Monday, September 24, 2018

Sanaa Lunch Review

Sanaa is a African/Indian inspired restaurant located in Kidani Village at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. For guests staying on site, take a bus from your resort to Animal Kingdom and then head to the bus stop for the Animal Kingdom Lodge. The bus ride is extremely short and Kidani Village is the first stop. For guests coming from a park or Disney Springs, take the bus from that park straight to Animal Kingdom Lodge. 

You enter the lobby of the hotel on technically the first floor. Sanaa is located downstairs. There are a set of stairs at the far end of the lobby and an elevator to the right.

The view onto the savannah from the stairs at the end of the lobby is amazing. The rooms of the hotel surround the savannah where you can see all sorts of animals. Coming down these stairs, there is a single door that takes you out into the savannah and seating area. I definitely recommend getting here early to sit and look at the view from the outside.

I spent at least half an hour looking at the giraffes who were happily wandering around picking up fallen leaves and playing! I can only imagine the view from the rooms facing the savannah. It is my dream to stay here one day!

Here is a panoramic shot of one side of the savannah, giving you a bit of scope of how big this space really is. To the left is the main lobby building, followed by the savannah and the rooms on the right. The large windows on the bottom floor of the lobby building is Sanaa. 

Head back into the main building the same way you came and take a left. You will see the sign for Sanaa and the check in desk. We had a little bit of time before we could check in so we sat on the rocking chairs on an outdoor veranda overlooking the savannah. It was incredible and I could have sat there all day!

A Cast Member will check you in and ask you to take a seat whilst your table is being prepared. I really love the attention to detail on the wall - the bumpy texture is to make it look like a mud hut!

The restaurant itself is beautiful. It is very bright thanks to the large windows that overlook the savannah. We were seated in the second row of tables behind the windows which was still an incredible view. If you are really keen on sitting by the window, then do let the Cast Member know when you check in and they will do their best to accommodate you. 

This was the view from our table. We could easily see all sorts of animals, including a bird which was very determined to somehow come into the restaurant! 

The detail and theming even continues to the back of the chairs. There is also a (not so) Hidden Mickey on one of the booth tables at the back! 

The menu is amazing and very varied depending on how much spice you like. My recommendation is to go with the Journey and Harvest options. You are able to pick one from the Journey and one from the Harvest and it is served with rice. I was really torn between the Paneer Tikka or the Aloo Masala. They also have an extensive allergy menu that caters for all allergies. 

I ordered the butter chicken with paneer tikka. For those of you who don't know, paneer is a non-meltinng farmers cheese. It doesn't taste of a huge amount and has a texture similar to halloumi. The sauce is was in was so tasty and so perfectly spiced it added an amazing flavour to the cheese. You get a lot of it and I didn't manage to finish it. 

The butter chicken is on a whole new level. The sauce is beautiful, with a lovely balance of spices that compliments the paneer tikka really well. The chicken was lovely and tender and I really liked the fact that it wasn't just chunks of chicken breast, but all sorts of different parts of it. The rice was really well cooked and wasn't sticky which it can be in some restaurants. 

For dessert I ordered the 3 chocolate mousse that comes with a biscuit crumb, strawberry coulis and strawberries in a syrup. It was amazing! I want the syrup recipe! The mousse was so light and creamy and each chocolate flavour worked very well together. 

I can't recommend Sanaa enough. It is a nice break from the parks without ever feeling like you have left Animal Kingdom. If you have young ones, I would definitely recommend getting there a bit earlier to sit outside in the savannah - there are some rocking chairs and smaller chairs for you to sit in and relax. The lounge area is equally nice to sit in if you want a bit of air conditioning. 

The restaurant itself is so amazingly themed and the food is incredible. We had on our reservation that we had a birthday and an anniversary. They brought my parents some champagne, my sister a birthday flair to her dessert and all the servers sang happy birthday to her with a Sanaa twist. 

It was very quiet at lunch which was quite nice. It is almost like a bit of a hidden gem! There were a few business meetings going on which I took as a good sign. 

Have you been to Sanaa? What was your favourite thing?

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The End of IllumiNations

IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth has been gracing the skies of Epcot on World Showcase Lagoon since 1999 and as soon as Disney announced an overhaul of Epcot, we all knew it was coming.

Yesterday. Disney announced that IllumiNations will be ending in the second half of next year, presumably around the end of the summer season. 

