Today, we travel up the elegant stairway to the pinnacle of fine dining at Walt Disney World, Victoria & Albert’s at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.
Join me for an unparalleled experience as I take you behind the opulence to the excitement and camaraderie of the Chef’s Table! And let me tell you… it’s AWESOME!!
Victoria and Albert’s is the crown jewel in Disney’s culinary offerings. And while it is certainly expensive (that might be an understatement), I aim to show you that for the true food lover, the Chef’s Table experience is worth every penny.
By the way, if you read through this review and decide the Chef’s Table is not for you, you can also dine in the Dining Room to the more intimate Queen Victoria Room.
Reservations for Victoria and Albert’s go quickly. It is recommended that you book as close to 180 days out as possible. As for cost, the menu is prix fixe, meaning that you pay a set price for the meal. Expect your meal to begin at $135 per person for the Dining Room, with an additional charge of $65 for wine pairings. That price includes six courses. Queen Victoria’s Room and the Chef’s Table menus may include up to thirteen courses, and prices start at $210/person for dinner and $105 for wine pairings. Keep in mind that these prices do not reflect tax or gratuity, so be prepared.
While Queen Victoria’s Room offers the height of elegant dining, the Chef’s Table provides interested guests full access to the restaurant’s culinary team in a meal that is as much performance as it is sustenance.
Once you check in for your reservation at the Chef’s Table, you are escorted through the well appointed (and very quiet!) main dining room. You’ll notice low light, beautiful fresh flowers, and the strains of harp music. The whole effect is quite romantic and very formal. There is a strict dress code here, and men must wear jackets.
The Dining Room consists of a mere fourteen tables, beautifully set with spotless crystal and china. Very chi chi.
We followed the debonaire Maître d’hôtel, Israel Perez, through this space and into the brightly lit kitchen. At that time, we were informed that Chef de Cuisine Scott Hunnel would not be joining us because of a conflicting event. In his place, Sous Chef Aimée Rivera would guide us through our meal.
Both Mr. Perez and Chef Rivera were phenomenal, and it’s clear that their passion and driving force is the comfort and enjoyment of their guests. Chef Rivera invited us to interact at will with the kitchen staff, and suggested that we voice any and all questions that we might have (Mua ha ha ha!!! She didn’t know just how annoying I can be!).
An interesting fact: once you are seated, you can’t leave the kitchen without an escort. Safety is the issue here, with a real professional kitchen being a potentially dangerous place. Plan accordingly! 🙂
The Chef’s Table is under the care of two dedicated servers, and our servers for the evening were actually a married couple! I loved that, and really enjoyed watching their polished teamwork as they provided the perfect level of service. They were gracious and helpful without being obtrusive. And assisted as they were by the entire kitchen staff and the maître d, no question we had went unanswered.
Our table was very comfortable and almost homey, in contrast to the elegance of the dining room. The large wooden table, which accommodates up to ten guests, could easily be found in a home kitchen. A small iron railing separates the space from the kitchen, but permits guests a wide view of all the action.
The chefs and cooks were busily engaged in service for the evening and prep work for future meals as we entered. At once, however, they welcomed our questions and interacted with us in the most generous way imaginable.
While there are two seatings each night for the Dining Room, there is only one seating scheduled per night at the Chef’s Table. And let me tell you, nothing helps you to relax like knowing you have the attention of this many people all evening. It was heaven for a crazy food-lover like me.
I immediately began asking many, many questions. Joe, Chris, and the rest of the crew were laid back and helpful, giving thoughtful responses to every one of them. I still don’t have any idea how they pay attention to such a bustling job while carrying on conversations with people like me at the Chef’s Table.
For example, Joe was making some quick work of cleaning octopi and invited me to watch the process.
For someone like me, who enjoys the hows and whys almost as much as the eating, this was SO MUCH FUN! I watched them prepare sushi, desserts, and everything in between.
I think one of my favorite parts about observing the kitchen is the attention to detail. While everyone is industrious, the pace isn’t frenetic. Chefs are allowed to take time and pay attention to every tiny detail.
One of my questions involved this freestanding pot. I asked what in the world was bubbling away in it and was informed that it was just stock. (The lesson here, kids, is that there are no stupid questions. ;-D)
I also just had to know what this was! It always seemed to be surrounded by a flurry of activity. Even though it’s in a pan marked Ster Bac, which is a sanitizer, it’s actually a automated temperature gauge.
This particular test isn’t required, but offers a running record of temperatures in the kitchen. It’s just another way that Disney goes above and beyond, even behind the scenes, to maintain health codes. Fascinating!
I really enjoyed getting a sneak peek of items being prepared ahead of time for service.
Back in our dining alcove, I took a little time to appreciate awards and other mementos situated throughout the space.
