Review: Be Our Guest Restaurant Lunch
The Greek playwright Aeschylus, who is often described as the “father of tragedy,” once observed, “What is pleasanter than the tie of host and guest?” The relationship between the host and the guest is important throughout the Disney World Resort, but no place perhaps is it more expressed than in the parks’ and hotels’ restaurants and eateries. The bond is simple: they create the magic, whether it’s the food itself or the atmosphere, and we are participants in it. Without us, their magic wouldn’t sparkle and bloom. After all, we are the ones that “ooh” and “aah” at the spectacle they’ve created. In the restaurants and eateries, the wait staff and chefs take on a more intimate role in the creation of magic for the guests, for they deal with the guests in a much more personal way. And at no other location is this more evident than the new “Be Our Guest Restaurant” at the New Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom.
Based on the enchanted castle in the 1991 Disney classic Beauty and the Beast, the “Be Our Guest Restaurant” lives up to its name in many ways, starting when you first cross onto the threshold of the Beast’s land. Immediately, you feel transported to a world that’s simultaneously mysterious and welcoming; you pass beneath a stone archway fallen into disrepair, and in the distance a waterfall cascades through a cragged mountain draped in the limbs of evergreen trees. Atop this mountain sits the Beast’s castle, appearing some ways in the distance, perhaps another fortnight’s trek. Luckily, there’s a secret entrance at the base of the peak, and after you pass by a cluster of mythical stone sentries, you’re inside.
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Inside, you’re immediately immersed in the magic and wonder of the animated film. Enchanted suits of armor, majestic coats of arms, outlandish gargoyles, and opulent drapings in reds, purples, and golds surround you like a dream. Once you pass through the richly detailed entryway, you will be escorted to the Parlor Room, where large screens display your dining options. This is one of the greatest features of the restaurant; no longer do you have to squint at menus somewhere behind and overhead the ordering counter – they are right there before you in clear, pixilated glory. These kiosks also give you a wealth of information on your dining selections, including substitution choices and nutritional information about your meal.
A little trivia: Beauty and the Beast was the first animated film to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture. It lost to The Silence of the Lambs. And while there is no liver with fava beans on the menu, there may be a nice chianti. The restaurant serves a full menu of French dining fare for dinner as well as regular breakfast and lunch options. Also for dinner, it offers a choice of 20 different wines, as well as French and Belgian beer; a first for the Magic Kingdom.
Once you’ve made your dining choices and paid for your meal – all done at the convenient and intuitive kiosks – you’re then given a plastic rose to take with you to your table. This is one of the most novel and fascinating ideas to be implemented in a Disney restaurant. The rose ensures that your meal is brought to you; no matter what dining room you choose, no matter which specific table you decide to eat at, that rose acts as a sort-of homing beacon for the wait staff, allowing them to find and serve you your meal with speed and efficiency. I know there are technological processes at work here; however, I prefer to be ignorant of such things, and rather believe the rose is some magical magnet that attracts my food to me.
After making your food choices, which, for lunch, includes mainly fancy salads and sandwiches (more on this shortly), you’re next main decision is in which of the three equally amazing dining areas you will eat. After exiting the Parlor Room, you enter The Ballroom. The largest and most majestic of the dining rooms, The Ballroom has soaring ceilings with three large chandeliers dripping with crystals and light, Sistine Chapel-esqe ceiling murals with cherubs and clouds, and is filled with music that is both grand and passionate. The main draw, however, is at the far end of the room, where a series of windows loom, outside of which is a cold and wintery scene where snow is actually falling, occasionally whipped by a blustery winter’s wind.
Off to one side of The Ballroom is the Rose Gallery Room. There, colors of Belle’s yellow dress are reflected in all the rich decor, and a beautiful music box sits regally in the middle, with Belle and the Beast dancing atop. The walls are lined with elegant paintings, prints, and even woven tapestries of characters and scenes from the movie. On the other side of the Ballroom is the West Wing – where we decided to dine.
We had just ridden the doombuggies in The Haunted Mansion, and now we were looking for an equally macabre eating experience, and we found it in the dark and somewhat foreboding West Wing; this after all is where the Beast told Belle never to go.
The West Wing is the only place that you can really dine in an almost dark and gothic setting at Walt Disney World. It is the smallest and most intimate of the dining rooms, and is filled with haunting, harpsichord versions of famed tunes from the film, punctuated by claps of thunder and sounds of a gathering storm. The decor is in various shades of purple, from amethyst to violet, and off to one corner sits a Rose beneath a bell jar that magically floats and spins slowly in a circle.
The windows here are reminiscent of The Haunted Mansion, and flickering candle sconces and chandeliers add to the eerie lighting. Overhead, shredded drapery hangs from the rafters, and on the wall are beautiful tapestries torn by the beast’s angry claws. The real magic here, though, it the unforgettable transformation of the room that takes place every twenty to thirty minutes. Anyone who’s visited “T-Rex” or “Rainforest Cafe” in Downtown Disney will be familiar with this type of dining display of sounds and sights, although here the show is much more subtle than at those eating destinations. It begins with a lightning flash and a rumble of thunder: the melody changes and you feel a change in the energy of the room. Then a lightning flash envelops the entire room, and the clawed portrait of the young prince above the fireplace flickers and flashes to reveal a silhouette of the angry Beast. It’s a fantastic effect that really makes dining in this room something of a supernatural wonder.
Now for the food: the waiter brought us our meals on a covered dining trolley quite quickly, locating our table with the assistance of the magical rose. My family and I ordered the Grilled Steak Sandwich (with Garlic-herb butter spread and Pommes Frites), the Carved Turkey Sandwich (served warm on a Baguette, with Dijon Mayonnaise and Pommes Frites), the Kid’s Mickey Meatloaf (turkey meatloaf, broccoli florets, and zucchini served with Orange “stuff” for dipping), and a Chocolate Cream Puff. We all shared everything, and each dish was hot, appetizing, and delicious. The food here is undoubtedly more thought out than other park counter service locations. It is certainly quick service food (with quick service prices ranging from $5.59 for Kid’s Meals, to $10.79 for Lunch Entrees), but it feels less so, with much more attention paid to taste and quality.
Like the animated Lumiere and Cogsworth in the film, each cast member makes you feel welcome and special, and the “Be Our Guest Restaurant” is now undoubtedly the most exceptional and unique dining experience available at Walt Disney World, with diners truly experiencing what it might be like to be a guest in an enchanted palace. And in the end, that’s what it’s about; we are the guest, they are the hosts, and, as Aeschylus recognized – “What is pleasanter?”
Food: Delicious; lunch, and dinner options with much attention paid to taste and quality. Prices are comparable to other park counter service eateries for lunch, with more formal dinner selections. In all, one of the best places you can eat in the park.
Atmosphere: Incredibly detailed with designs, decor, and architecture taken right from the Beauty and the Beast film. One of the most richly themed Disney dining experiences possible.
Service: Quick, efficient, and friendly. After all, you’re their guest!
Tips: Reservations are hard to get for dinner. Make sure you call as early ahead as possible. In addition, the lines for lunch can be very, very long.