I love IllumiNations; it has been there since my first trip and always carries that nostalgic feeling for me. The soundtrack, mostly the one that plays when the show finishes and everyone is exiting the park, really hits me in the feels. 

That being said, it really doesn't have the wow factor for me anymore than shows like Happily Ever After and Fantasmic! do.

Look how upset we all were when they announced the end of Wishes. But look at how incredible Happily Ever After has been since is opened last year. If anything, this shows that Disney definitely does only move forward with their technology and shows. 

I am glad I got to see it twice on my last trip. However, it has become a show when you have seen it once on a trip, you don't really need to see it again. I would see it once and then take advantage of the quieter ride queues and do Frozen, Test Track or Soarin'. 

I will be sad to see the blowing out of the torches go, that has always been one of my favourite moments. I hope this somehow gets incorporated into the new show. 

Personally, I would like to see something similar to World of Colour. Having only seen it on YouTube and not yet been able to head out to California, it seems like a very immersive show. Disney obviously has something up its sleeve to replace it, and I am very excited to see what that is. 

See ya real soon, IllumiNations. 

Keep moving forwards. 

Monday, September 17, 2018

California Grill Dinner Review

California Grill is a signature restaurant located at the top of the Contemporary Resort overlooking the Magic Kingdom. For on-site resort guests, take your Disney transportation to the Magic Kingdom and either hop on the monorail to the Contemporary at the next stop, or take the walkway over which takes a few minutes. 

California Grill is 2 credits on the Disney Dining Plan. 

Check in for California Grill is the floor down from the monorail stop. Take the escalator and walk over to the right to find the check in desk. A Cast Member will check you in and direct you to a series of elevators. Another Cast Member is permanently in one of the elevators which takes you directly to the entrance of California Grill. I felt very posh! 

The first thing I noticed here is the view. It is breathtaking. The whole restaurant overlooks the Magic Kingdom and Seven Seas Lagoon. There is pretty much no bad view. 

There is an incredibly clear view of Cinderella Castle, Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain. You also have a side view of Main Street USA and the tents of Storybook Circus. 

As we were early for our table, we loitered around the bar for a while and watched the bartenders whip up some pretty impressive looking drinks. Although I am almost 25, I didn't want to carry around my passport for ID, so I just stared longingly! 

Once our table was ready, we were taken over by a Cast Member. Each table is beautifully set with branded napkins, wine glasses, water glasses and side plates. 

A dedicated Cast Member comes round and fills your water glass with triple filtered water and tells you about that specific water. I never had any idea there were so many different types of water! 

The menu is amazing. I was determined that I would have something that wasn't chicken as I had pretty much eaten chicken every day at this point. 

Once we had ordered, the server brought over a complimentary bread service with a sun-dried tomato olive oil for dipping. The bread was lovely and served warm. I am not a fan of olive oil so I just had it on its own and it was so good! 

We had a 19:30 reservation so by the time we had ordered, it was almost time for Happily Ever After. Due to the fact that the chefs stop cooking during that time, we were told our food wouldn't be out until the fireworks had finished. Luckily, we were going to ask to wait anyway! You can stay inside the restaurant to watch the fireworks as they pipe in the music. Alternatively, you can go outside onto the balcony and watch it from the rooftop of the Contemporary. 

The view of Magic Kingdom from outside the restaurant is absolutely incredible. Everything is lit up and every now and again you can see the flash of the camera on Splash Mountain as it goes down the drop. 

The view of Happily Ever After from up here is incredible and second to none. We were stood directly in front of the speaker so could hear the music perfectly. The castle is still close enough that you can see the projections very clearly. It really gives sense of how far behind the castle the fireworks are launched from. 

Coming back into the restaurant when it has gotten properly dark really shows up the lighting of the restaurant so well.

When we got back our food came out about 10 minutes after we sat down. I ordered the beef filet which came with a BBQ style sauce, slices potatoes, green beans and caramalised onions. I don't normally like a steak or onion but wow. The filet was seasoned to perfection and the onion sweetened the flavour of the beef. I had mine cooked medium-well which was so good. The filet melted in my mouth and wasn't tough. I would highly recommend it. 

For dessert I ordered the chocolate cake. It came with a milk chocolate whipped panna cotta, a chocolate twirl, vanilla bean ice cream and the cake itself. The cake was served hot and the middle was molten with small pecans chopped inside it. The cake was rich, but was complimented so nicely with the ice cream. The whipped panna cotta tasted like a really light chocolate mousse, it was lovely! I would definitely recommend this as a dessert as a nice sweet ending to your meal, and especially if you are a chocolate lover! 

