What happens when fine dining goes to Disneyland

Words by Joshua David Stein

25 June 2020

Just above the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction and far removed from the maddening crowd of New Orleans Square lies an opulent two-bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom home inside Disneyland. Walt Disney, the Zeus of Disneyland, built this apartment in 1966 as a home-away-from-home for himself and his family. He worked with the legendary artist Dorothea Redmond to create exquisite Louis XVI décor: brocaded curtains, gilt woodwork, many, many patterns. Sadly Disney died later that year, never having moved in.

Between then and now, the space has been a workshop for the planning of Tokyo Disneyland, a gallery of unrealized Disney projects, and storage. But a few years ago, Kim Irvine, the head of concept design at Walt Disney Imagineering, decided to bring the space back to life. Today, 21 Royal, as the space is known, is the most exclusive and luxurious dining adventure in the entire Disney universe. Led by chef Andrew Sutton — who also oversees Club 33 — 21 Royal is open as a private 12-person dining experience for $15,000. "21 Royal is not a restaurant," says Luke Stedman, 21 Royal's GM, "it's an experience." Matthew Ellington, the manager, jumps in to add, "It's a living and breathing home."

To that end, guests are greeted by three full-time butlers after being whisked from the Grand Californian hotel in a private shuttle. What unfolds over a few hours are six-courses of surprise, with wine pairings of course. "If Walt were hosting," says Ellington, "he'd expect us to be storytellers. We do that course by course, glass by glass." The main course might include 'The Symphony': grilled Alaskan King Crab with roasted cauliflower espuma, Jamón ibérico, and pine nuts; paired with 2015 Domain Guy Amiot Chassagne-Montrachet, Les Caillerets 1er Cru, Burgundy. Dessert may be the fanciful 'Epitaph for a Peach' inspired by David Mas Matusomo's memoir: Matsumoto peaches, raspberries, and candied almonds with white chocolate; paired with a Royal Tokaji from Hungary. "We give our chefs complete free reign," says Stedman, proudly, "We only ask for what the ultimate experience can be."

After dinner, enjoy the view over New Orleans from the private terrace as Disney's famous fireworks explode overhead. Dream, and make-believe — for a moment — that Walt is waiting for you in his living room with a nightcap.

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