This adorable (and rather ancient) diorama was made by a Chef’s Table guest expressly for Chef Hunnel in appreciation of the evening he spent there. How cool that Chef Hunnel displays it! It’s clear that he loves what he does and appreciates the guests who come to share their meals with him. Really, he must be one of the kindest chefs at Disney.
Isn’t this a lovely sight straight out of your autumn handbook? I’d like to have returned to see what became of these beautiful pears and cinnamon sticks!
But enough with the tour. I’m ready to get the meal started – and I’m sure you are too!
Your meal at the Chef’s Table begins with a Champagne Toast, which is just a lovely way to start the evening. The Chef, Mr. Perez, and the guests take a moment to anticipate what’s to come. Such a great tradition.
My dinner companion (thanks for inviting me, Bruno!!!) opted for the wine pairing, and I thought it would be fun to show you a little background information on the wine list philosophy. I stuck with water and soft drinks, myself.
Do keep in mind that the prices for meals and wine pairings have increased from what these photos show.
Each place setting includes your own personal menu, which is customized according to your tastes and preferences. When you book the Chef’s Table, you’re able to give a bit of info about your likes and dislikes, and these are reflected in the menu that’s created for you.
Leaving no detail untouched, you can enjoy a wide variety of salts from around the world with your bread service. There are three different breads and three different butters served throughout the meal at regular intervals.
We began our courses with an amuse bouche, tiny one-bite dishes that were as beautiful as they were delicious. Our plates consisted of an assortment, and mine included a Soft-Poached Quail Egg, Summer Roll with Pickled Ginger, and a beautiful Melon Soup garnished with Prosciutto.
The Poached Quail Egg was tiny and intricate. I couldn’t figure out quite how to eat it, but I eventually made due! (For those of you who think you’re not “sophisticated” enough to try the Chef’s Table, let me tell you that I was pretty much bumbling my way through the meal and nobody batted an eyelash! They just want you to have a blast with the experience and the food; don’t worry for a moment about not being knowledgeable enough.)
Although the menu said the melon would be featured in a salad, it was clearly a soup. It was delicious, summery, and refreshing.
The Summer Roll showcased lovely, fresh summer flavors.
In addition to the plate above, we were also served this velvety sip of Butternut Squash Soup. Hubba hubba! I love Butternut Squash Soup, and this was some of the best I’ve had.
Our first course began with a beautiful Yellow Gazpacho garnished with Heirloom Tomatoes, Iberico Ham Croutons, and Burrata Cheese. While I’m not normally a fan of this cold, raw soup, this was really delightful, and the garnishes took it to the next level. The summery flavors really primed our palates for the rich dishes that were coming.
Next we were treated to a well-known “show stopper” dish – Cold “Smoked” Niman Ranch Lamb with Fuji Apple Dressing. We’ve seen this cold dish in our previous guest reviews, as well as Erin Foster’s review during her family meal at the Chef’s Table. It was delicious and very flavorful.
The show-stopper part? “Smoke” comes from dry ice hidden beneath the top plate!
A second bread service helped to cleanse our palates and provided a nice contrast to the meat.
Our next course was one of my favorites and invoked Asian flavors. Here’s a hint for you… 🙂
…And here is the magic of the Chef’s Table. My friend had told Victoria and Albert’s that I preferred to go light on the seafood when he made the reservations. Normally, this course is salmon. But for my course, I was greeted with Sake-Soy-Marinated Long Island Duck with Bok Choy and Soy Beans. YUM!!!
THIS – was absolutely phenomenal. The rich, strong flavors and beautiful texture of the duck breast were outstanding, and I was very, very pleased. My friend had the same dish prepared with salmon.
He pronounced it to be fantastic as well. It was some of the prettiest salmon I had ever seen. Just look at the color!
The pungent, spicy fresh wasabi was the perfect accompaniment.
The next dish was Roasted Quail with Asian Pears and Serrano Ham Jus. For me, this was the clear winner of the evening!
And while I loved the moist, rich quail, it was the Mini Fried Ham and Cheese Sandwich garnish that I could NOT get enough of! (Are you at all surprised, DFB readers? No, of course you’re not surprised.)
And again, with the magic. I gushed so much about loving these that they actually prepared extra for me!
In between each of these courses, I took full advantage of the relaxed atmosphere and was literally hanging over the rail, asking every question that popped into my head. The staff were so generous with their time and attention.
Once again, it can’t be easy to concentrate on all of those detailed tasks with a steady barrage of questions about everything they were doing, but they were unbelievably giving with their time and information.
Our next course was another foray into fancy, with Veal Sweetbread and Shank with Chanterelle Mushroom Ragout. It was only the second or third time I’ve had this delicacy, which is actually – yikes! – the thymus gland.
The sweetbreads were quite good, and the shank was delicious. My least favorite component of the plate had to be the foam, though. I just do not like the look or feel of it. Because of the gamier flavor and foam, this course definitely didn’t measure up to the quail + ham & cheese, but that’s obviously a personal taste.
