brussels sprouts, butternut squash and spaetzle. To top off the meal, guests are presented with a luscious Chocolate “Pot de Crème” with orange peel, strawberries and raspberry sauce.
Complementing the menu are $30 bottles of select wines, which can be sipped from hand-blown crystal glasses etched with the restaurant’s logo, specially created in honor of the milestone.
Mille Fleurs— which means “thousand flowers” — has come a long way since Rancho Santa Fe resident Bertrand Hug took over its ownership several decades ago. Before he acquired it, Hug was a frequent visitor who had an affinity for the Village.
“I was in love with this place (Mille Fleurs),” he said.
Hug had already had years of experience in restaurants. After the French native earned a degree in economics at the University of Toulouse, he eventually made his way to the United States, supporting himself by waiting tables. In 1973, Hug became managing partner of Le Cote d’Azur in La Jolla. He then went on to manage, co-own or own several more restaurants in the area — including Mon Ami in Solana Beach, La Mediterranean, Bertrand’s in Leucadia, and La Maison du Lac in Carlsbad.
In 1984, Hug finally had his chance to buy Mille Fleurs. Since opening its doors several years before, it had already been through several owners, from Dirk Delfortre to Lee and Marion Dodson. Hug closed escrow on Dec. 31, ready to take on the new year with a new restaurant.
On Jan. 3, 1985, Hug reopened Mille Fleurs. It initially had more of a “Portuguese restaurant vibe,” so Hug decided to take a more classic approach, adding tablecloths, flowers and carpeting. He also brought in Chef Martin Woesle to prepare the freshest French cuisine, using local produce. But one thing that remained the same: the rare blue-and-white Delft tile inlaid in the walls for which the restaurant was named.
In the years that followed, Mille Fleurs underwent several additional remodels. In 1994, it was closed for several weeks while work was done to the kitchen and dining room, and several walls were removed. Seven years later, the bar potion of the establishment was extended to the street. And in 2010, there was a cosmetic “face-lift” that included new chairs and paint.
All of Hug’s efforts have certainly paid off. Mille Fleurs has racked up numerous awards, including Top 25 Restaurants in America by Food & Wine magazine, Best Restaurant in San Diego by The New York Times, and a regular spot on the “best of” lists of local publications. Among its most recent accolades was landing on the OpenTable 2013 Diner’s Choice Award’s list of the Top 100 Restaurants in America, beating out nearly 19,000 restaurants around the country and the only one in the San Diego area to make the cut.
Furthermore, Mille Fleurs has not only been noted by “regulars” and critics, but it has also become well-known among high-profile individuals. For example, it has hosted every American president going back to Nixon, with the exception of President Obama.
Hug — who also owns Bertrand at Mister A’s in San Diego’s Bankers Hill neighborhood — attributes his success to paying close attention to details, offering top-notch service, and providing the freshest foods possible, with a menu that varies daily.
But “at some point, we’ll redesign and refurbish again,” Hug said.
Meanwhile, “we will stay the course,” he added.
Mille Fleurs is at 6009 Paseo Delicias. Visit www.millefleurs.com or call 858-756-3085. Connect with Mille Fleurs on Facebook and Twitter at @MilleFleursRSF.