While an exclusive meal at the Chef’s Table at Victoria & Albert’s is a unique experience, the main dining room exudes romance. This week, guest author Michelle Buchecker reviews this table service restaurant at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort.
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Located on the second floor in the main building of the Grand Floridian Resort, Victoria and Albert’s puts the “fine” in “fine dining”.
This table-service restaurant has won many awards and accolades for its fine food and superb service. The restaurant is divided into three seating areas: Main Dining room, Queen Victoria’s room, and Chefs Table. The Chefs table is in the kitchen. There is only 1 table and it often books well in advance. The Queen Victoria room seats 8 people and has only 1 seating a night. The 8 people may be all 1 party or 4 parties of 2 people or whatever ends up being reserved. But once they hit 8 people they close reservations.
The main dining room (where we dined) has about 20 tables and has 2 seatings per night. This is a prix fixe meal for $135. A wine pairing is an extra $65. In addition, the menu will have “upcharge” items, which I will mention in the details below.
The dress code is jacket and dress pants for men, and nice dress or pants for women. Ties are optional. We did see 1 family where the 2 men were dressed in tuxes and the woman was in a long cocktail dress. Most women were in nice dresses or skirts, but I did see one lady who was more casually dressed.
Our reservation was for 5:15PM on a Friday night. We arrived about 5:00PM and the doors were still locked. There were several other couples seated in the lounge area that is shared by Victoria and Albert’s and Citricos. Shortly after, a hostess came and asked people their names and escorted them into the restaurant based on their reservation time. Reservations are staggered, my guess is to not overwhelm the staff all at once. At about 5:10 we were escorted in and shown our table.
As you enter the restaurant there is a table with several bottles of expensive liqueurs and a huge pink “rock” of Himalayan sea salt.
A harp and harpist are just beyond this. The center of the main dining room has a table with a large flower centerpiece.
Our table had a small lamp lit with a candle.
Other tables had a single candlestick with a long, tapered candle. Charger plates on the table were adorned with the restaurant logo. Adding to the ambiance, the lighting was soft and romantic but not too dark. I could read the menu without my iPhone flashlight which says something!
Each table gets two servers. These servers are responsible for multiple tables, but it is clear that they don’t have too many to get overwhelmed. The servers are attentive but not hovering.
The waitstaff are very professional and will remain so unless you start asking questions that allow them to open up and even crack a joke or two. For instance, we asked our server what the dress code was for the Queen Victoria room in case we opted to dine there in the future (my husband made it clear if he had to wear a tie it wasn’t going to happen). Our server responded that men had to wear tuxes and women had to wear ballerina costumes. 😉 That broke the ice quite a bit. He then explained it was the same dress code as the main dining room.
No children under 10 are allowed to dine in the restaurant. This certainly keeps the noise down and the restaurant was almost library quiet until most of the tables filled in.
The restrooms are near the entrance. You go down a hallway past payphones! I think that may be in keeping with creating an atmosphere of yesteryear. 😉 The women’s restroom has a nice large common sink area and 2 stalls. Each stall is really its own separate room with walls and a door that goes all the way to the floor. Each stall also has its own sink as well. No paper towels here; not good enough. Instead there are washcloths to dry your hands.
You dispose of the washcloths in a wicker basket, which is lined with fabric that has Mickey Mouse and Pluto. This was the only instance of any Disney characters I saw.
A few days before your reservation, the restaurant will call you to discuss any dietary restrictions. This is the second time we dined at Victoria and Albert’s; the first was several years ago. On our first visit I had a long, lengthy discussion with the cast member about my likes (small list) and dislikes (long list). I was trepidatious about dining but everything turned out great, which made me feel confident about making the second reservation.
However, when I was talking about dietary items with the cast member for this second reservation she said “Do you have any allergies or dietary restrictions? Or are they just preferences?” I explained they were preferences, but strong preferences. I don’t eat seafood or any meat that is not chicken, turkey, or beef. Not that I haven’t tried eating different things, but I believe I am a supertaster, which means I have more taste buds than average. This makes things taste much stronger than most people taste. She said that she would make a note.