We were served another bread course. This time, we enjoyed thick slices of a whole grain loaf.
After that, it was time for another sublime red meat course!
The Australian Kobe and Wagyu Beef Tenderloin with Garlic Potato Puree was so completely fantastic that I have a confession to make: I didn’t…quite…wait for the picture…to dig in. I know! Gasp! You’d think I’d have this down by now!!
Fortunately, I snagged this photo from Erin Foster’s previous review so that you can get an idea about the dish. Ours featured both Australian Kobe and Wagyu, but you get the gist.
As, of course, as a big fan of beef, this dish blew me away. It was second only to that fantastic quail. And with that, we wrapped up the meat courses!
It was time to turn our attention to cheese and dessert. Our cheese plates included Colston Bassett Stilton, Southern Belle Chevre, Gouda Goat, and 24-Month Parmegiano Reggiano.
The presentation was just lovely, and the cheeses were delicious. The Gouda and chevre were more mild, while the Stilton and Parmegiano-Reggiano provided sharper, deeper flavors. Fig cake, pears, a port reduction, crisps, and honey provided wonderful garnishes.
And now, for your third installment of magic and delight: when my friend made the arrangements for dinner, he let them in on my little plastic cheese obsession.
When Chef Rivera brought this Bleu Cheese Fondue to the table, it was with apologies that she couldn’t quite bring herself to serve “plastic cheese,” but she had made this fondue instead, and hoped that I would enjoy it.
It was an incredible surprise and absolutely delicious. Served with cubes of nut bread on the most adorable picks, it was Through. The. Roof! Truly delicious, and incredibly rich. No way was I finishing it all, even though it was a petite serving. My only regret? I didn’t get the recipe. Sigh.
At this point, we were getting fatigued from food overload, but oh so happy with the wonderful experience we had had. But we did, of course, save a little room for sweets! There were multiple dessert courses as well. Of course there were!
To begin, I had the Orange Panna Cotta with Chartreuse Pineapple Sorbet. Normally, I’m not a big cheerleader for panna cotta – too much like milk jello for my taste, as you know – but this is Victoria and Albert’s! And so, it was pretty awesome.
But my favorite here was that Chartreuse Pineapple Sorbet. It was delicious, light, and refreshing, with just a little hint of sour to balance the sweetness. The perfect palate cleanser. And even though the tuile cage looked a little like a stick of mint gum, it was very pretty.
An over-the-top chocolate experience was up next, with the Mocha Scented Tanzanie Chocolate Mousse Timbale. Note the edible gold leaf and the gooseberry garnish. Gooseberries? LOVE THEM. Who knew?
Uber chocolatey. I usually like a little more variety in flavor, but this was really delicious.
This petite chocolate cocktail was served with the timbale. The whole effect was rich and decadent, the perfect chocoholic fantasy dessert.
With dessert, Victoria and Albert’s extensive tea list was offered.
We were also treated to the theatre of their famous vacuum press coffee pot.
But when it came right down to it, what my companion wanted most was an ice cold glass of milk. And just like that, it appeared. And that, my friends, is the beauty of this wonderful place. Whatever you want, you can have. Milk, soda, kool-aid – it doesn’t matter. Ask, and it appears. And, yes, I drank Diet Coke all evening as a little indulgence for myself.
It’s your $200+ dinner. Never lose sight of that. Ask for the things you’d like, and enjoy yourself.
Whew! We’re getting close to the end, but we’ve got some more surprises in store! While seated at the Chef’s Table, you notice rows of these wonderful brandied cherries in lovely glass jars atop the cabinets. Wonder what they’re for?
Why, housemade chocolates, of course! As our evening came to an end, this huge tray of chocolates appeared, and we were invited to take our fill.
I made a few choices to take home with me (including the messy-but-delicious Brandy cherry chocolates). I wasn’t sure I’d ever be hungry again. But just in case.
I added the chocolates to this darling goodie bag, which also included a mini loaf of quick bread. Women also leave with a rose.
It probably goes without saying, but I highly recommend Victoria and Albert’s to anyone who is able to dine here. Our tagline – Food IS a Theme Park – has never been more true than in this fantasy dining spot.
And in case you are on the fence about booking such an extravagant meal, let me frame it appropriately: this is not just food, it’s an experience. You aren’t just having dinner, you are having a moment in your life that will be unforgettable.
When it comes to the Chef’s Table, this option may not be for everyone. If you’re in search of romance, you might want to consider the Dining Room or the bump up to the Queen Victoria Room for the quieter atmosphere. But if knowledge is what you’re after, and a fun, interactive, exuberant night, consider the Chef’s Table. It’s the equivalent of that big scuba dive or that long dreamed of mountain climb: it will be etched in your memory.
Have you had the pleasure of dining at Victoria and Albert’s? Tell us about your experience below!