On my first visit back in 1994 I was living in Atlanta and frankly I had never heard of Club 33. This was before the Internet was what it is today, and the club was still a mystery to most. I came to California for a visit with my friend and her husband. During my stay, they wanted to take me to Disneyland where we would have brunch at a special private restaurant. I was told to wear a nice shirt and long pants, but I had no idea at the time what an amazing opportunity I was about to enjoy.
We gathered just outside the discrete door at Number 33 Royal Street in New Orleans Square. Mike (names have been changed to protect privacy) rang the bell and we were let into the lobby to check in. I think my most lasting impressing of stepping into the lobby was the transition from the crush of the weekend crowds in the park, to the quiet, luxury and privacy of the lobby. We were a group of five, which was too many to all fit in the lift, but Sarah insisted she and I ride up while the others took the stairs. Looking back on it all now, I wish I had taken more time to take in that experience.
We had brunch in the space that is now called Le Grand Salon. Our recent dinner was in almost the exact same spot, but the entire club now looks remarkable different. At the time, brunch was a buffet. Diners were up and moving around serving themselves so the room felt rather casual during that visit.
As we climbed the gracefully sweeping stairway, the brightly lit windows of the lobby came into view with the gorgeous chandler and Mrs. Disney’s harpsichord catching the eye. The hostess led us down a hallway with large picture windows to the left that provided views down to the streets of New Orleans Square. The addition of the Christmas lights and decorations made this view even more beautiful. La Grand Salon is lovely and elegant. I remember the same space being quite dark and stuffy with dark colors and little natural light. Even though we were dining past sunset, the room felt bright and open. The much-maligned off-center picture window gives a perfect view out onto the Rivers of America and the twinkling lights below and beyond. We were the second table sat for dinner and it was nice to have the room almost to ourselves for a few moments, because by the time we were done, it was full and bustling.
Dinner is a choice of a five- or six-course meal. The optional sixth course is either the cheese or dessert course. Our table decided that the chances of having this opportunity again were slim, so we decided to go with all six courses. What you don’t realize is there will actually be nine courses before you are done. Prior to the first course there is an amuse bouche brought to the table complements of the chef. If you are not familiar, an amuse bouche is a very small, but highly complex and flavorful bite of food. We were given a skewer of pork belly with a bright tomato jam on top. It was a wonderful way to get our mouths watering. The other two surprises were an intermezzo of lemon sorbet with mint prior to the fourth course and chocolate truffles served with after dinner coffee.
I’m including photos of many of our courses with the descriptions from the menu. The absolute highlights of the meal to me were the Salad of Smoked Duck and Rack of Lamb followed very closely by the cheese course. Honestly, it was all fantastic.
Between courses each of us left the table one at a time to explore the club a little closer. One highlight is the restrooms. They are located in the upper level of the Court of Angles and they are extremely posh. The commodes feature the old-fashioned system where the tank has a pull chain rather than a handle or modern electronic eye. There are additional amenities in the restroom including individual bottles of hand sanitizer, combination toothpick/flossers, small shoe-shine cloths, a mechanical shoe shiner, and monogramed paper hand towels. These are without a doubt the nicest restrooms in all of Disneyland.
We all agreed that just prior to the fifth course we would go as a group to take in the view from the balcony. After our plates had been cleared from the fourth course, we headed outside. Standing on the balcony above the action of the park is one of the best parts of eating at Club 33. The trees are thick in the area, so you don’t get big, grand vistas, but you get to see a place seen by millions of people every year, but from a vantage held by very few. Our waiter came out to let us know we should feel free to take our time, but the cheese course was ready to be served when we were ready. He then took a group photo of us at my request and left us for a few more moments to breath in the atmosphere.
After the cheese course, dessert follows along with coffee and a chocolate truffle service. Each course on its own is modest in size, but the quality of the food and its preparation are remarkable. By the end of the meal a comfortable feeling of being both full and content settles in. The knowledge that the experience is soon to end is the only thing that dampens the mood, oh, and the bill. The five course meal costs $105.00. To add the sixth course brings it up to $120.00. That’s before beverages, taxes and tip. It is an expensive evening, and it is well worth the price.
After dinner we headed back towards the lobby to check out the merchandise in the glass fronted cases near the new elevator. The selection is enticing. I bought a pair of Club 33 Mouse Ears, two logo pins and a latte mug. I could have spent a lot more money, but decided to restrain myself.
While we were waiting our turn to make product selections and pay, we took turns wandering down the hallway into Le Salon Nouveau, the new members-only lounge. It was a very slow evening at Club 33 and the Cast Members, while not specifically giving us permission to enter the lounge, did nothing to prevent us.
This portion of Club 33 is entirely new from the renovation. As I understand it, members do not need reservations to go to Le Salon Nouveau; they can stop by for a drink or a bite to eat at their whim. The area is entered through an above-ground wine cellar. I’m not a wine drinker, but the bottles displayed behind glass were impressive. Just beyond that there are four private booths each housing memorabilia and furnishings based on themes from the attractions in and around New Orleans Square. I understand there are some special effects that occurred while occupying these booths, but as I said, it was a very slow night and nobody was sitting in any of them so nothing was going on in this area.
The main room of Le Salon Nouveau is dark and cozy. There is a large bar along one wall with tables and booths all around. This space takes up the second floor above The French Market; to give you an idea of its size and shape. Just inside the room on the left is the wooden lift that originally brought visitors up to the dining level of Club 33. It has been repurposed as a very elegant and tiny booth in the bar. There was only one party in the lounge at the far end of the room but I can imagine it full of people laughing, drinking and listening to music. We took a quick glance around, snapping a couple of photos of the space as we got ready to leave.
Another fun feature of the lobby is a guest book. While I don’t expect the pages are preserved after a book is filled, it was fun to leave comments and sign in. It gives you the opportunity to leave your mark in a special place even if you are only a one-time visitor.
Wanting to try everything, we chose to take the elevator back down to the entrance level in the Court of Angels. Once downstairs, we took a few minutes to put jackets and hats back on as we continued to talk about the meal and the experience. Of the six of us, I was the only one who had been to Club 33 before. Two of the others were Disney fans and longtime Disneyland annual pass holders. They were beyond excited to be invited to dinner. Two others were casual Disney fans and had never held annual passes. They didn’t really understand what it was all about, but did some research online prior to the day and got very excited. The final member of the party was my loving husband who has regained his love of Disney parks after moving away from Orlando and discovering Disneyland. He is a hard one to impress, but this experience impressed him. I think all the guys were blown away.
A quick check of the watch showed that it was 8:45pm. We had been inside Club 33 for just over three hours. The time had slipped by.
Then the worst thing imaginable happened. We had to walk through that mysterious door again, but this time going in the wrong direction. As we made our way out, saying goodbye and thanking the hostesses at the reception desk, we surprised people who were crowded around taking photos of themselves in front of the entrance to Club 33. All heads turned our direction, but not to look at us. They were trying to get a look inside. I can’t say as I blame them in the least.
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