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Guest Review: Grand Floridian’s Afternoon Tea at the Garden View Lounge

We’re welcoming back guest author Melissa Sue as she shares a review of the Grand Floridian’s afternoon tea!

My husband, Rob, and I headed to the Grand Floridian for an afternoon tea experience in December.

Grand Floridian

Atmosphere

After hopping off the monorail we found the waiting area for the Garden View Lounge, which is located on the bottom floor of the Main Building lobby. The waiting area is extremely charming — though too small — and has Beauty and the Beast characters Chip and Mrs. Potts inlaid into the tile floor. How cute!

Mrs. Potts is the perfect Disney touch outside the tea room!

This Chip won’t blow bubbles in your tea!

The check-in podium was easy to locate and well-appointed. Unfortunately, there were only two seats in the waiting area, so we were mostly standing while we waited.

The check-in podium, on the south east side of the Main Building at Grand Floridian.

And, boy, did we wait. I should preface this by saying that the Tea Room was obviously either overbooked or understaffed the day of our tea. Our party of two waited for 40 minutes before being seated, while other, larger parties, some without a reservation, were taken in ahead of us.

We’d already had a long morning, including rope drop at Magic Kingdom and exploring at the Contemporary, so we were tired, hungry, and not interested in waiting around. To add insult to impatience, the lobby of the Grand Floridian was extremely loud and busy as it was the holiday season.

Once we were seated, we were able to see why it’s called the Garden View Lounge—what a great view! You can see out to Bay Lake Beach as well as out across several grassy areas to the Courtyard Pool.

Grand Floridian Garden

There were guests seated around us, and they each had adorable Grand Floridian tea cozies on their teapots.

Grand Floridian Tea Cozy

The tables here are primarily small, round marble-style tables. There is chair and booth seating available, although chairs make up the vast majority of the seating.

Table Seating

Everything is covered in pale pink and green florals here, in keeping with the overall theme at the Grand Floridian. We were seated along the lobby wall, and I opted to sit on the banquet-style seating, while Rob sat in a more traditional seat.

Our table setting.

Eats

During our long wait, we were able to get our hands on the menu, so we were ready to order as soon as our beleaguered server made his way over to us.

Cover of the extensive Tea menu

Specialty teas offered - click image for larger version

Traditional tea offerings - click image for larger version

Traditional Afternoon Tea Offerings - click image for larger version

A La Carte Offerings - click image for larger version

Other Beverage Selections - click image for larger version

If you’re never enjoyed real tea service, you’re in for a treat! Each flavor of tea comes to your table in its own individual pot. The tea leaves and hot water are steeping inside. Typically, your waiter will fill the first cup, pouring through a tea strainer to capture any errant leaves that may try to get into your teacup. If you like a good cup of tea, this process feels very special.

I ordered the Grand Tea, which includes tea sandwiches, a scone, a jam tart, and dessert of pastries or trifle. It also came with tea — I opted for the Imperial English Breakfast — and a glass of sparkling wine. The wine was overly sweet and slightly sour. It tasted like the bottle had been open for a while, although the Tea Room was clearly busy.

Tea Service

The meal started with five tea sandwiches for me. I wasn’t able to verify what was on each of the sandwiches, but they seemed to include a cucumber sandwich, a curry sandwich, a fig and blue cheese sandwich, some kind of fish sandwich and an egg salad. They were all delicious, except for the cucumber, which I never enjoy and find to be bland.

Tea Sandwiches

There was also a slab of paté on the plate as well as a small onion tart. I didn’t think either was anything to write home about, but my husband very much enjoyed the tart. He said it reminded him of an onion roll.

Enjoying the first course.

My husband ordered the Prince Edwards Tea. An almost British-style cheese plate, his meal included three types of paté, cheese, marinated berries, and Cumberland sauce. He also received scones with Devonshire cream, a pot of tea (Darjeeling for him) and a glass of port. The port was complex and mellow, and he enjoyed it.

Close-up of the Prince Edwards

His meal started with a giant, long plate containing the lion’s share of his service. Taking up the most room on the plate were two slices each of three different patés, some with bread already wrapped around them and some without.

