Caity Weaver and Rich Juzwiak, Gawker’s chief restaurant critics, recently ate, drank, and gasped their way through every international pavilion and theme park attraction at Walt Disney World’s Epcot. This is their review.
The Best Restaurant in the World
Rose & Crown Pub & Dining Room
Rich: I woke up on Day 3 with a feeling of foreboding, but unlike other feelings of foreboding I have experienced, this one I could pinpoint – that unsettled feeling in my stomach was absolutely yesterday’s food (Chinese, Italian, Moroccan). When we arrived at the park, the looming Epcot ball, which always feels like you’re far away from it except for when you’re right under it, was particularly haunting. I thought maybe this day would turn into a catastrophe of Supersize Me proportions. In other words: I expected to vomit.
Caity: I expected to eat a scotch egg—and I did! Another great day in the seemingly endless parade of great days that is my life. Our first stop of the day was Epcot UK.
Rich: We were greeted at the Rose & Crown Pub & Dining Room by an unsmiling Irish lad.
Caity: He reminded me of Tom Branson from Downton Abbey, frowning all over my elegant dinner party. I reminded me of the Earl of Grantham. We’re family now, Tom, and we’re both just going to have to deal with it. Take your ghastly revolutionary ideas out to the garden, and bury them calmly in the ground.
Rich: He reminded me that life is full of disappointments, even at the happiest place on earth where memories begin and dreams come true.
Caity: “Tuvyas?” he mumbled after I gave him my name. Sorry?
“Two of yis?”
Yes, two of us. Good God, Branson, bring the bloody car around.
The spoonful of sugar that sweetened this affair—the tuppence that bought us a bag of bread crumbs—was the hostess who escorted us to our seat. “I love your surname,” she said to me as she led us inside. She mistook my brief perplexed silence—my surname is Weaver and I have never heard anyone say that they love it, including me—for confusion about her wording. “Your last name. It’s my best friend from home’s surname. Her name’s Kelly.”
I very nearly said “That’s almost my name!” but then I decided that was just one more fact with no particular purpose or relation to anything. Why add it to the pile already heaped onto this conversation?
Rich: As we took our chairs, the host told us that “the lovely Hannah” would be taking care of us. Hannah was, in fact, lovely. “You guys on vacation?” she asked. Well, Hannah, it’s complicated...
Caity: For a place based on a kingdom with an actual, living princess, Epcot UK gets totally shafted in the Disney Princess department. The only fictional women who pose for photos there are Alice from Wonderland and Mary Poppins. (When I noted that Mary Poppins was the rare character that afforded coveted princess-status to a natural brunette, you pointed out that “she’s really more of a maid.”)
The Lovely Hannah reminded me of Mary Poppins. As did all the servers.
Rich: The women of Epcot England were dressed like barmaids. Not so much Disney princesses as Disney dames.
Caity: The waitresses at the Rose & Crown Pub & Dining Room were palpably nurturing—almost as if they’d been specially chosen for their melodic, lilting voices. I felt soothed, like a baby. Everyone was my fairy godmother, making my dreams (to have one soda, and then another) come true.
Rich: They felt like mum to me.
Caity: The Lovely Hannah has a distinct vocal tic, which involved her murmuring “just” (“juuuuuuuuuust”) every time he she came by our table to drop something off.
I’ll juuuuuust put these drinks...
I’ll juuuuuust put some fresh napkins...
Rich: She also kept telling us, “I’ll be straight back.” Don’t worry, my child, I’m not abandoning you. I have other children to take care of. I love them, too, but in different ways.
Caity: With her winged eyeliner, Hannah resembled a blonde Renaissance Faire Amy Winehouse. That’s what the U.K. is all about, besides tea towels, which were sold everywhere, alongside pieces of foam prince and princess (and knight) memorabilia and, fancy snacks like you’d find in the clearance section of Marshalls.
Rich: Yeah, as we learned later that day, the UK has a lot of overlap with Germany, including the vague feeling that you’re just a stone’s throw away from Cinderella’s castle. Very woodsy Euro chic. There was also a Twinning’s Tea store that offers about the same selection as the Food Town around the corner from my apartment. I’ll say it again: Epcot is just a compressed NYC.
Caity: The Rose & Crown’s menu was loaded with foods I had previously only encountered in the “virtual pet community” NeoPets: scotch eggs, leeks, Proto-force 5000 Helmets.
Rich: Were you as good a mom to your NeoPet as Hannah was to us? I somehow doubt it, no offense.
Caity: Like serving tourists British food, NeoPets is super boring and time-consuming. I quickly abandoned the pastime and my pet. (I mostly joined to play this addictive game.) Fortunately for her children, Hannah is trapped.
Rich: She’ll never let on.
Caity: After bringing our drinks, Hannah asked if we had any questions about the menu. I inquired about the Scotch Egg. In her lilting voice, the ingredients sounded like a fairytale. Once upon a time, there was a hardboiled egg, wrapped in sausage meat…
Rich: My favorite thing about fairytales is how gory they tend to be.
Caity: I ordered it.
The strongest flavors were chalky hardboiled egg yolk, bread, and mustard sauce. That sounds gross, or like an accident, but it was tasty. If someone told me they were ordering it, I would encourage them, though I don’t know if I would suggest it outright. Eating it, I felt like a NeoPet. Call me Kate Middleton the NeoPet.
