Victoria and Albert’s Review
For anyone who has ever wished upon a star to find the most brilliant of restaurants, I offer you
Victoria and Albert’s, which offers a dining experience of such stunning 5-star perfection one cannot help but bask in the glory of an epicurean heaven from beginning to end. And what an unforgettable evening it is. If it be true that food is one of life’s greatest pleasures, then be prepared to understand that belief to its greatest fulfillment at this incredible Grand Floridian legend. Certainly every Disney aficionado or gourmet or just about everyone must experience Victoria and Albert’s at least once in their lifetime.
The restaurant is named for and refers to Queen Victoria who ruled the United Kingdom from 1837 until her death in 1901 and her Prince, Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
Upon entering the lavish foyer, guests are formally greeted and led through the hushed, candlelit dining room handsomely decorated and adorned with enormous arrangements of fragrant fresh flowers, greeted by debonair wait staff in classic Victorian attire. The room is opulent yet intimate. Adding to the romantic ambiance is the soft melodious sweet strings of a harp being played almost angelically by a most gifted musician.
The impeccable and affable service is immediately very apparent. Jack and Sherry who attended to our every need are certainly two shining stars in Disney’s firmament of exemplary cast members. They not only catered to us during the entire seven-course meal but anticipated our every desire.
There is a dress code which is integral to keeping the formality and elegance of the Victorian-inspired room. Men must wear jackets with dress slacks and shoes. Ties are optional. Women may wear cocktail or formal dresses, skirts or pantsuits. No jeans, shorts, sandals or sneakers allowed. And this is as it should be. It would almost be an insult to the integrity of such a distinguished room to dress too casually.
There is a very extensive wine list with over 700 selections featuring some very rare vintages. Because of the enchanted feel of the evening, I chose a glass of the Fairy Tale champagne which I was told is made and bottled especially for the nearby Disney wedding pavilion. The champagne was bubbly and dry and set the celebratory stage for a very special event.
We were given our personalized menus and told that the offerings change daily, with dishes inspired by the freshest seasonal ingredients and from around the globe with an emphasis on local markets and cuisine. There are two sides to the menu: one consisting of all vegetarian fare and a guest ordering from the non-vegetarian side may opt to select from the vegetarian side (and vice versa) for any course.
We had to review the menu for quite some time as all courses are ordered at the start of the meal, and choosing 6 courses is not an easy task, especially when each offering sounds beyond amazing and indulgent.
As soon as we placed our orders, we were brought a gift from the chef (the award winning Scott Hunnel whom I am convinced is superhuman) called Amuse-Bouche. This was a trio of one-bite seafood delights: a smoked salmon panna cotta, a smoked salmon cube and a king crab crepe. The presentation alone was something to behold. This was very obviously made by a master artist. The salmon was delectable and tender, the panna cotta was light, creamy and inventive (topped with a tiny hidden mickey made of roe) and the king crab crepe (my favorite) was a true masterpiece. Amuse-Bouche means “amuse the mouth” and the single, bite-sized hor d’oeuvres certainly did that.
For our first course selection (or the second since the first had been the wonderful Amuse-Bouche), I was served a Masago Crusted Gulf Shrimp with ponzu vinaigrette. I would be lying if I didn’t say this was honestly one of the finest things I have ever eaten. I have almost never tasted something so close to perfection. What a wonderful fusion of flavors. This dish is sure to please the most discerning palette. It can best be described as a crusted shrimp crowned with a rice cloud on a drizzle of wasabi (not too strong and very approachable) resting on a bed of teriyaki style noodles. The dish had a very obvious Japanese influence and was absolutely delicious. So delicious, in fact, there needs to be a word introduced into our language to describe how good it was. An incredible way to start the meal but had the bar been set too high too soon?
Jack explained each dish he presented in great detail and with an extensive, admirable knowledge. It was quite impressive. At this point in the meal we were introduced to the bread progression, a trio of breads/butters paced in intervals during the meal. Up first was a lovely, crispy French baguette with a creamy, rich Vermont butter. Delicious.
Next course was a Diver Scallop with a fennel and leek garnish. The blood-orange reduction made it smell divine. At this point, we couldn’t help but hopelessly relish in the presentation and flavor of true culinary mastery. The perfectly seared scallop was plump and delectable especially when combined with the fennel and blood-orange flavors. What a perfect symphony of tastes.
The courses are well-paced so as we took our time dining we marveled at the knowledge of the staff and the completely affable atmosphere enveloping us.
We were next served probably the best bread I have ever tasted. A black truffle bread with black truffle butter. Wow! At first the truffle flavor was almost undetectable but then it lingered and exploded into a total delight. The bread was earthy, airy, warm and so satisfying.
Our eyes were now diverted to the approaching course: Vermont Quail with Parsnip Puree. I had never eaten quail before and for some reason was apprehensive that it would be thick and oily, but I soon discovered how wrong I was. Tender with a delicate texture and almost sweet nutty flavor, the quail had a mini quail egg garniture and was dressed with a fig reduction which helped enhance that subtle, sweet flavor. Another incredibly scrumptious selection.
We could have made an entire meal from each and every course, and it was a chore thus far to discern which course was best. Everything had been such an imperial winner.
