Editor’s Note: The menu for Afternoon Tea at Garden View Lounge has changed since this review was written, and many of the items featured here are no longer available. For more details, see our news post about the changes.
Today, we’re taking in afternoon tea at the Garden View Lounge. This charming spot, which occupies the far end of the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa’s cavernous lobby, is the perfect place to relax, dress up a bit (perhaps), and slow down, while you enjoy traditional offerings and steaming pots of tea.
It’s become a rather hot ticket, though, so if you like what you see, be prepared to make your advance dining reservation well in advance.
Tea at the Grand has become a tradition of sorts for my mom and me, and so we were excited to head there for this special treat.
Upon entering the Grand Floridian, take a moment to notice the details of the soaring atrium. With natural light flooding the seating areas during the day, the large birdcage, and the beautiful domed skylights, it really is lovely.
I’ve often heard people suggest that the Grand suffers from a “lack of themeing”. I’ve never thought so. To me, the setting is beautiful — elegance with a light touch, befitting Florida’s subtropical climate. And even with families around me rushing to catch the monorail, I’m transported when I enter it to a less-rushed time and place.
Whether you visit during the day or evening, you are likely to catch some form of live musical entertainment here. During the day, you’ll enjoy piano music. In the evening, be sure to catch Grand Floridian Society Orchestra playing jazz standards from the bandstand located just outside of Mizner’s Lounge on the second floor.
The Garden View Lounge is located at the far end of the lobby, directly opposite from the main entrance.
Flanking either side of the lounge are these adorable mosaics of inlaid marble.
Be sure to look down occasionally while walking around the Grand! They redid the floors a few years ago and added mosaics like these throughout. They are absolutely stunning.
Garden View is also the setting for the Perfectly Princess Tea Party, a character and storytelling experience.
The Lounge itself is an open-air spot, separated from the rest of the lobby by a wall featuring “windowless” windows.
We arrived a few minutes early for our advance dining reservation, and were told that our table would be ready shortly. I’m not sure what all of the luggage by the hostess stand was about! There was a full house inside, however. And it seemed as though a few people were dressed up for a special occasion of some sort.
We relaxed nearby in the lobby. Soon, our pager went off, and we were shown to our table.
Marble statues flank both side entrances of the lounge. Other than that, the space is sparsely decorated.
The center of the room is dominated by a central service area, while mixed seating surrounds the tables and cabinets.
Larger tables occupy the area nearest the picture windows, which provide a stunning view of the beautiful grounds.
The left side entrance to the lounge is roped off during tea service, but this view provides you more of an idea about the layout. As you can see, although it was busy, the small size somehow made it feel less bustling to me.
The service area in the middle of the lounge serves as both a focal point and parking spot for many of the tea offerings. Silverware and saucers are ready for the next guests to arrive.
Pastries are part of nearly every tea service, and a tray gives you an idea of what you can expect.
Sets of Jam, Cream, and Lemon Curd are on standby for our tea service as well. And since Lemon Curd is one of the best foods in the world, this makes me want to jump up and down and squeal.
Teacups with cloth napkins are all lined up in a row, ready for use. We were a teensy bit sad to see the old Royal Albert China that used to be used in the tea room replaced by this heartier version that appears to be prosaic-ly dishwasher safe.
Seating, as I mentioned, is mixed. Larger tables line the window area, while loveseats and wicker chairs occupy the center of the room. We were seated beside the windowless windows on the other side. Our seating consisted of a long banquette running the length of the wall, with small tables like these, and chairs on the other side of the tables. All in all, seating is comfortable and substantial.
Our table was set with teacups and saucers and tea strainers all ready for us. Apologies for the fleeting princess arm and superhero shoes. My son quickly discovered sugar in cube form, much to his delight.
Having been to tea here before, we came hungry, knowing that this can be a substantial affair. Time to check out the spread.
Tea at Garden View Lounge is not served in the traditional prix fixe manner that you’ll often find in tea rooms or hotels. Guests choose from a set menu of offerings under different headings here.
A la Carte courses were offered previously, but have since been removed from the menu.
In addition to choosing which Tea Service you prefer, you also choose your Tea from a wide range of options.
There are teas representing many varieties, from Black, Green, and White Teas, to Oolong and Herbal Infusions.
It’s also interesting to note that you can order Champagne, Sparkling Wine, Port, Beer, and other Bar Selections. And if you love the tea you’ve selected, gift tins of some of the varieties are available.
There were four of us dining — two adults and two children.