Rich: I wanted something light, so I got the Apple Frisee Salad, which arrived buried under giant chunks of bleu cheese and smothered in cranberry dressing that was really just slightly watered-down cranberry sauce. That’s cool. I like Thanksgiving.
It made me wonder, though: Why is bleu cheese allowed to be moldy but mozzarella isn’t? I guess there are different kinds of molds, some bad and some edible, but how did that happen? The process of discovering which molds could be eaten must have been full of disappointment. It must have given people terribly unsettled stomachs. It must have been a lot like our project of visiting Epcot four days in a row.
Caity: Sometimes I buy fancy cheese and leave it in my fridge for a few days, and then when I take it out again I can’t tell if the mold on it is new, or if it was there when I bought it. My advice: Only trust food brought to you by The Lovely Hannah.
While we were eating, I noticed that the large, multi-kid family seated to our immediate right seemed particularly nice. Kind to one another. Asking lots of friendly questions of their waitress. The father provided a cheerful if inaccurate definition of “braising” to one of the curious children. At one point he translated the English menu for the table, so that “bangers and mash” became “sausage and taters.” He should run an American-themed restaurant at Buckingham Palace, I thought.
A few minutes later I realized: THEY SUCKED.
Rich: They were very annoying. Annoying is really just friendly that stays around for too long, but they were above and beyond.
Caity: G L U T E N - F R E E F A M I L Y.
Abruptly, the atmosphere in the dining room changed. All of a sudden, the Rose & Crown chef was on the scene: a big, friendly (American) man in a chef’s outfit of such sparkling white I wondered whether he was simply an actor. It was like Santa had swung by the workshop unannounced. Not scary, but it made my pulse quicken.
Rich: They made the already sweaty chef sweat harder, bending over backward to cobble together a gluten-free meal at the most gluten-inclusive (read: happiest) place on earth.
Caity: That poor guy was fantastic with this family of evil gremlins, patiently explaining the ingredients of nearly every dish, and offering alternatives.
Rich: Alternatives like green beans and the staple of the lazy vegan’s diet, french fries. French fries are the universal language.
Caity: At one point, the concerned chef gave a warning that, although one item on the menu did not directly contain gluten, it was prepared on a surface alongside gluten-containing items. “That’s O.K.,” said the father. “I don’t have full-on celiac.” I just had a whim to complicate your life for no reason!
Rich: He’s just celiac symptomatic. He just worries that one day he may be celiac and is planning ahead. Disney is a great place to try out that new diet you’ve been considering, believe you me. Everyone is so accommodating.
Continuing my stomach-soothing attempt at light eating, I got the Fish and Chips, the Rose & Crown’s signature dish. The Rose & Crown’s signature transportation is lorries and its signature sense of humor is dry wit.
The fish and chips was good. Crispy on the outside, render-your-tongue-unusable hot on the inside. After entering the park thinking I couldn’t eat another bite of food, I finished it all. I think at that point, things really started looking up for me. My whole mood brightened. I could do anything.
Caity: One embarrassing thing that happened again and again during our time at Epcot is that a server would revisit our table and ask “How is everything?” after our plates were already clean.
Rich: “EVERYTHING IS GONE.”
Caity: “THE BEST FOOD I’VE EATEN IN ONE HUNDRED YEARS.”
Rich: “I WAS STARVING AND NOW I CAN LIVE TO EAT ANOTHER VAGUELY EXOTIC MEAL.”
Caity: I had sausage and taters, which I was secretly dreading because it sounded boring. I only ordered Bangers and Mash because I thought it would be less food than a hamburger and fries. It wasn’t. But it was: marvelous.
The shallot gravy was thick and hot. The sausages were delicious, because they were covered in shallot gravy. I love mashed potatoes!
Since we ate our veggies (Rich: some lettuce, Caity: a deep fried egg), the lovely Hannah allowed us to have dessert. After our first meal of the day (and with just two hours until lunch), I was already sickeningly full, which is why I only ordered one toffee pudding instead of a baker’s dozen.
Surprisingly, this was the weak point of the meal for me. With every bite of sponge cake, I felt like I was chewing on a waxy paper cupcake liner. It tasted of butterscotch, which is not my favorite flavor. I didn’t love the custard. That being said: I ate more than half and I would eat it again right now.
Rich: I had a bite (OK, two) and I was able to keep it down, so I was doing better than I expected. It reminded me of an oozing, scaled-down Cinnabon.
I got up to use the bathroom at one point, and on my way back to the table I heard a middle-aged woman say to her middle-aged male dining companion, “It’s...sausage.” She didn’t sound entirely sure. That’s England for you: familiar yet...strange.
Is Everything OK?
Questions About the Dining Experience
Would you go back?
Rich: Yes. Where else could I possibly get a signature dish as unique and special as fish and chips?
Caity: Yes. I don’t visit my mom often enough.
Is it a good first date spot?
Rich: It would be an excellent place to bring the chimney sweep you’ve had your eye on during those occasions when you’ve caught him dancing in the alley below your flat.
Caity: It would be a bit like having your first date in a library or a tuffet store but, sure, why not?
Is it a good place to have an affair?
Rich: Yes. Most everyone is so warm-hearted, and adultery simply doesn’t exist in England. No one would suspect a thing.
Is it a good place to bring the cryogenically frozen corpse of Walt Disney?
Rich: Sure. Just toss ‘im into the old fryer and warm ‘im up a bit.
Caity: No. I’m afraid they would be too eager to warm him by the fire and hand him a cup of tea, and then he’d have to learn what “gluten-free family” means.