There were also several slices of blue and cheddar cheeses, which were flavorful, but not Disney cheese-plate quality. The plate also had a sweet fruit-based sauce (which neither of us enjoyed) and some fresh, whole strawberries.

Our First Course Spread

My meal continued with a scone and a jam tart, while Rob’s continued with two scones.

The scones were filled with seasonal cranberries instead of more traditional raisins (Editor’s Note: This might be further result of Disney’s new partnership with Ocean Spray Craisins). Thick, dense, and buttery, they were almost more like biscuits and not at all like the scones I am used to getting at home, but yummy all the same.

Scone and jam tart

The jam tart, it seemed, was literally jam from a jar spooned into a tartlet shell and chilled in the fridge. It was nothing special, and was, in fact, entirely too sweet.

Second course in action

For dessert, I had my pick of two items from the dessert tray, which included a pastry swan with mint cream, éclairs, fruit tarts, and chocolate covered strawberries. Rob and I opted to go for the strawberry mousse and the linzer tart. Rob’s meal did not include dessert.

Rob loved the mousse, but I didn’t like it. I thought the texture was too thick, almost solid in the mouth, although it was remarkably smooth. Rob thought it tasted like strawberry-flavored Quick, which he listed as a positive attribute. For me, it tasted somewhat chemical.

The linzer tart was covered in the same thick jam that I’d found in my jam tart in the previous course. The bottom of the tart desperately needed something crunchy to round out the dessert. It was a nice end to the meal, though.

Dessert Course

Overall

The Garden View Lounge is lovely and would make an excellent bar for cocktails or relaxing after a long day in the parks. As a tea room, it is lacking. Talking with our waiter at the end of the meal, he admitted that the Lounge is understaffed, that the plates are too large for the tables and that the whole room is in need of some love. He was clearly harried, and I sort of wanted to give him a hug.

After the long wait, the tea service lasted about as long as our wait did — too short, in our opinion. When we think of tea, we plan to sit and relax for a couple of hours, but this service was brusque, inattentive, and poorly-paced. Our server was kind, but he was clearly overworked, and at several points throughout the afternoon, the woman at the check-in desk came into the dining room to serve plates. It was completely unacceptable and not at all the kind of service I’d come to expect from Disney.

The meal itself was surprisingly filling — we felt as if we’d had a full lunch, easily — but nothing terrifically exciting. Also, a note about consistency: I’ve heard about others who were served scones and tarts before the tea sandwiches when ordering the Grand Tea. Either way is fine by me, but it seems that there should be some similarities between guest experiences.

I love afternoon tea, and I really love the idea of afternoon tea on Disney property. I even agree that the theme of the Grand Floridian lends itself well to the experience. But based on our experience, things need to change here. They need a larger room or fewer ADRs, and I think they need to revisit the menu. Until they make some changes, I don’t see any reason to go back.

Has your afternoon tea experience been similar? We want your thoughts, too!

Melissa Sue Sorrells Galley works in higher education communications in upstate New York, where she lives with her husband, Robert, and her cavapoo, George. She’s is the co-editor of Mouse on the Mind.

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25 Comments

  1. Amanda Susan says:

    I’ve been to Afternoon Tea 5 times over the past 3 years. My mom and I go during every trip. The only problem we have had is bad service. When that happened the manager came out and apologized and did compensate us. That trip was during our Comedy of Errors trip to WDW when nothing went right so by that time we were just laughing.

    The sandwiches are pear and Gorgonzola, egg salad, curry chicken salad, cucumber, and shrimp salad. My mom and I swap a couple but we always enjoy what is on our plate.

    The scones are our favorite and I believe they are more like real English scones and not the Americanized version.

    For dessert I usually go with the strawberries and cream. I can tell you the chocolate covered strawberries are delicious.

    This is place I recommend to everyone I know going. We do find it relaxing. We’re never rushed. I’m sorry you’ve had a bad experience, but I’ve always had an enjoyable, relaxing time.