As guest of honor, my mother chose the Princess Kate Tea. In addition to her own pot of tea and various courses, her selection came with a glass of Veuve Clicquot Champagne.
I can never pass up Port or Pâté, which makes me sound a little masculine, I suspect. And so I went with my favorite offering, the Prince Edward Tea. My service began with a glass of Fonseca Bin 27 Port. The ruby Port is full-bodied and jammy. A fortified wine, it paired excellently with the rich dishes that would make up my first course.
Both children in our party opted for the Mrs. Potts Tea. The children’s tea service comes with special “Dark Tea” — Chocolate Milk. That was fine for the Little Knight in our party. But the Princess is a bit older, and preferred to have real tea.
And here’s my little plug for teaching children manners. I love that children are provided the same teapots and teacups that adults use. Even the “Dark Tea” came in a teapot, and our wonderful server used a strainer as she poured it out. What a lovely way to teach kids about the ritual of tea in a completely kid-friendly setting.
The four of us all chose different teas, so we ended up with four pots on our two tiny tables. Together with strainers, cups and saucers, it soon became crowded!
Add the cozy for each pot, and pretty soon, we were going to need a third table!
Mrs. Potts Tea consists of two courses. Tea Sandwiches make up the first course. I requested that the tea sandwiches be all Peanut Butter and Jelly for the Sir Picky.
The Princess was a bit more adventurous, throwing caution to the wind and eating what they brought her. As a result, she found out she enjoyed Tuna Salad very much! (She always wrinkled her nose at it before.)
My mother — oh heck, let’s just call her the queen to stay in the spirit of things — started with Tuna Poke served with Wonton Crisps. (She had the choice of Potted Shrimp, but went with the Poke, a Hawaiian dish of raw fish lightly tossed in a marinade before serving.)
I had several bites of the dish, and it was fresh and absolutely delicious.
Her second course was a Medley of Cheeses and Seasonal Fruits.
Now, I had my hands full keeping the tiny knight from upending his Dark Tea all over his suit of armor. So I’m not quite sure why there are two Scone-Slash-Biscuit Things in the middle of all the beautiful Cheese, Fruit, Honey, etc. But Mom says this is how the plate landed.
At any rate, presentation aside, everything here was delicious. (There was a liberal amount of sharing that day among us. I stole all the currants and some of the honeycomb, in fact.)
But my plate — ah. This is what I had been waiting for. The first course of the Prince Edward Tea is a mighty platterful of Pâtés, Cheese, and Fruit. Each slice of Pâté is accompanied by Cumberland Sauce, a fruit-based sauce typically made with Red Currants.
A side of Crostini came with the pâté and cheese, but I mostly skipped it, preferring to enjoy the strong flavors unmasked by bread.
Since we had chosen to partake in some of the heartier tea service options, we were well on our way to being full. But we certainly weren’t passing up Jam Tarts and Scones.
I’m showing you the tray of Jam Tarts here, because someone (ahem, that would be me) sort of gobbled up her tart before photographing it.
We did manage to get a photo of half a tart, beside the split scone on Mom’s plate. (Again with the sharing.)
My favorite detail here are the Condiments. If I could eat something everyday for the rest of my life, I’m pretty sure it would involve Lemon Curd. The Cream and Jam were delicious on the scone as well.
Yes. Um. Sorry.
Finally, as if Scones and Jam Tarts weren’t enough, it was time to select our final course. For the children, that meant choosing two Pastries each. I think there was some repetition (and also some eager consumption), so I managed to snag photos of some of the selections.
Gentlemen apparently don’t prefer sweets — hrmph — so my service didn’t include dessert. However, the others were more than happy to share with me.
We left, amply satisfied and in need of a walk.
Simply put, I love tea at the Grand Floridian.
Now, to be fair, I’m a bit of an Anglophile, and am predisposed to like this kinda thing. But having been to tea, prepared tea, and held teas, I feel like they do a pretty great job. The food is always fresh, delicious, and beautiful, and the tea is expertly brewed.
Sure, it’s a bit of a splurge. However, I did a bit of checking, and the prices are in line with other premium hotels that offer afternoon tea in the area.
This is my second experience having tea in the Garden View Lounge, and both times, I have enjoyed very little wait for my ADR as well as impeccable, relaxed service.
If you’re looking to start your own ritual, let me put tea at the Garden View up for consideration. I think you’ll be pleased.
Have you had tea at the Garden View Lounge? Leave a comment and tell us about your experience!