Today we’re reviewing another of the Gaylord Palms Resort restaurants — Villa de Flora!
As you know, I was kindly invited to a complimentary dine-around at the restaurants at Gaylord Palms the last time I was in Orlando, Florida (you can see my photos and descriptions of the Sora Sushi Bar and the Old Hickory Steakhouse here). Gaylord Palms Resort is just a few miles away from Disney World’s main gate, and is a quick taxi ride or drive away from any Disney park or resort.
Villa de Flora Atmosphere
Gaylord Palms Resort is built around a massive indoor courtyard, which is separated into three Florida-specific sections: Key West, St. Augustine, and the Everglades. Villa de Flora is located in the St. Augustine area of the courtyard, directly across from this rustic Spanish castle where the resort holds special events:
The castle could be just one part of your view from this Mediterranean villa-themed restaurant. There are dining rooms inside the main villa area, affording surroundings of Spanish tile, heavy dark wood furniture, and massive fireplaces…
…or “outdoor” dining rooms (of course, the entire courtyard is covered, so you have no elements to worry about) strewn with lights and decorated casually with potted trees and wicker furniture.
No matter where you choose to dine, the restaurant has made the guest experience even more individualized by placing potted herbs on each table. Guests are encouraged to use the herbs as desired to add even more flavor to their meals.
Villa de Flora’s buffet offerings are set up as a Mediterranean market highlighting seasonal cuisine from several countries. In fact, the menu here has a twist. Although the service is buffet, each day the restaurant highlights a different Mediterranean country with its dishes, rotating between Spain, Italy, France, and Greece. When we were there, we were treated to specialties like seafood paella, tortilla salad, coconut shrimp, a gorgeous antipasto display, and some amazing desserts. But your choices might vary — it all depends on the day you dine.
Once we had made the rounds of the buffet, we were greeted at our table by our server preparing the house-made Sangria! Although the buffet variety might keep other restaurants from developing house dishes, Villa de Flora has made its mark with a delicious tomato-basil soup and this Sangria, made from a variety of apples, oranges, lemons, cinnamon sticks, fruit juices, brandy, and Réné Barbier Mediterranean wines. The strong cinnamon taste made it stand out from any other Sangria I’ve sampled, and it was delicious.
So how was it?
We were very impressed with this restaurant! How do you make a standard resort buffet into something special? In my opinion, you create beautiful and changing surroundings; keep the menu season-inspired and innovative; focus on taste and presentation; and stay true to the dishes that make your restaurant special. We’re usually not big buffet fans, but the house-made Sangria mixed at the table and fresh, not-too-fussy dishes won us over. (I can still taste that Sangria!!) I was truly sorry we were anticipating the next restaurant, because I couldn’t dig into that line of incredible desserts…!
From my experience there, I think Villa de Flora would be ideal for a business lunch, a family brunch (think Mother’s Day!), or an evening excursion with friends for a few pitchers of Sangria and some delicious Mediterranean homestyle eats. (We actually passed Villa de Flora on our way out of the resort later that evening and it was very lively with groups of people at the courtyard tables having a great time!)
Specs and Info
You can check out the current Gaylord Palms Resort Villa de Flora menu here. Breakfast at Villa de Flora is served weekdays from 6:30 to 10:30 a.m., and until 11:00 a.m. on weekends. Sunday brunch is served from noon until 3:00 p.m.; lunch is served weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and Saturdays from noon until 2:30 p.m.; and dinner is served nightly from 5:00 until 10:00 p.m. Bar service (with occasional entertainment) is available from 11:30 a.m. until 10:00 p.m.
Villa de Flora is located in the St. Augustine Atrium, and attire is casual. You can make a reservation online, or call (407) 586-1114.