  2. Jaia says:

    That looks like a lovely special occasion treat! My husband would love the Prince Edward and I’d simply enjoy the chance to feel fancy. I’m not much into the tea sandwiches or pates, but scones and tea? Yum!

  3. kirsten says:

    I love the tea at the GF, but you have to get the trifle, skip the pastries, the trifle is so delicious and you get a very generous helping!

  4. Chris says:

    Fantastic review. I appreciate that you pointed out the problems with your experience. So many people at other sites who review Disney food tend to feel that need to be overly7 positive about an experience. If it’s not good, tell us!

  5. Mariah says:

    I have had the very same experience as the writer. My husband and I had tea there in late January of 2009. We waited and waited to be seated.

    I had the Prince Edward tea and I must say, the entire plate seemed stale. The Pates had crusts on them, the baked goods tasted like Pepperidge Farm products and the service left a lot to be desired. Other than that, nothing on our plates was memorable.

    However, it was a nice respite from a busy morning.

  6. Theresa says:

    I also did the Grand Tea here. The day we went, it was not crowded at all. There were more empty seats than full ones. However, I also found the service to be poor and hurried. THough we did not wait to be seated, our server was abrupt and seemed completely irritated with us when we asked questions. I had a lot of questions about the different types of food and tea on the menu. When I would ask her something, she would answer very quickly without much detail and then she turned and walked away without waiting to see if I had another question. I kept having to wave her down to ask her my questions but she would disappear for a long time even though she only appeared to be serving one or two other tables. She never smiled at us or made conversation or was even available most of the time. We wanted to take our time enjoying the tea so we ate slow and conversed and noticed that the server seemed annoyed at our being too slow. While we were eating dessert, she brought the bill and she seemed to want to clear our plates very eagerly when done. We still sat for another thirty minutes or so after we were finished because we wanted to sit and talk and enjoy a relaxing conversation. There were still plenty of empty tables. However, I kept feeling annoyed looks from the server so finally I said we should leave. I loved the food and the tea but the service was horrible.

  7. Sue says:

    I was disappointed with our try at Afternoon Tea. We arrived on time and had a long wait. When we arrived, there was no one at the podium so we weren’t sure where to check in. We tried going up the handicapped ramp since my husband was in a wheelchair, but the ramp is evidently not in use. If you are in a wheelchair, you have to transfer and walk up a few steps into the dining area. You are SO right about the waiting area being tiny. I think there were three chairs. The girl working the check in podium then treated us like something on the bottom of her shoe that she had to deal with. Once we were finally seated, our server was very cold toward us. I felt like I was dressed wrong or had done something to offend them. The food was good, but the poor service and disorganization left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

  8. Jennifer says:

    I actually had tea on Christmas Eve 2011 and found it to be a delightful experience. My sister and I were just coming to the Grand Floridian to look at the decoration and the gingerbread house. We decided on a whim to see if they could seat us for tea. We were seated immediately and were not rushed at all. I am not a big fan of the tea sanwiches and some of the other food items here, but I did enjoy the scones. We were told that the cranberries were added for the holidays, usually the scones have golden raisins in them. Most people could probably make better desserts and tea sandwiches at home, but you could never match the ambiance of that beautiful tearoom. I am in love with the Royal Albert Old Country Roses china, it is stunning. In a very rushed and hurried holiday season this was just what we needed. A chance to enjoy a pot of tea and some tasty snacks while being enveloped in the elegance of the Grand Floridan.

  9. Shannan says:

    We love the Gardenview Tea Room. My son (9) and I think it is a must do. My husband comes along and orders a coke instead of tea. I love love love the tea sandwiches. Last time we went I ordered an extra order of sandwiches. Big mistake because I was so full by the end of the service that I didn’t feel well the rest of the day. But those sandwiches were oh so yummy. I can’t wait until December so we can visit again.

  10. Jen says:

    We went here in mid-August. When I went to the podium to check in, I was greeted with a long look down the nose and a “Ma’am?” I have no idea why, as we were dressed nicely. Then when placing our order for tea, my 5′ 2′,’ 9 year old son ordered the Mrs. Pott’s Tea and he was quickly interupted and told that was for children 9 and under. I told the waitress that he was nine and she smirked said, “All right, then.” I hate feeling like someone thinks I’m trying to scam them. We never had a problem with ordering off of the children’s menu all week otherwise. I ordered the Grand Tea and asked to have all vegetarian sandwiches. She seemed put out by that.

