Earlier this year, Disney made some interesting changes to Le Cellier, which goes from being a standard table-service restaurant at lunch to a signature restaurant at dinner. If you're on the dining plan, that means you'll pay one table-service credit for lunch and two for dinner. Plenty of restaurants have a less expensive menus for lunch, but the change from a standard restaurant to signature dining is more than just the price. When you eat at a Disney signature restaurant, you expect a more high-end experience comparable to one you'd find at a better restaurant in a larger city, so I was curious to see how this translated with Le Cellier. Did dinner live up to the change in name?
Le Cellier, which means "the cellar" in French, is designed to look like a wine cellar in an old French Canadian town. After all the hype you've probably heard about this restaurant, the entrance at the back of the Canadian pavilion is a bit of a letdown, especially compared to the elaborate, themed settings you'll find in most Disney restaurants. Inside, the restaurant is small and cozy, with low ceilings, dark lighting and touches of red and dark wood and while the pictures may scream "Canadian Mounty Lunch Room" it's actually a very pretty restaurant. The only drawback is that the tables are close together and you may find yourself wishing for a little bit of elbow room.
You may miss some of the usual touches that you see at Disney signature restaurants. Little things like tablecloths don't make an appearance, but that's a minor thing and I'll give them a pass on that one. Does it "feel" like a signature restaurant at dinner? No, but it's still unique enough that it works for a date night or a special occasion meal.
Le Cellier is more quiet than a lot of Disney restaurants, but I wouldn't hesitate to bring younger children here. The atmosphere is informal and your overall dining experience is relatively quick. This isn't to say you'll be rushed out: Feel free to enjoy a more leisurely meal. But if you're visiting with children who have difficulty staying still for more than an hour, you'll do fine here.
You'll start your meal with a delicious bread basket full of pretzel, sourdough, and multi-grain rolls served with salted butter. Disney uses a European-style butter in most of its restaurants; this has a higher fat content, so you'll notice a more pronounced taste of cream than you do in regular butter. It's addictive and spread over the warm rolls, you'll be in carb-heaven. In fact, I could have been happy with a basket of these rolls and nothing more!
Since I was reviewing this for the site, I wanted to start with the quintessential Le Cellier appetizer: The Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup. Made with Moosehead beer and bacon, this soup is thick, creamy, and a little bland. I was disappointed in the flavor, which had very little actual cheddar taste and was dominated by the bacon and beer. Don't get me wrong: I love bacon. But this soup has the word "cheddar" in its name so I was hoping for . . . a little cheese, perhaps?
Despite the rather boring soup, which in fairness my table mates loved, Le Cellier shines when it comes to appetizers, in particular its seasonal offerings such as the Heirloom Tomato salad with macerated red Onions, Minus "8" Vinegar, and smoky blue cheese. This healthy combo of sweet, vine ripe tomatoes contrasted with tangy blue cheese and a touch of balsamic vinegar is big enough to share and a bargain at only $12.
Other standouts include seared scallops and the "deconstructed" steakhouse Caesar salad. The scallops are always on the menu but the presentation changes seasonally. This time they were offered with an apple slaw, but the winter months bring heartier adaptations. Always perfectly cooked, the portion is just right to wet your appetite for the star of the show: Your steak.
Le Cellier's Mushroom Filet.
Sadly, the steaks are where our meal fell apart for us. Everyone at our table ordered either the filet with the mushroom risotto or the ribeye with a maple and pink peppercorn butter and herb-parmesan potato wedges. Now, it should be mentioned that both steaks were delicious. They were evenly seasoned with a nice salt and pepper rub that didn't mask the flavor of the meat. The sides were also good, particularly the creamy, earthy mushroom risotto that could convince even the most ardent mushroom hater to give it a try.
The thicker of the two ribeyes, pefectly cooked and delicious.
The problem was with the quality of the meat. If you're going to call yourself a steakhouse and sell a $43 steak, you should be selling good quality meat. Sure, Le Cellier is in the middle of a theme park. But Disney has never "dumbed down" their food just because of the location and some Disney restaurants are the best of their kind in Central Florida. Not so with Le Cellier. Two of us ordered the ribeye and as I mentioned, it tasted fantastic. The problem was that both steaks were thin, which makes it difficult to cook, resulting in some chewy, overdone areas. The parts that were good were very good, but you shouldn't have to describe a steak that way. One steak in particular was under under an inch thick, little more than a thin strip of beef with a thin line in the center that could be called "medium rare." If I'd wanted a schnitzel, I would have gone to Biergarten over in the German pavilion!
The poor cut and quality of this steak was something that the kitchen should have noticed and not sent out to a customer. To give you something to compare it to, the quality of the meat wasn't as good as you would find at an Outback Steakhouse, which is sort of a middle-of-the road steakhouse chain that you might be familiar with. In fact, I would actually put the quality of the steaks at Le Cellier somewhere around a Texas Roadhouse or a Logan's, both side-of the-highway, inexpensive steakhouse chains where you can get a decent meal for around $16.
Like most Disney restaurants, Le Cellier has excellent service, but it was a far cry from the usual signature dining experience you'd normally find at restaurants like Citricos and Yachtsman, both of which are known for their exemplary wait staff with decades of experience. The problem possibly lies in the fact that Le Cellier moves from being a regular restaurant at lunch to a signature restaurant at dinner. Something is lost in the translation, that little extra touch that separates the two types of restaurants. It's not that the service wasn't good. It was. It was that it was lacking that extra care you expect at better restaurants. It was the little things that hurt, like the fact that they simply forgot we were there, causing us to wait nearly an hour to be seated, or the fact that when were were finally given our table, it was a table for four. Once seated, it was obvious that we were not going to be able to eat at such a small table, so we asked for a larger table. Our server, who was great, did find us one. But at these prices, we shouldn't have had to ask.
Getting a Reservation:
Le Cellier is famously impossible to get a into, which only adds to the allure of the place. If you're trying to make a lunch reservation, you'll want to make it the morning that reservations open up at the 180-day mark. Even waiting until that afternoon will make it difficult to get a reservation, so be up at 6:00 a.m. eastern and make your reservation online. If you have difficulty with the system, call 407-WDW-DINE when it opens up at 7:00 a.m. eastern. Like most signature dining, reservations for dinner at Le Cellier are easier to get due to the price, but you'll want to book that as early as possible as well just in case.
I probably spend way too much time thinking about Disney food and during my meal, I had a real epiphany about eating on property. Quite often, my best meals are at one table-service credit restaurants, not because the food is better than at the signature restaurants, but because I never leave feeling like I paid too much. My meal at Le Cellier was good, it just wasn't worth the money. If I had paid less for this meal, it would have been hands down one of the best bargains on property. But paying what I did? Not even close. And maybe not everyone cares about that on vacation, but I think for most of us, we don't want to feel like we've been overcharged.
Part of the problem with Le Cellier is that I want it to live up to the hype. If it was just another World Showcase restaurant, I'd let it slide a little, but when your expectations are set so high, and when you're paying signature dining prices, it's hard not to be disappointed by a meal that's just so-so. Ultimately, if you're looking for a great steak, there are far better available on Disney property: Yachtsman Steakhouse, Artist Point, and California Grill, just to name a few. Next time I'll try Le Cellier for lunch, but when I want a steak for dinner on Disney property, you'll find me at Yachtsman Steakhouse.