I have to admit, I didn’t believe the hype about Victoria & Albert’s Restaurant at the Grand Floridian Hotel. When we were making honeymoon plans several years ago, I completely glossed over it and deemed it likely stuffy and way too extravagant for us. At the time, it probably was. Having “matured and endured” and honestly desiring an experience that would offer us a respite from the hordes of people and screaming children in the parks, I made a reservation on Disney’s dining system four months in advance for the Queen Victoria Room at “Vicky & Al’s.” This is a sacrifice I was willing to make for the benefit of the blog on our most recent trip to Disney, ahem. I also could not secure a reservation in the main room because it was already booked solid. So I booked the Queen Victoria Room, not completely understanding what we were getting into, but knowing that it had a set tasting menu and that it would likely cost us the same amount as a brand new couch. I was prepared to dislike it, deem it uptight and overrated, and then move on to sampling the fine culinary offerings of the world.
I could not have been more WRONG.
There…I admit it.
The Queen Victoria Room at Victoria & Albert’s is a small wood-paneled room with a fireplace, a portrait of Victoria and Albert, and four well-appointed tables, all set apart from the main dining room. It offers a more intimate dining experience and a select ten-course tasting menu that is set each night by the chef. The lighting in the room was subdued, our table was covered with soft linens, and we immediately felt relaxed and at ease. I could have actually sat there all night. But the star of the show that evening was the food.
Our first course was an amuse-bouche: Cauliflower Panna Cotta. It was AMAZING. Just a few bites to tickle the palette, I could have eaten an entire plate of this for dinner and called it a night. There were three crispy little potato chips embedded in the panna cotta that played off the taste of the vegetable and made the cauliflower sing. And yes, that’s a nice mound of American caviar too.
Our second course was roulade of smoked salmon with alaskan king crab. I am a big fan of smoked salmon, so I was delighted by this. LOML does not love seafood, but even he was enchanted by it.
By the third course we were getting excited. If these were appetizer to tickle our palates, what on earth would the main courses bring?
The third course was one of several fish courses: Alaskan Sablefish with Baby Bok Choy. This was served with a soy glaze and an accompaniment of freshly grated wasabi which made this dish burst with warmth and flavor.
The fourth course was a favorite of the night: Scottish Langoustine with Nage Crema. It was salty and bright, like a delicate lobster with the most delicious sea of sauce to swim in.
At various points on the menu, you are permitted to “buy up” and sample a rare culinary delight that is not included with the ten-course tasting. LOML and I decided that I would try the first “buy up” of the evening: Wild Turbot with Toasted Capers and Preserved Lemon.
This dish was a masterpiece. The fish was rich and moist and perfectly cooked and the sauce was the essence of lemon with a buttery finish. It melted in my mouth. I still think about this dish daily. It is one of the five most delicious plates I have ever enjoyed and there is no way I could ever reproduce it in my own kitchen…which to me is the mark of a culinary masterpiece.
Course number five was Truffled Bell & Evans Chicken with Blue Foot Mushrooms. I am sorry, I do not have a picture of this course because by now we were a bit tipsy from the wine pairing. This might be a good time to discuss the wine pairing. If you love learning about wine and can handle a nice amount of liquor in one evening, this wine pairing will be a treat. However, if you are lightweight like myself, you will get hammered in a fine dining establishment and forget your chicken course. Note to everyone: second guess the wine pairing. Even though they are small pours, 9 different glasses of anything will sweep you off your feet. There. You have been warned.
Our sixth course was a more memorable smoky Berkshire Porchetta with Sherry Vinaigrette. We also loved the brightly-colored beets that accompanied this dish.
The seventh dish was Australian Kobe Beef with Petite Potatoes with the option to buy up and have an additional sampling of Miyazaki Japanese Beef. LOML elected to try the Miyazaki and he raved about it beyond belief. He loves rare steak and this fit the bill. Evidently the Miyazaki Japanese Beef is a type of wagyu that has only been imported into the states since 2012. It extremely tender due to its feed of corn and wheat. It is a myth that is the result of a cow massaged daily at the hands of its owner. LOML still talks about this course with great reverence and at least I do not have to be concerned that I will come home one day to find a cow in the kitchen getting the full spa treatment.