I was back to being anxious again and almost canceled the reservation. Spending that kind of money and maybe still being hungry afterward is not something I want to repeat (I’m looking at you Spiaggia in Chicago!). But I decided to go through with it and hope for the best.
Our server asked if we wanted tap or sparkling water, or if we wanted to see the menu of waters from around the world. Tap water is just fine with us after she assured us it was super filtered (ie: didn’t taste like icky Orlando water). The tap water was indeed just fine.
For our drink order, my husband went with the wine pairing and I opted for the pomegranate lemonade. There was never a point during the course of the meal where either my lemonade glass or water glass were close to empty. My father always said you can tell the mark of a good restaurant by never having to ask for a refill of water.
We received our menus and our server went over my husband’s menu and all the different selections he could have for the different courses. She then went over my custom menu and I could finally relax that there would be plenty for me to eat! Yay! In addition our server has a sister who is a supertaster, so could understand my needs.
For starters, there is an Amuse-Bouche. French for mouth amusement. Usually this is a small 1 or 2 bite tasting of some item the chef wants to create. My husband’s amuse-bouche was something seafood related. I remember it had caviar on top. Mine wasn’t seafood and had 8 year old balsamic vinegar sprinkling and butternut squash puree and a little beef tenderloin. Sadly I didn’t think to take a picture at this point. But it was good and tasty. Brad also was served his first glass of wine. My guess was it was a 3 or 4 oz pour.
Brad had an optional upcharge course of Imperial Osetra Cavier with Traditional Garnishes. $105 for ½ oz, or $210 for 1 oz. He passed on that.
The next course was a salad, or salad-like, dish. Brad had his choice of Pintade Fermiere Verrine with Fuji Apples and Walnuts, or Octopus “A La Plancha” with Black Garlic Aioli. He opted for the octopus.
I wasn’t given a choice for this course and had the Miniature Greens with White Balsamic Vinaigrette.
Both dishes were met with approval.
Next course: Brad was given the choice between Maine Diver Scallop with Cauliflower and Glace de Viande, or Lock Duart Salmon with Mushrooms and Porcini Sauce, or Wild Turbot with Toasted Capers and Preserved Lemon. There was a $30 upcharge for the Turbot. He opted for the Scallop.
No choice for me, so I had the Vegetable Consommé.
When the server brought the consommé out, there were 3 small balls of butternut squash in the bottom of an otherwise empty soup bowl. On top of each ball, was a microgreen (basil?). Our server then poured the consommé into the bowl over the butternut squash. Very elegant!
For our next dishes, Brad’s choices were Palmetto Farms Quail with Asian Pears, Serrano Ham Jus, or Berkshire Pork with Corn and Stone Ground Grits. Brad had the quail.
Once again no choice for me so I had the House Made Gnocchi with Corn.
This may have been my favorite dish of the evening. I was expecting Gnocchi dumplings with a little side of corn. Instead the gnocchi were underneath a corn foam, and swimming in a broth that was a cross between a corn chowder and chicken broth. There were kernels of the sweetest corn I’ve had as well as something black that I could not identify but had a wonderful taste.
On to the main course! Brad had a choice of Marcho Farms Veal “Cassoulet”, or Roasted Duck with Fennel and Leeks “A l’Orange”, or Niman Ranch Lamb with Butternut Squash Agnolotti, or Australian Kobe-Style Beef Tenderloin with Oxtail Ravioli ($35 upcharge), or True Japanese Kobe Beef ($110 upcharge). Our server mentioned that if he got one of the 1st 3 items, he could add a 2 oz tasting portion of the beef. The tasting portion of the Australian tenderloin would be $22 and the tasting portion of the Japanese Kobe would be $55. He got the lamb and the tasting portion of the Australian tenderloin.
We wondered, but did not ask, if the wine pairing would include an extra wine with the tasting portion. And if it did would it be extra. Lo and behold he did get 2 wines, 1 for the regular entrée and one that paired with the tenderloin and there was no additional charge. So that was probably a decent deal.
I finally had a choice on my menu! I could get either the Poulet Rouge with Butternut Squash Agnolotti, or either of the aforementioned upcharge beef items. I could also get the upcharge beef tastings. Since Brad was already getting the tasting of the Australian beef, I knew I’d get to taste that. So I went with the chicken.
