Review: Be our Guest Restaurant in the expanded Fantasyland
Once upon a time, Disney opened a restaurant which embodied the very essence of magical enchantment…………..a place where one feels immediately transported to a living, breathing storybook land filled with castles, charm and wonder. Be Our Guest Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom’s new, expanded Fantasyland is that place: one so exquisitely enthralling that all your childhood fantasies of happily-ever-afters seem so near at hand.
Based on the wildly popular and much-loved Disney film, Beauty and the Beast, Be Our Guest recreates familiar settings from the movie (namely the Beast’s castle and some of its fabled rooms). The theming is spot-on and no detail has been ignored. It is a glorious sight to behold. This is Disney at its finest and in all its unmatched grandeur.
Led inside the castle by a palace servant adorned in royal purple, we traveled past the great hall and into the ballroom, all the while being greeted by a chorus of sing-songy “Bon Jours.”
There are three dining areas inside the restaurant; the largest and most opulent being the ballroom which is the center and heart of Be Our Guest. The ballroom is dripping in the finest elegance and gorgeously adorned with sparkling, golden chandeliers with shimmering crystal accents, palatial columns, and royal blue tapestries draped along what seems like endless balcony railings. The sheer opulence of the room takes your breath away. I actually had to brush away a tear from the sheer beauty of it all. From the gleaming marble floors to the painted cherubs on the celestial domed ceiling, the room is a love letter to the film’s iconic scene. The far wall is a quaint but alluring picturesque depiction of the movie’s provincial French town, complete with peaceful, wintery snowfall. Looking at this faithful recreation of the ballroom, one expects to see Belle floating down a grand staircase in her signature golden gown. And while Belle never does make an appearance, the master of the castle, the Beast does make several regal entrances during dinner.
The room is dimly lit and maybe a tad louder than you’d expect which does somewhat detract from what could be the premiere romantic, dreamy ambiance of this Disney dining experience. In fact, your host will actually explain a little about the story and the restaurant while you are being led to your table, that is, if you can hear him/her. We really couldn’t discern what ours was saying. And while perhaps we missed something, the volume level is almost somehow subdued when one shifts focus to the quiet beauty of the room. Each table is lit by a small electric candle enveloped as if it were a precious jewel by a golden, glimmering holder. Each ruby red napkin is folded to look like the head of a perfect blooming rose. Despite the opulence and grandeur, there are also so many delicate touches. The movie soundtrack plays quietly beneath the bustle of the room, almost as if a small orchestra were performing somewhere in one of the furthest castle wings.
Our server, Mary, seemed very enthusiastic about the newness of the restaurant and was eager to “show off” the wonder of this place. Her obvious affection for Be Our Guest was contagious (as if we needed to be any more enamored with it).
The menu offers classic French-inspired fare with a flair, and most of the offerings sounded beyond tempting.
It had caused quite a stir when first announced that Be Our Guest would feature beer and wine on its menu – a first for the Magic Kingdom. And the wine list here is extensive, sure to please even the most knowledgeable connoisseur. There is also a special non-alcoholic all natural fruit punch which many guests seemed to enjoy, especially in the specially themed light-up souvenir goblets.
The mini French bread rolls with sea-salt butter were magnificent and a lovely diversion as we struggled to choose our dinner.
We began the meal with French Onion Soup ($6.99) and the Garden Salad with champagne vinaigrette ($4.49). The soup smelled heavenly, and I could hardly wait to taste the warm broth trickle down my throat. I actually had to pause after the initial spoonful, almost not convinced by what I had just tasted. So again I closed my eyes, breathed in that divine aroma and took another taste. The feeling of disappointment was a very unwelcome one. I wanted the food to be as grand and splendid as the setting. Sadly, the soup was so terribly bland and in dire need of some seasoning. The soup was just flat in taste and texture. It was almost watery. Even the Gruyere cheese which topped it was tasteless. However, the garden salad was a welcome starter, the crisp greens bathed in the most delightful vinaigrette. The champagne component gave it the perfect tang. It was a perfect and delicate balance of sweet and pungent. A wonderful choice which more than made up for what the soup was lacking.
For our entrees my companion decided upon the Thyme-Scented Pork Rack Chop ($21.99). I was torn between the Grilled Strip Steak and the Sauteed Shrimp and Scallops served in a Puff Pastry ($22.99). After conferring with Mary and asking her honest opinion, she revealed that although the strip steak was served with an incredible garlic herb butter, the puff pastry was their signature dish. That being the case, I opted for the seafood.
We could smell the pork loin several seconds before it reached our table. The aroma alone was mouth-watering. And what a fine choice this was. A tremendous portion of succulent pork enormous enough to satisfy a brute like Gaston himself accompanied by beautifully seasoned green beans and a uniquely comforting au gratin macaroni. The pork was juicy with a light and savory red wine jus. The au gratin macaroni was creamy and lip-smacking good.
