Many people don’t always equate Champagne wishes and caviar dreams with The Most Magical Place on Earth. But at Disney World’s most luxurious restaurant, Mickey ear headbands are traded for a formal dress code. Instead of storing your belongings in a locker next to a roller coaster, your handbag rests atop a personal velvet tuffet.
Located at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, the Victorian Era-themed restaurant, named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, opened in 1988. It was considered a culinary crown jewel of central Florida long before Michelin made its way there earlier this year. Reservations must be booked in advance and experiences last, on average, around four hours. A seven-course meal starts at $295, with additional wine pairings beginning at $150.
After being closed for over two years, the restaurant reopened in July with refreshed menus and interiors. The space is now brighter and accented with crystal chandeliers and colorful murals. Touches of Cinderella can be spotted throughout, like a subtle brass pumpkin.
Led by chef Matthew Sowers, who has been with the restaurant for over 15 years, the tasting menu promises to be ever-evolving with fresh twists on elevated classics. The refurbishment also includes a new plant-based menu. Previously, those with dietary restrictions were merely accommodated; now plant-based courses shine and change every week based on seasonal ingredients. Each menu can be paired with wine from a collection of over 500 bottles, expertly curated by sommelier Israel Perez. There is also a new zero-proof cocktail pairing available. The experience is all about customization, and the staff reaches out to guests days ahead of their visit to review their preferences.
For my recent visit, I opted for the 10-course menu ($375) with the added wine pairing ($200), totaling $575.
The entrance is located behind an unassuming door off of the bustling hotel lobby. Upon entering, you leave the crowds of exhausted parkgoers for the soothing sounds of a lone harpist. In the center of the room beneath a stunning dome, she entertained guests with a catalog that spanned from Billy Joel to Hamilton.
The mood was set for the evening. This was modern elegance with a familiar feel.
We were presented with a glass of bubbly from one of the oldest Champagne houses in the world (and the first to be carbon neutral). Then the first course arrived: a savory éclair with miso caramel and Iberico ham; a bite of Thai basil and spiced mango; and a langoustine tartelette topped with an edible flower.
Throughout our meal, this beauty was in the subtle details. Royal Belgian caviar on a bed of creamy cauliflower panna cotta was served with a mother of pearl spoon because silverware would tarnish the taste.
The bread courses included butter sourced from more than 60 different farms in Normandy, France. In another course, a nine-grain bread was baked from a starter that an Austrian chef had brought to Disney 35 years ago.
During all ten courses, seafood shined, including a line-caught wild turbot flown in from Brittany, France, no sooner than 24 hours before it had reached our table. A favorite of Queen Victoria, it was butter-poached and beaming with a mildly sweet taste that paired well with the rich fennel fondue and Pernod beurre blanc.
There was a generous portion of marbled Wagyu A-5 Miyazaki that melted in your mouth. It was paired with grated potatoes pan-fried and layered with fat rendered from the steak. The utter richness of the dish was cooled by a crisp pour of berry-forward, organic French wine.
Courses were quenched with the restaurant’s new water pairings. Pours from all over the world were available and ranged in their mineral contents, up to 3000 mg. Much like a wine pairing that moves toward fuller-bodied as the meal goes on, so did the water pairings.
Act 2 was a multi-course dessert portion that could best be described as a gluttony-filled spectacle. After a cheese plate, sweet treats took over the table, ranging from an outstanding warm chocolate cookie to a miniature gold-flecked caramel in edible cellophane. As we pondered if it was possible to eat anything else, a cup of coffee was being brewed before our eyes in a vacuum percolator that sat atop our table. This grand finale encompassed what Victoria & Albert’s is all about. Food is a highlight of the four-hour experience, but this is culinary theater.
Distinct Disney magic was found in the personable staff who feed off of the guests' own enthusiasm. Their approach is accessible, comfortable, and nothing like many fine-dining restaurants — in the best way. They were by your side and keen to share the details of every morsel of food — including sourcing and origin— in a story-like manner that was as vivid as a fairytale.
We left armed — and slightly buzzed — with a keepsake personalized menu. This was an evening to remember, catered to guests who are seeking the finer side of magic.
You Might Also Like