    When our tea came out, it was in a pot, there was no tea strainer or anything. I am married to an Englishman and he remarked this was the first tea service he’d been to where he had to pour his first cup. Then it just went downhill further when a family of 12 came in. It was all hands on deck for them and we were basically left to twist in the breeze ( I wanted to order another adult beverage.).

    I really enjoyed the food, but service was desultory at best and overshadowed the meal. When I was researching online about this before we went, it seemed like this was a hit or a miss. We had fabulous servce all week, so when you get a server who is wholly disinterested in you, it is all the more noticeable.

  11. Lilly says:

    Great review! The Tea Room is a personal favorite of mine and I really enjoy going on our annual trip, but I do have to agree that we have had a significant wait to be seated every time we’ve gone. Combined with the busy and loud Grand Floridian lobby, lack of seating in the waiting area, and the traffic flow in front of the tea room this is clearly an issue.

  12. Stephanie says:

    Sorry to hear you experience wasn’t so great. My mom and I had tea there this past Christmas and loved it. The service was fine and our waitress was super nice. We were seated right away and stayed for a good hour or more, there was no rush. We did have a later reservation, 4:50, so that could certainly be why. As for the food, the trifle and scones were by far the best, and we would probably just order that and tea the next time. Overall, we thought it was a nice relaxing experience that we will do again, although after reading this, I think we’ll stick with the later reservation time.

  13. Kathleen says:

    WE just got back from Disney and myself, my sister and my mom love the Tea!!! I am sorry a lot didnt but I guess we lucked out each time we went.

  14. Ginamarie says:

    I guess there are some inconsistencies here. My family and I did tea at the Gardenview lounge last August, and it was wonderful. There was no wait to get in, my children and I were treated promptly and the waitress was friendly and knowledgable. The food was all fresh and tasty and the eros tea was phenomenal. We have strawberries and cream for dessert, which I loved! We are hoping to go back on our next trip, and I’ll be crossing my fingers for another great experience.

  15. Brandy says:

    We didn’t do the Gardenview Afternoon Tea but my daughter&I did the Perfectly Princess Tea Party there. The food I received were the same tea sandwiches as well as fruit&cheese&crackers. I am allergic to seafood so I actually requested the same food the children get(I love me some PB&J and am not too keen on any cheese other than cheddar)and they gave me with adult plate sans seafood sammies,with extra chicken salad&egg salad. I LOVED the chicken salad! The only other complaint I had was that the tea was served with no sugar,honey,cream,etc. I love tea but plain? Not so much. I asked for honey and they looked at me like I had 2 heads. The whole thing was very rushed as well but I understand it was a different experience-singing,Princess Aurora visited. We weren’t even done with our food when it was cleared so the cake could be brought out and not even done with that before IT was cleared&we were ushered out. We were still collecting our coats when they started re-setting for Afternoon Tea. My daughter loved it though and we were able to enjoy some “girl time” so that more than made up for everything else. I guess that’s what Disney counts on though!

  16. Galloping Gourmand says:

    I’ve been twice. My first time was about 10 years ago, and it was a lovely experience. The second time was last year and the place has definitely gone downhill.

    The service was terrible. It wasn’t bad in the rushed and hurry out the door manner that some here have said. I found that the servers seemed to be confused with the difference between “formal” in the way you would see the footman serve on Downton Abbey and “cold and aloof” like they were tolerating your business. They were not precise, the food was placed on the table haphazardly, and they breezed in and out as if they all had better places to be. Part of 4:00 tea is taking a relaxing time away from the hustle of the day. It’s not to have a sandwich, pour yourself some tea, and get pushed out the door.

