The new Waldorf Astoria Orlando opens officially tomorrow with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Florida’s governor. But I was able to get in a peek at the property, including the restaurants, B.C. -- Before Crist -- and to snap a few of the first photos.
The hotel is, as you would expect, opulent and gorgeous. Everywhere you look the decor seems to scream, “Recession? What recession?” The centerpiece of the lobby is a clock, simpler and less ostentatious than the one in the New York hotel (apparently there’s a Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan, too) under a more ornate golden domed ceiling.
Off the reception area of the lobby is Peacock Alley, which in New York is counted as another of the property’s restaurants but here appears to function more as a lobby bar and lounge. Food, mostly small plates, I was told, will be served here. You’ll know you’ve entered Peacock Alley by the bright blue carpeting with the large green peacock feather design. In theme with the lounge’s name, this is expected to be a place to see and be seen -- do your best preening here.
Sir Harry’s Bar, on the other hand, is where you go when you don’t want to be seen. Or, perhaps, you don’t want to be seen with the person you’re with. It’s dark and masculine, with an inner sanctum feel. You sort of get the idea that the bartender would raise an eyebrow if you were to order anything but scotch, neat.
The Bull and Bear is the top restaurant. It also has a decor dominated by dark wood but with splashes of color in the framed art and seat backs. Tables are draped with elegant white cloths, and chair fabrics are a simple but stylish brown and cream checkerboard pattern. Workers were busy filling floor to ceiling wine racks with new bottles when I looked in earlier today. In New York, the Bull and Bear is mostly a steakhouse, and it will be here, too. But, this being Florida, the chef also will concentrate on fresh fish.
In case you forget you’re in Florida instead of Manhattan -- and, really, I don’t think that’s too likely to happen -- the windows of this restaurant look out to the large pool ringed by semi-private cabanas and, just beyond, Bonnet Creek, for which the entire resort is named. (Hoteliers are rediscovering Florida’s waterways; first Shingle Creek, now Bonnet.)
The Florida location with a beautiful outdoor pool necessitated the development of another restaurant venue, one not found at the Waldorf Astoria in New York: a pool bar and grill called Aqua Marine.
Also on pool level is a replica of Oscar’s Brasserie, famed for introducing some of the culinary world’s most recognizable items, including eggs Benedict and, of course, Waldorf salad. So I found it curious that the breakfast and lunch menus I was shown listed neither of those items. Oscar’s decor? Think upscale coffee shop.
Maybe Oscar’s will eventually serve its signature items. I’d like to try those items in their natural habitat, or at least a reasonable facsimile. I can’t wait to try the other restaurants, as well. I’ll have menus from them soon, as well as an account of the opening ceremonies Thursday. Stay tuned.