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