    The sandwiches and scones were great, but the tea… oh dear, that was a problem. With tea you need to pay some attention to the steep time. That is, the amount of time the leaves stay in the water. It’s almost as important as putting the right amount of tea into the pot. We each had a pot of the same tea (yes pouring ourselves) and they both had very different strengths but apparently the same amount of tea. The reason the server pours the first cup is so that you have a properly steeped cup of tea, as the server knows how long ago the tea was placed in the pot. Also, getting a resteep was next to impossible. Most teas can be steeped multiple times, they should know this, and have hot water handy.

    Now I must say I learned all this about tea steep times from my friend, an avid tea snob. Any inaccuracies are purely mine due to a poor memory. I’m sad that my experience seems to have been duplicated for so many. They have the potential to have something very nice at the Garden View Lounge. I hope one day it lives up to it’s potential.

  17. rhyeck says:

    I loved the tea and the food was yummy when we (my sister, niece and I) went! But? They were refurbishing the garden and I had my tea next to a large excavator machine. They tried to hide it behind a SHEAR scrim. :O) We took pictures while eating and of the food on the table, but the only thing that stood out was the contruction equipment. When I made the reservation… I wish they would’ve said something about the refurb. We would have done something else.

  18. Melissa says:

    I had been thinking of trying to work a tea reservation into my next trip, but now I think I’ll probably give it a miss.

  19. Chloe Simmons says:

    I had an english tea once and though the clotted cream went in the tea. It doesn’t. You did it right. It is used like butter or cream cheese. Yeah. I looked like a total American. This looks great!

  20. Kristin says:

    We just had our first experience with afternoon tea at the Grand Floridian. We went on June 24th. My husband, son, 11, and his friend, also 11, and I had a very nice time. I had made reservations two months before hand. At the time, there were only three on the reservation, but they handled the extra person with no problem. Our server was so nice and friendly answering all of our questions and chatting with us. The hostess even took time to teach my son and his friend how to do the fancy napkin fold. She showed them twice. Of course, the room was not full at the time. This was my husband’s second tea experience and my son’s friend’s first experience. My husband is not a tea person so he had the British cheese plate and a coke, while the rest of us had the Grand Tea. I thought that everything was delicious. I loved my sparkling wine that I received with my tea. My only suggestions that I have is to make the small marble tables a little larger, it was hard to hold everything, and to offer lemon curd with the scones. The cream was delicious, but I prefer lemon curd. They also need some seating outside the tea room. I did think the prices were a little high, but this is Disney so I expected the high bill. I love “going to tea” and have had the pleasure of having tea in several tea rooms, including the Ritz Carlton. The prices at Disney are higher than the Ritz and the variety is less. Other than that, we had a delightful time. We were there during Tropical Storm Debbie and this was a nice respite from the weather.

  21. AJ says:

    Kristin — I LOVE your idea of lemon curd with the scones! Thanks for your review.

  22. jJ795 says:

    Me and my family went on the 24th September 2012. Reservations were made well in advance because it was for a special Birthday. The surroundings are wonderfull, very pompus, very impressive….but then the food, if thats what you want to call it ? My partner had the Grand Tea, scones were ordered all round, strawberrys and cream, trifles and a la carte cakes.
    The tea was not strong enough, very weak. The sandwiches were horrendous, tasteless rubbish ! Who in Walt Disneys name puts lemon curd with scones !!!!!!! Im ruddy English, we know what were on about…. Strawberrys and cream were ok, but the cream was …… FAKE……. trifle was like wise.
    But the worse to come was the bill, almost laughable and really overpriced. So people beware of being ripped off. You have been warned.

  23. Marlene says:

    Hi AJ,
    Any idea why the reservation option has been removed from the WDW website?
    How does one make a reservation at the Garden View Lounge?
    (Are they perhaps closed for renovation?)

    Thanks!

    P.S. Did you see any of the Royal Albert “Old Country Roses” TEAPOTS?
    Or do they only have plain white teapots now?

  24. AJ says:

    Hi Marlene! We checked on the Garden View Lounge and haven’t heard about any closures. Also, it cannot be booked online; call 407-WDW-DINE for booking.

  25. Sara-Jayne says:

    We’re going in November since I missed out on going in 2008… I hope we enjoy it!

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