LOML’s plate had tastings of both the Kobe (left) and the Miyazaki (right).
My kobe beef was delicious and tender. The red wine reduction sauce that accompanied it made it even better.
To wind down the meal, we were offered a sampling of cheeses in a cheese course. This made me very happy because my seat was facing the glass-domed cheese cart all night.
Each piece of cheese had an accompaniment. For me, the sweet runny honeycomb was terrific with boucheron and I am hoping to be able to recreate the tastes of this plate at home.
While we were enjoying our our cheese course we were able to enjoy watching our coffee and tea brew alongside the table in marvelous glass pots.
Throughout the meal, one of our two kind attentive servers would set us at ease and teach us about the origins of the foods were were sampling. This was actually one of my favorite things about the evening.
The highlight of our culinary education was the introduction of our first dessert course: Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Wild Strawberries.
Just before we dug in, I distinctly heard the server say that the tiny little strawberries, “grow under fallen trees in the woods of northern Europe.”
How romantic! Little medieval wild strawberries that you have to seek out in ancient forests a continent away. I was also three-sheets-to-the-wind from the wines (and port served with the cheese course) so I giggled as I tasted the dessert and pictured men in funny hats looking under logs for the dainty fruits, which I found rather ridiculous. Had LOML and I ventured too far into the culinary stratosphere?
The berries were bursting with flavor.
Our final course was a Peruvian Chocolate Crunch. To me, it looked like an eye with long lashes from a Salvador Dali painting. In fact, in my stupor and fullness, it almost appeared to wink back at me knowingly. This was my least favorite course in the tasting. The chocolate was extremely rich and put me over the edge of feeling “full” to thinking “I don’t feel so well.”
Our evening ended with a trip back to the kitchen to meet the chef, which was wonderful. We were able to thank him in person for the beautiful meal and see the inner workings of the kitchen. Everyone was very friendly and happy to answer our questions.
When we returned to our seats we were presented with a personalized copy of our menus and a sampling of chocolates that we were much too full to enjoy.
Our ten-course tasting menu in the Queen Victoria Room made V & A enthusiasts out of both of us. We fell in love with ambiance of Victoria & Albert’s Restaurant, we learned a lot about food and wine, and we had a bucket-list dining experience. The service at the restaurant is wonderful without being intimidating and the meal was absolutely delicious. What makes this restaurant so special is that they really do want to make you happy. If you are a Vegetarian or Vegan, do not shy away from a tasting dinner, as the chef will accommodate you and delight you with creative dishes. If you are an omnivore, you are in for a new treat every time you dine here!
There are, however a few minor drawbacks. This dinner is not for the faint of heart. You must be willing to try everything, even foods that you usually are not partial to. Also, in particular, I do not recommend the wine pairing. It was all just too much, particularly for me. Order a glass of your favorite cocktail or wine or champagne with dinner and focus on the food. If you are traveling light, you must also be prepared to bring a jacket and nice shoes and slacks for the gents, and a dress or dressy pants suit for the ladies. We brought nice clothes just for this meal and they did take up a lot of valuable room in our suitcases. It is also an extremely expensive evening. I am not complaining because we were mentally prepared for this, but unless you are a hedge-fund manager or sheikh, you should save up in advance for such a night out so that you can fully enjoy it and not second guess yourself in any way. The restaurant will contact you prior your reservation to confirm any food allergies and they will remind you of the price per person. I am pretty sure they do this so as not to have any shocked customers.
Would we do this again? Yes, but likely years from now for a very special occasion. We would also like to try the main dining room someday to compare experiences.
Reservations can be made at Victoria & Albert’s Restaurant by calling 407-WDW-DVNA (939-3862) up to 180 days prior to your visit or by visiting the Disney World Dining Website.
*Jackets are required for gentlemen, dressy attire for women.