*This dining experience took place in February 2016. This is a gluten free only review but notes information about dairy free and vegan options.
The Garden View Lounge, located at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, offers guests a chance to enjoy a proper English tea-time complete with tea, sandwiches, and pastries. I had only ever been to the Garden View Lounge for tea on my 30th birthday, and I didn’t have a particularly good experience.
However, it has been several years, and I thought spending my birthday here again might be another nice way to check it out. I was joined by my mom, who also came with me the last time, and we were both cautiously optimistic about the tea.
One thing I will say about the ambiance is that it can seem a bit stuffy in the Garden View Tea Lounge, but overall, I do find the theme charming, and I love the china that they use for the tea cups and serving ware.
They do tend to squeeze tables in rather close to each other, but thankfully, on this visit, the tea room wasn’t too crowded.
The Garden View Tea Lounge offers several fixed price options for tea, and I opted to get the Derbyshire Tea which came with several courses, along with tea and a glass of champagne. It was my birthday, after all, so I thought champagne was in order!
You do get a choice of tea, and like my previous visit, I chose the Princess Breakfast Tea, which is made exclusively for the Grand Floridian. It combines one of my favorite teas – South African Rooibos – with one of my favorite fruits…Strawberry. I need to see if I can buy this tea and bring it home because this was a true highlight of the afternoon tea service. My mom also ordered it and enjoyed it too.
For my first course, I received several sandwiches, fresh fruit, and several wedges of cheese. Because I’ve been reintroducing a bit of dairy back into my diet, I opted to indulge in some cheese and a few other dairy filled treats on my visit.
The cheeses were both really great, and I have to say that I loved the sage cheese, which I thought added a unique taste and wasn’t overpowering. The cheddar that was also on the plate was very mild, and I think I might have preferred a sharper cheese in contrast to the sage cheese which was also quite mild.
The sandwiches were all served on Udi’s Gluten Free bread. One included golden beets, which was nice and light and earthy tasting. The egg salad was nothing special, and actually a bit dry. The ham sandwich was plain and also nothing special. I can’t recall the 4th sandwich I had, but it must not have been very memorable. I know I did not get curry chicken salad, as it was not considered safe.
One important thing to note about the sandwiches is that unless requested not to, they will butter the sandwiches on the inside. This is a very common practice in the UK and adds some authenticity to the tea experience, but may not be your “cup of tea” as a preference or something to know about if you are dairy free, have a milk allergy, or are vegan. It’s easy to not add though, so definitely let the chef know when you speak to them about this.
For the scone course, sadly, they do not offer a gluten free scone. However, they had two different kinds of gluten free and vegan tea cakes from Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC. One was a lemon tea cake, and the other one was banana. Accompanying that was Earth Balance vegan buttery spread, clotted cream (which I did not eat), lemon curd, and apricot jam.
I was also given fresh fruit, a coconut macaroon with strawberry sauce, and chocolate mousse cups. The chocolate mousse contained dairy (and wasn’t very good in my opinion) and the coconut macaroon was both gluten free and dairy free, but was very dry and not very tasty. I was pretty disappointed with these as dessert options.
The apricot jam was dairy free, and all three accompaniments were gluten free. Sadly, there’s a bit of butter in the lemon curd, and the clotted cream is all dairy. I did try the lemon curd with the lemon tea cake and was wowed by it. Super fresh and tons of lemon flavor. If you can have dairy, it’s a real winner. I also adored the apricot jam too.
Overall, I found this experience at the Garden View Tea Lounge to be nice but not as amazing as I would have hoped. They definitely have special diets options and can work with you, but I felt like the presentation and options compared to a non-special diets diner were a bit lacking.
And the price of the tea is steep. Mine was around $45 with the champagne. It’s definitely a special occasion only experience and one I’d probably not do again for several years. One nice touch that I will mention is that they gave me a rose for my birthday, which was very sweet.
Having gone to the Crescent Solarium Afternoon Tea at the Beach Club a few weeks later, I think I preferred that both in price, special diets accommodations and selection, and atmosphere.
Have you been to the Garden View Tea Lounge? What did you think of the special diets offerings?