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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Restaurant Review: Cinderella's Royal Table

It's been far too long since I've done a restaurant review here on the DisneyDaddy blog, so I thought I'd go back a few WDW trips ago for a review of one of the hardest ADR's to get in all of Walt Disney World - Cinderella's Royal Table.

Let's start with some basic information: Cinderella's Royal Table is located in (obviously) Cinderella's Castle in the Magic Kingdom. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are offered. The restaurant participates in the Disney Dining Plan (DDP), requiring two table service credits per person. Each meal is a single price with different offerings, similar to a buffet, though it is not all-you-can-eat.

I have been to Cinderella's Royal Table for both breakfast and dinner (the lunch menu is different from the dinner menu), so I will review both breakfast and lunch.

Before guests sit down for their meal, they first meet our host, Cinderella herself. The princess takes time to meet with each person, allowing time for photographs and signing autographs. The photographs are taken by a PhotoPass photographer. Near the end of your meal, an 8x10 and a couple of 5x7's will be delivered to your table (the photo is included in the price of the meal).

While you're waiting in line to meet Cinderella, be sure to look high up on the wall to the left to see a pair of hidden mice. No, these aren't hidden Mickeys, it's Jac and Gus who are keeping an eye on our princess.

Speaking of hidden Mickeys, take a look at the large family crest over the fireplace. At the top left, you'll see what looks like a three-circle Mickey.

After visiting with Cinderella, guests ascend a spiraling staircase to the second level where the dining room is. The room is situated somewhat like an arena with a lower circular area of tables and a upper ring around the circle with additional tables. For both of my visits, I was seated in the upper ring. Little knights are given a plastic sword while little princesses are given a plastic magic wand. To be honest, these are not durable at all. In both instances, they swords barely made it the day. This is one area where Disney could do better. I know it's a "freebie," but these are very cheap and easily break. Parents, be wary and just know that your children have to go easy with the swords. The wands are a little more durable, though they aren't all that magical - just molded plastic.

Once guests are seated, it's time to eat and enjoy meeting different characters. The characters change from breakfast to lunch and dinner. So, let's start with breakfast.

Breakfast runs about $32 for adults, $22 for kids and is served family style. Anyone who has been to O'hana for breakfast will find this breakfast similar. Servers bring a large platter with bacon, eggs, large link sausage, fruits, potato hash and different breads. Guests have their choice of different juices, milk or soft drinks. As breakfasts go, this isn't anything to shout about. The food is good, but standard. You could find better breakfast food with greater variety at other restaurants at WDW. To be honest, I think O'hana does a better job with family-style than Cinderella's Royal Table.

While the food was fair, I found the service to be something I didn't expect - somewhat poor. We didn't have a rude server or anything like that, the server was very pleasant, but didn't really give that much attention. We had to get her attention when we needed drinks refilled or additional food. What really got me was the sense that we were being rushed out. It seemed like every time the server did happen come by, she was offering to take plates when it was clear we were still eating. I could understand if this was a buffet (health codes require a new plate every visit to the buffet), but this is family-style, so why all the hustle to clear away plates?

Of course, Cinderella's Royal Table is a character dining experience so I would be remiss if I didn't mention who guests could meet. At breakfast, different princesses walk around the seating area. We met Belle, Snow White, Jasmine and Aurora. The princesses were wonderful, as always. Meeting the different characters was the most charming part of our breakfast experience. Unlike our server, the characters took their time with our children and made each feel at home. It probably meant about 30 additional seconds per person, but it made all the difference.

Dinner at Cinderella's Royal Table is a different affair. If you are coming for dinner, be ready for some fine dining. There are no burgers and hot dogs here (unless you're ordering from the children's menu). Dinner runs about $41 for adults and $26 for kids, making this the most expensive character dining experience on property. At dinner, guests meet Cinderella and get photos just as mentioned earlier, however there are different characters wandering the dining room.

At lunch and dinner, the Fairy Godmother is our host as she goes from table to table doing meet and greets. In addition to the Fairy Godmother, two of the female mice from the Cinderella movie do meet and greets as well.

As for what's served, this is not your average theme park food. Dinner consists of a salad/appetizer, entree and desert. This is for all guests, no matter if you're on the DDP or not.

The appetizers offered include a couple of salads, a vegetable spring roll or a corn and crab soup. I had one of the house salads, which was pretty good and well-portioned.

The entrees are incredible: roasted prime rib, lemon lavender chicken, pork chops with bacon, roast lamb chops, pan-seared salmon or cheese tortellini with vegetables. I had the lamb chops while my wife had the prime rib. The prime rib, in my opinion, was the better choice of the two. My lamb could have been cooked a bit longer. Her prime rib was excellent and, again, well-portioned. There was a ton of food!

As for the kids menu: this is where I had a big concern. The kids menu consists of pretty much the same things you would find at a counter-service restaurant - hot dogs, chicken nuggets, etc. While I don't have a problem with the menu options, I do have an issue with the price. I feel Disney could knock off a few dollars on the kids menu - it's way overpriced.

The desserts were pretty good as well. We tried the chocolate cream cheese buckle and the raspberry sorbet. The sorbet was very flavorful, though the kids said the chocolate was too rich - and they were right, it's very decadent.

The service at dinner was similar to breakfast, though not quite as bad. I still felt like I was being rushed so the next seating could come in.

In all, Cinderella's Royal Table is a dining experience I would recommended guests at least try once. It's not a restaurant I would recommend for every WDW visit - it's far too expensive for that. Guests looking for a good princess character dining experience should consider Akershus in Epcot, especially if Cinderella Royal Table's price is unattractive.

If you are considering dining at Cinderella's Royal Table, you had better be ready to book your ADR the morning your 90-day window opens, because these ADR's go fast!

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