I am already looking forward to going back to California Grill. We were in the restaurant for a good 3 hours, including watching the fireworks. There is no sense of rush like you can get with some other table service restaurants, the servers all take their time with you and everything is down to your timings and how you like things. 

Overall, this is one dining experience that I will never forget. The food was incredible and the view was worth it on its own. California Grill is not just aimed at adults as a signature dining experience, but it is also very family friendly; there were children at most of the tables in the restaurant. 

California Grill is an ideal romantic dinner location or fun for the whole family. It is definitely worth the evening reservation just to watch the fireworks. I would recommend getting there an hour before the fireworks are due to start to make sure you are ready to go outside to watch them.

Have you been to California Grill? What is your opinion? 

Monday, September 10, 2018

Be Our Guest Breakfast Review

Located in New Fantasyland in Magic Kingdom, Be Our Guest is probably the most popular Quick Service restaurant in the whole of Walt Disney World. For breakfast and lunch this restaurant operates as a Quick Service, and for dinner has a prix fixe menu as a signature dining experience.

The entrance is marked by large iron gates with the Beast's castle off in the distance. Check in is located on the left hand side where a Cast Member will scan your Magic Band. You can pre-order online for your reservation and pay on arrival either by Dining Plan or cash and card. 

Be Our Guest is 1 Quick Service credit for breakfast.

Unlike other Quick Service restaurants, Be Our Guest accepts reservations 180 days in advance. Although they do accept walk ins, you may be waiting a long time so I definitely recommend getting your reservation at the 180 day mark. Reservations are snapped up quickly, so don't be surprised if you can't find a reservation on the day you want. Keep trying - reservations pop up all the time and I have gotten one the day before in the past.

The Quick Service experience at Be Our Guest is not quite like the normal order at a register and collect your meal at the counter like other Quick Service restaurants. At Be Our Guest you either order with a Cast Member or on a touch screen menu using your Magic Band. The food is then brought out to you at your table in very fancy presentation cabinets. Your Magic Band or Magic Rose acts as a "tracker" or table number for the Cast Members to know where exactly you are sat.

The waiting area to get to the touch screen ordering is lined with talking Statues of Armour. See if you can hear them sneezing! 

The restaurant itself is beautiful. You can sit in one of three rooms: The Ballroom, The West Wing and the Library. My preference is always the Ballroom and closer to the window at the back where you can see the snow falling! 

In the Ballroom there is a hidden Minnie Mouse on the ceiling. I won't give you any spoilers, but you may have to tilt your head a bit to see her! The faces of the cherubs are also images of the Imagineers who worked on building the restaurant! 

The menu is pretty varied and contains the Be Our Guest version of a Bounty Platter, the Feast a la Gaston (my favourite), as well as a Croissant Donut sandwich and other French inspired dishes.

Each time I went for breakfast I ordered the Feast a la Gaston with either a chocolate milk or a fountain beverage. The fountain and hot beverages are help yourself and unlimited. I would definitely recommend getting one of those and filling it up as you leave to take out with you into the Florida heat! I am rather fond of a Nesquik chocolate milk just because you can't get it back in the UK and I miss it as soon as I leave! 

Each meal also comes with its own bowl of fruit with two types of melon and some grapes. This is lovely and also usually comes out cold!

Each reservation also comes with one tray of pastries, usually including a croissant, chocolate twist, cinnamon muffin, cinnamon bun and a blueberry muffin. It is worth noting that the pastries are not per person, one booking is one tray of pastries. We had two bookings, so were given two trays. 

I love Be Our Guest. The food is filling and I never leave feeling like I didn't eat enough. It is definitely a great use of a Quick Service credit and makes a nice change from eating pancakes (for me anyway!). Although, if you do not have the Dining Plan, this can get very pricey with dishes priced at $25 excluding sales tax and a beverage. 

The atmosphere and decor in Be Our Guest is definitely what ups the price, especially as the Ballroom is very grand and both the West Wing and Library are incredibly themed. 

I definitely recommend Be Our Guest overall, but be prepared to make your reservations well in advance.

If you have been to Be Our Guest for breakfast, let me know your thoughts in the comments below! 

A review of the lunch will be available soon.