Disney’s Queen Victoria Room at Victoria and Albert’s wants to be the best, most overlooked restaurant in the country. Or maybe that’s what visitors of Victoria and Albert’s want to believe. After all, it’s really expensive. And it’s hard to get reservations. And the chef has been on a short list of possible nominees for a regional James Beard Award. So, where is the disconnect?
If your not a Disneyphile, you need to know that Walt Disney World in Florida has several excellent restaurants. Victoria and Albert’s is marketed as the best of those restaurants. The Queen Victoria Room is the inner sanctum of V&A’s where the most personalized service is given and the menu is limited to an expanded tasting menu. It is also the only Disney establishment that forbids children. So it has to be totally awesome, right?
First, we have to address the price. It is the most expensive meal we have ever eaten. There is only one way to rationalize this: Disney World is expensive, and some would say, about 20% overpriced for everything. The fact that V&A is more expensive than Le Bernadin, yet begs that it is unfair to compare it to New York restaurants can quickly be compensated by a completely rational (albeit fictitious) 20% discount.
There are only four tables in the Queen Victoria Room. It’s quiet. Maybe too quiet as we initially felt like we had to speak in a whisper so as not to disturb the other diners. Later the wine kicked in and to hell with the others who all looked like they were on their 20th anniversary.
Our servers, a man and a woman (not named Victoria and Albert) were the only people to serve the table. They were very pleasant and attentive. And this is where we encounter the first reason they have no Michelin stars: We have found that in the fine dining world there is a kind of shorthand used when serving food to people who know food. At V&A, every little thing is explained with an unnecessary bit of pomp and circumstance.
In Disney’s defense, we understand what they are up against. There are a lot of people who look to Disney to guide them though new experiences. To a large extent, Disney is travel without travel. Sanitized versions of foreign countries. Adventure without risk. If your experience with dining out is limited but you are intent on jumping into the deep end, this is your place.
One thing they got right: purse stools. Little ottomans for your handbag. Ruth gives this a big thumbs-up, declaring that all restaurants should have dedicated furniture to keep your purse discretely within reach. Sadly we learned that not every table is allocated a purse stool. Some are relegated to using a purse hook.
The food, however, is really good. With its basis in French, the cuisine also pulls from Asia and America. Each course was perfectly cooked and the pacing of the meal was good.
The flavors are not adventurous, but they did have some nice combinations. The chef leans toward comforting rather than surprising. Chicken liver pâté, Lamb and curry, salmon and soy. Nice cuts of meat with rich sauces. The presentation is pretty and simple. No molecular gastronomy. No French Laundry-esque play on words. Thankfully, it is also not based on Victorian era British food.
Service is unique in that the waitstaff is given a table-side task for almost every course. At times, this presents a nice opportunity to speak with the servers and learn more about the food or the operation of the restaurant. Unfortunately, the responsibilities of our waiter were limited to some fairly mundane tasks: warming croutons, shaving bonito, shaving truffles, and pouring sauces. The interaction seemed forced, as if, because it’s Disney we must include a bit of showmanship. A little bit is good. Knowing when to stop is what separates great restaurants from Victoria & Albert’s.
Soft-poached Quail Egg with German Caviar
Chicken Liver Pâté
Cauliflower Panna Cotta with Siberian Caviar
Porcini Mushroom Cappuccino
Ruinart Blanc de Blancs Brut, Reims
Maine Lobster with Herb Aioli and Miniature Greens
Michel Redde “Les Tuilieres” Sancerre, Loire 2010
Cold “Smoked” Niman Ranch Lamb with Fuji Apple and Curry Dressing
Grans-Fassian Piesporter Kabinett Riesling, Mosel 2009
Sake-Soy Marinated Alaskan King Salmon with Bok Choy and Soy Beans
Kanbara “Bride of the Fox” Gohyakumangoku Junmai Ginjo, Nigata
Poulet Rouge “Oscar” with Alaskan King Crab and California Asparagus
Domaine de la Solitude Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, Rhone 2010
Marcho Farms Veal Tenderloin with Truffle Bread Pudding
Hartford Court Land’s End Vineyards Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast 2007
Australian Kobe-Style Beef Tenderloin with Smoked Garlic-Potato Puree
Mollydooker The Maitre D’ Cabernet Sauvignon, South Australia 2009
Peruvian Chocolate Cylinder with Elder Flower Sauce
Chocolate and Navan Bubble