The last of our bread progression was upon us and although getting full, we were eager to sample the multi-grain bread made from a 100-year old Austrian recipe. This bread had a crispy crust and was hearty enough to handle a salty rich butter. More yum.
We devoured the last bit of crust just as our entrees arrived. Poulet Rouge with Hedgehog Mushrooms and Gnocchi and Veal Tenderloin with Baby Tomatoes and Artichokes. Again, the presentation was stunning and the food brilliantly executed. The poulet rouge is a red-feathered oven-roasted chicken in a gorgeous reduction of mushroom and truffles and garnished with crisp white asparagus. Chef Hunnel is a genius, and sauces are certainly one of his many talents. His food is prepared expertly and lovingly. This couldn’t be more apparent. The veal tenderloin actually melted in our mouths bursting with such an exquisite flavor and complemented with a port wine reduction. We had to close our eyes and savor perfection. Ahhhh………..
After a short break we were presented a small course to help cleanse the palette before dessert. The white chocolate gelato with table-side white chocolate shavings looked like a culinary snowball and was smooth, creamy and quite refreshing.
I was quite eager to see/savor the desserts. I could hardly imagine the confectionery delights that awaited us. And when the Hawaiian Kona Chocolate Souffle and Banana Gateau were presented, I didn’t know whether I wanted to savor the incredible sight or smell or dig right in. I actually had to take time to appreciate the sweet aromas and gorgeous displays before even attempting to take a much-anticipated bite. Does heaven get any better than this? The souffle was a hot, light and darkly delicious chocolate paradise. Not just sweet but with a rich cocoa flavor – rich and pure. The essence of chocolate. The banana gateau was unbelievably luscious and rather decadent. A shortbread, hollow tower stuffed with a dreamy banana custard laced with caramelized fresh banana slices and macadamia nuts and garnished with blackberry. It was dressed with a spun sugar lattice – a kind of cotton candy for adults. I hear if you look up scrumptious in the dictionary, there is a picture of this dessert. We had definitely reached heaven.
Along with our sweet indulgences we partook of the coffee service. They unusual coffee presentation looked curious and proved to be most interesting. The coffee is made with no filters and acts almost as the world’s first percolator. Not only does it produce a kind of vacuum but pretty much the best cup of coffee on Disney property. As we watched the coffee brew (it takes 6-8 minutes), we couldn’t help feel like royalty. What an incredibly perfect dining experience.
Although we assumed our check would be presented next (although we were reluctant to depart from such a perfect place), Jack appeared with another “gift”: this one sent with obvious affection from the kitchen and its very talented pastry chefs. A trio of thimble-sized candied sweets looking so tempting we just had to find room in our very full and satisfied stomachs. A chocolate rum sea-salt caramel, a raspberry almond square and a pomegranate jelly cube. How could this meal continue to get better and better? The chocolate caramel was an explosion of the finest dark cocoa with a surprising shot of rum and then a subtle onslaught of the sea salted caramel flavor. The raspberry square was like a fresh and flaky mini cobbler, and the pomegranate jelly was light, sweet and fruity. We had to take a deep breath and smile. A special mention needs to be made of the incomparable pasty chef Erich Herbitschek. Willy Wonka himself must have learned all the tricks of the trade from Chef Herbistchek.
Before guests depart, they are presented with their personalized menu as a keepsake, and women are given a long-stemmed red rose, the perfect, elegant and classic memory of an evening in which Disney and culinary magic meet in a perfect symphony of absolute pleasure and the finest of exquisite dining. Victoria and Albert’s offers an unforgettable evening of grandeur.
Food: Victoria and Albert’s is in a class all its own. This is not merely eating but dining on culinary magic. And although many dishes may contain ingredients you never sampled or perhaps never wished to sample, throw caution to the wind. You will be so incredibly surprised. Scott Hunnel (who has been the Chef de Cuisine at Victoria and Albert’s for 17 years now) could certainly rival any of the world’s greatest chefs. On a scale of 1 – 10, the food here is a 15.
Atmosphere: Classic elegance in a Victorian setting. The perfect setting for the most special of occasions. Intimate yet opulent. You may be surprised how welcoming and friendly the staff are. It happily lacks the “stuffiness” of other 5-star establishments. That’s the Disney magic in action.
Service: The food is probably rivaled only by the impeccable service. The attention paid to guests and the knowledge exhibited by the staff is astounding. I defy anyone to find the most minute flaw in the table-side skills of either Jack or Sherry. Prepare to be pampered.
Tips: Take time to savor a once-in-a-lifetime/special occasion dining extravaganza. It took two of us three hours to fully enjoy our moderately-paced parade of courses. Relax and enjoy. Pricey? Yes but oh-so-worth it! There is also a wine pairing option at an additional cost. If your budget allows, indulge as their wine list is extensive, featuring many rare and valuable vintages. There is an extensive vegetarian menu which also looks incredible (I had sample some gorgeous handmade gnocchi) and offers selections which are just as savory and indulgent. Guests must be ten and older to dine at Victoria and Albert’s. For an even more special experience, guests can dine at the Chef’s Table for an in-depth culinary adventure hosted by Chef Hunnel.