Anyone who knows me at least a little bit probably knows that I’m a tea fanatic. This is partially because I like the taste and partially because of my shameful caffeine addiction. I used to drink coffee, but it’s too hard on my stomach, so I switched to tea ten years and seven months ago. But who’s counting?
Before departing for the Disney Global Tour, I actually weaned myself off of tea. I didn’t want to slow everyone down by needing to stop for my fix each morning… Yeah, that lasted about two days. I totally caved in and starting chugging tea again just to get through the endless hours of Mickey and Co. without collapsing.
Not surprisingly, one of my restaurant selections in Florida was afternoon tea at the Garden View Lounge in the Grand Floridian. I adore a good traditional tea service: finger sandwiches, scones, fancy tea. I love it all. We opted to go on our last afternoon in Florida, with the idea that we’d leave straight from there to catch our flight to LAX, which we did, after a short detour to Becky and Jason’s hotel.
Our reservation was at 3:15, but we actually sat down closer to 3:30. This was totally our fault. We’d been running around Animal Kingdom trying to find a 20th Anniversary pin for our souvenir collection, which it turns out had been sold out for a month. We figured that out just a little too late to make it to our reservation on time. So, AJ parked the car while I ran in to tell them we’d be ready shortly.
The Grand Floridian is about as fancy as Disney gets. The Garden View Lounge is situated at the far end of the lobby, past the five stories of bright white balconies, the elegant chandelier and the richly textured furniture, the large birdcage, and the live pianist sitting behind a grand piano. Kudos to that musician, by the way. I thoroughly enjoyed his playing.
The room itself is quite small compared to other Disney restaurants, which I think adds to the air of exclusivity. The table tops are heavy granite or marble, or at least made to look that way, and the food and tea are served on floral china. Even the carpets have floral patterns.
Outside of the floor-to-ceiling arched windows is, as the name of the lounge would suggest, a garden. Greenery and flowers are the backdrop on that side of the room, while the lobby sits on the other side.
Not long after we’d sat down, ordered, and started eating, Cinderella and her Prince came down the grand staircase in the lobby and danced while onlookers snapped pictures. It’s a testament to our headspace at the time that neither of us cared to get a picture or even get up to look at this spectacle. Looking back at the grueling week behind us and ahead to the five more weeks of traveling Disney madness, I, for one, just wanted to enjoy my tea and scone in peace. Plus, I was afraid they’d take away my chocolate if I got up.
Tea and Food
There were three different options for tea service to choose from. The first was basic, with finger sandwiches, a scone, and a choice of dessert. The second added on a fruit and cheese course to that. The third added caviar to the first two. All of them came with a pot of tea, and you could add champagne to any of them as well.
We chose to order the basic tea service, which ended up being plenty. At $35 a person, it’s still pretty steep, but when you factor in quality and ambiance, it’s actually reasonable by Disney standards.
I agonized a bit over the tea choices, being charged with selecting AJ’s as well as my own. I love Earl Grey, but I wanted to try something different since there were so many interesting options. For myself, I chose chocolate asam with hazelnut, essentially Nutella tea. For AJ, I wavered between the fig and rose and the apple and elderflower. Although I love just about anything elderflower, our server said that the fig and rose was probably the way to go, so I took her advice.
The teapots are generously sized, with about four cups per pot. Because of that, we got to try each other’s teas. Both were delicious. I was especially impressed that the rose part of the fig and rose tea wasn’t too overpowering, as rose sometimes tends to be.
AJ and I had afternoon tea with my parents once at the Dallas Arboretum. There, they served you a different tea with each course, so you ended up being able to try several different types of tea without being stuck with a huge pot of one type. AJ mentioned that he wished this place did the same thing.
Here is our best recollection of the finger sandwiches we had: egg salad, goat cheese with tomato, chicken curry, cucumber, caramelized onion tart, and poached pear. That last one was the only one that was a little weird. I just wasn’t expecting a fruit sandwich.
Next we had our raisin scones and raspberry tarts. They came with lemon curd, jam, and clotted cream (yummmm…).
The last course was a choice of desserts. They had a pastry tray, a blueberry trifle, or chocolate-covered strawberries. AJ ordered the trifle, and I got the pastry tray. They mistakenly brought us two pastry trays at first, and we got to keep the extra one after AJ’s trifle came. Somehow, I think we managed to eat all of it.
The pastry assortment consisted of French macarons, one chocolate-dipped strawberry, and a swan-shaped cream puff filled with the same “grey stuff” (Oreo mousse) that they served at Be Our Guest.
The food was all very tasty. It was actually a lot of food for mid-afternoon, so I’d recommend planning for a light lunch or a light dinner the day you go.
Our waitress was very nice and helpful, but some of the other staff, such as the hostess who sat us, seemed a bit snooty. We weren’t sure if this was because AJ was wearing a t-shirt and hat. Maybe we missed the memo on a dress code? If that were the case, they could have just told us politely and we would have done what we could to rectify the situation. Or possibly they were miffed because we were late. Who knows?
The service overall was very fast. I think that makes it more accessible to people who are spending the day in one of the parks, particularly the Magic Kingdom. You can pop over to the Grand Floridian and enjoy the tea without worrying that it’s going to take hours out of your day.
We would highly recommend the afternoon tea. It’s a great chance to experience a bit of the Grand Floridian, get a little afternoon caffeine kick, and eat some yummy food.