The presentation of the puff pastry won praise for the chef. It was like a small golden chest revealing treasures of the sea nestled within. A light, flaky pastry bowl filled with tender shrimp and perfectly seared sea scallops swimming in a light, lobster cream sauce and resting on a cradle of mushrooms and finely julienned vegetables. The shrimp could have been more flavorful along with the lobster cream but all in all, a fine selection.
Despite the grand splendor of the dining room and the many fine details hidden within, I found my eye wandering several times throughout the night to the mahogany dessert trolley, filled with a sweet display of gorgeous confections. There are several flavors of cupcakes and cream puffs. Despite wanting one of each and after much debate, we chose the triple chocolate cupcake (chocolate sponge cake, chocolate mousse filling and chocolate ganache) and the lemon meringue cupcake (vanilla sponge cake, lemon custard filling and flamed meringue icing). After one bite of each, I felt myself transported right to that cherubic, ethereal ceiling above us. The chocolate cupcake ($3.99) was rich and moist with the surprising crunch of chocolate-covered rice crispies which added a lovely crispy texture to the spongy cake to which they clung fast. The meringue cupcake ($3.99) was golden and delicious with a frothy and fluffy meringue subtly garnished with tiny slivers of lemon rind. The tart lemon filling was a wonderful counterpart to the sweet meringue.
Do not be so overcome with the sheer spectacle of this main dining hall or the food that you forget that there are are two smaller dining rooms in the restaurant: The West Wing and the Rose Gallery, each with its own ambiance and theming. The West Wing is dark and mysterious with a hint of foreboding. The curtains are torn and the painting of the once unfeeling prince in his former image is ripped to shreds by what looks like a claw – a claw which has purposely destroyed the portrait in an uncontrollable rage. The emotion evoked in this room is heightened and reinforced by the sounds of the rumbles of thunder, of ripping fabrics and of distant roars.
All the while, a single enchanted fluorescent rose encased in a glass tomb quietly glimmers and almost beckons one for a closer look, its petals sadly and slowly falling onto the floor of the glass enclosure. It may seem foolish but it is a heartbreaking scene yet one which has you hoping that love will prevail. The Rose Gallery is adorned with a giant twirling music-box like display of a waltzing Belle and Beast, the walls decorated with many portraits of the pair and of the inhabitants of the castle. While this room is pleasant enough, it can not hold a candle (no Lumiere jokes intended) to the other two rooms which are beyond perfection.
After dinner, guests are invited to take a photo with the Master of the castle, the Beast. This caps off a lovely evening and one really does feel that he has been your host and you have been dining inside his home. He is gracious and welcoming. And on your way out, be sure to stop and listen to the suits of armor in the hall. They sneeze and cough and whisper to one another. You may have to pause a moment to catch it.
Before you make your exit, make sure to stop and marvel at the faux stained glass depiction of the prince and his beauty (which is a very close recreation from the film’s closing scene) and the stone gargoyle-like creatures looming above doorways and arches.
Be Our Guest is beyond magical, a page out of every child’s daydreams, a place which fulfills a longing to be part of a fairytale world. It’s as if you have watched love’s greatest tale unfold before your very eyes. It will make you believe in wishes come true. What a perfectly splendid cornerstone to represent the very real feel of Fantasyland.
Food: While some of the food may not be quite on par with some of the finer Disney restaurants, the fantastical experience that is Be Our Guest allows for some slight misses. All in all, the French fare is very good (maybe not excellent- we have had better on Disney property) and will not leave you dissatisfied. If anything, instead of relying on the heavier sauces on which some French dishes rely, the chefs here tend to opt more for the bland than the overly seasoned. The prices are not as exorbitant as you may imagine. For what you get by way of food and atmosphere, the cost is relatively inexpensive when compared to other Disney locales. $75 sans tip for a dinner here is reasonable when we have often spent that much at lunch at some Epcot table service spots. Let’s face it, you cannot beat the experience offered here and you are partially paying for that. But it is well worth it!
Atmosphere: How do you put this into words? Moving, breathtaking, incredible, brilliant. Like walking into a living, breathing fairytale. You will take a deep breath and sigh that “all is right with the world”.
Service: Happily enthusiastic, efficient and incredibly cheery. Mary was a seasoned professional for sure.
Tips: If possible, opt for the Ballroom or the West Wing. As lovely as the Rose Gallery may be, it pales in comparison to the other two rooms. Because of the acoustics and amount of diners inside, do not expect a quiet, intimate dinner. But you will be so lost in the ambiance, you won’t much notice. Make sure you explore the entire restaurant. Seems many guests are not aware there are three dining areas. Book well in advance. Because this restaurant is new and getting much hype (and sure to be a fan favorite) , you will need to book early. The restaurant does offer lunch in the Rose Gallery and features tasty sandwiches, salad and quiche and the same delicious desserts. You can view the entire menu by clicking here