The chicken was tender and relatively moist. It was cut into small medallions and served with the skin on. I was getting pretty full by this time and I did not finish the chicken. Both entrees came with what was called winter squash. But to me they tasted more like overcooked summer squashes. I love most winter squashes (butternut, acorn, pumpkin, etc.), but not summer. And these had a summer squash taste to them.
The Australian Kobe-Style Beef Tenderloin was the most devoid of fat piece of beef I have seen in my life. Cooked medium-rare (but you can have it cooked to your liking), I found it flavorful but surprisingly chewy. Brad’s entrée came with a sauce in the smallest, cutest pitcher I have ever seen.
That’s not even a quarter in that picture, but a nickel.
Wait! There’s another course before dessert? Yes. We both had the same choices of Parmigiano Reggioan, Fiscalini Cheddar, Sottocenere Al Tartufo, Roquefort (basically 4 cheeses), or Roasted White Chocolate Gelato with Balsamic Glaze. Brad got the cheeses, I got the gelato.
Normally I am not a white chocolate fan. To me it’s not really chocolate. But this had a nice subtle taste and was a perfect palette cleanser. I didn’t feel the balsamic glaze really added to it, and was a little bit of a taste distraction.
Dessert! Our choices were Tanzanian Chocolate Timbale with Orange Scented Milk Chocolate Gelato, Apple Quark Panna Cotta, Caramelized Banana Gateau, Vanilla Bean Crème Brulee, Grand Marnier Soufflé, or Hawaiian Kona Chocolate Soufflé. Hmm, Chocolate and Kona? Yes please! We both ordered the chocolate soufflé.
The soufflés came out on a small plate and then the server inserted a hole into the middle and poured the hot Kona liquid in.
It made for quite a steamy presentation. The size of the soufflé was about the size of our entrees. Not small, or petite by any measure. As such, I only finished about half of it because I was so full. I had also ordered a glass of Muscato to accompany the dessert. It complemented it very nicely. It was one of the sweetest Muscato’s I’ve had, which I loved but may not be to everyone’s taste. The soufflé was accompanied by a chocolate gelato and a ginger crisp. The gelato was not very chocolatety but the ginger crisp woke up my taste buds after a long meal.
For our post meal beverage, I continued sipping my Muscato and Brad had the coffee. But this isn’t just any old coffee, no, this is Victoria and Albert’s. They must do something special to the coffee; so they use a German engineered coffee maker called Cona (not to be confused with Kona’s!). This engineering marvel has a bowl where the coffee grounds are that sits over a separate bowl of water that in turn sits over a flame.
A tube connects the water bowl to the coffee grounds bowl. The water heats and as it does so, some water and steam flow up the tube into the top bowl.
Once the water is boiling for a while the server extinguishes the flame. Within a minute some vacuum pressurization magic happens and the coffee streams into the bottom bowl (which is really the coffee pot) and is all perfectly brewed. I think there is an upcharge for this, but it’s so cool!
Finally, the bill. Boo! And more food?? What??? Yes, because in case all of the above courses aren’t enough they bring you small additional desserts on a plate. 4 per person. 1 was mango jelly bite and was an extremely intense mango flavor. There also a chocolate caramel with sea salt, a pecan nut thing, and a fourth item (shortbread with some kind of filling).
And so you don’t leave hungry…. Each table gets a bag with their personal menus in it, and a loaf of date nut bread that is about 4” long and 2”high.
And each woman at the table receives a long stemmed rose with the thorns removed.
Victoria and Albert’s Main Dining room is what differentiates “eating” from “dining”. This is a special occasion meal with memories that will last a lifetime. It is not cheap by any means. Our total bill for the above, including tip, was $467 for two people. That’s a lot of Boma meals we could have had instead. But if you save in other ways (maybe go moderate hotel instead of deluxe, or value instead of moderate), it will be a meal long remembered. We look forward to trying the Queen Victoria room next time… in about 5-10 years!
Is Victoria and Albert’s on your bucket list? Have you been? Let us know in the comments below!