Disneyland Paris with a Pre-Schooler: Dining at the parks and a Blue Lagoon review

If you’re interested in more of a general overview of staying at Disneyland Paris (aka DLRP), please read this post first. None of these posts were in any way suggested by, paid for or anything to do with DLRP – this is just a family holiday report.

Food was probably the issue that came up the most when it came to Disneyland Paris. Everyone had an opinion on it and, I have to admit, they mostly weren’t gushingly complimentary. Mostly the objections were to expense, and that is an issue; however, many people were also fairly critical of the quality of the more affordable offerings.

Firstly, let’s take a look at what’s on offer. As I don’t have personal experience of the Meal Plan system, I’m going to leave explanation of that in more knowledgeable hands, but here’s the very top line of what you need to know about the various available dining experiences. You can also view more details or search by budget on the DLRP website.

If you’re just interested in Blue Lagoon, skip to the bottom now for a review and pics. If you just want to  book a table, then call +33 1 60 30 40 50 to book (from 2 months before you arrive).

Counter Service

What it it? Generic burgers and fries, sodas and ice creams.

Should you do it? Personally, I don’t think so.

To be honest, I can’t disagree with the criticism of the counter service meals. The one day our planning failed and we succumbed to chicken burgers in the Studios, we regretted it. It’s very basic stuff, and Ash was feeling the after-effects of the gristly, greasiness of his burger for a while (mine seemed to be in better condition, but nothing to write home about).

You can feed a family a decent amount on €10-20 per head, but lots of people prefer to save their pennies for a more satisfying evening meal and get through the day on cheaper and – sad to say – tastier snacks. Disney hotels officially discourage people from taking food from breakfast buffets “for hygiene reasons” but a number of people do fill up in the morning and snack on “leftovers” (see bringing your own food, below). If you don’t want to do that and you’re not under time or location pressure, heading to Earl of Sandwich in the Disney Village is a great low-budget option; we ate there twice, for €10 or less per head (sandwich, drink and crisps for adults, with fruit or brownies in place of crisps for kids). My mother-in-law was so full she had to surrender her meal half way through. Reports that my husband and I fell on said remnants like wolves are massively overstated. Ahem.

Tip: Though there is usually plenty of seating – especially in the big commissary-esque entrance building of the Studios – the queues rapidly build up between 12 and 2. Also, getting a fancy drink cup costs a whopping €16 so be prepared to say no – as I had to.

Table Service

What is it? Pretty much exactly what you’d expect with lots of lovely themed options, most of which will instantly double (or more) the per-person budget unless you’ve opted for the Meal Plan – though there might be restrictions on what you can have. This does of course mean committing to a longer meal so they’re often best booked for dinner.

Should you do it? I think so, if just once. While many places look quite high end they do of course welcome children of all ages at all times. Annoyingly, kids’ menus tend to be the same guff you get at counter service places, but if your child is small enough to share that’s not necessarily a problem.

Tips: Book in advance and choose a less-crowded early sitting, especially if you have to eat at a particular time because of the kids or in order to give yourself time to watch the nighttime show; the good news is that off-season, earlier sittings are easy to nab. You can do this before you go by ringing the reservation line up to 2 months before you arrive (+33 1 60 30 40 50), when you arrive at your hotel concierge or at the restaurant in person during your stay.

Buffets

What is it? One of the most common dining options, and very popular. It pays to book ahead. Options vary according to the location, but there are certain things that crop up everywhere (eg a fish dish, a roast, copious vegetable, pasta and other meat options; lots of desserts). Prices for adults tend not to include drinks, whereas prices for children usually include one – and you can ask for a like-for-like substitution; for example, it often says orange juice, but my daughter much prefers apple – this was never a problem. As far as I’m aware, buffets are always on the Meal Plan (at least, we were always asked if we had vouchers).

Should you do it? Definitely. The quality of the food is really decent, and so varied that even my father-in-law – a self-confessed food fusspot – was in seventh heaven. Having Remy drop in and visit at the Restaurant des Stars in the Studios – while we were nomming on ratatouille, no less –  made it magical for her. Each meal for five (four adults, one three year old) set us back about €125 but we ate enough for 10. Under 3s are are free, and children’s prices are around half that of adults.

My in-laws also took our daughter to the Hunter’s Grill at our hotel, Sequoia Lodge, for a slightly more expensive option while my husband and I had a date night. They reported an even better array of choices, with twenty dessert options in bigger portions than we’d seen in the parks. You don’t have to be staying there to go for dinner; just call and book. then grab a free bus or walk over.

Tips: The Plaza in Main Street, within view of Sleeping Beauty Castle, is lovely, but gets very busy, very quickly. Go at an ‘off’ time, or book ahead. Be warned – the loo facilities are bizarrely sparse for such a big restaurant. Also, read your buffet receipt; there’s often a ‘special offer’ attached, such as a free hot drink to be claimed later that day (times and locations stated).

The Village

What is it? The Disney Village lacks some of the lakeside elegance of Downtown Disney in Florida, but the principle is much the same; providing the nightlife for the resort in the form of sports bars, it also boasts what was then the first European Earl of Sandwich, a Rainforest Cafe, King Ludwig’s Castle, a steak house and a “New York style” sandwich joint – among others.

Should you do it? In case you missed it, I’m now a confirmed Earl of Sandwich fan. Great value and, off-season, never seemed busy (perhaps because it’s tucked away at the back). If you’re going to find lower-budget options anywhere, it’s here. Rainforest Cafe is a fun environment for kids and not terrible value; we had a normal two course meal and drinks for about the same price as a buffet. Of course, that means less food for the same money, but buffets will always win on that score.

Friends have recommend King Ludwig’s, and a number of the Village restaurants seemed to have better value set menu offers than we saw in the parks.

Tips: Don’t assume nipping to the Village for lunch will be massively out of your way, even with a child. If you plan to go from one park to the other (my daughter liked to visit Fantasyland in the morning and head to Toy Story Playland in the afternoon), it’s actually quite a nice pit stop along the way.

Dinner Shows and Character Dining

These were experiences we didn’t have, mainly due to lack of time and increased expense, but also because we’d heard the food offerings were not spectacular at Chef Mickey’s, the most popular character dining spot. Kids do get much more interaction with characters than at a meet and greet, but there are so many opportunities for meet and greets, we didn’t feel we’d missed out. Also, distracted kids don’t eat properly (and while that’s not what the whole thing is about, my daughter’s tantrums do seem to hit when she’s tired and hungry, which is a real possibility at a Disney park).

No tips or advice on this one as I haven’t experienced it first hand!

Bringing your own food

Although Disneyland’s official FAQs state you shouldn’t bring outside food into the parks in fact, no-one cares from what I could see – and sites like DLRP Magic say that the food ban is a myth. Staff are unlikely to overlook a full scale Yogi Bear routine, though there are designated picnic areas before you enter the parks; still, a couple of sandwich bags of snacks and treats could well pass unmentioned. We took a few cereal bars in with us each day, and maybe some fruit, and that got us through times when energy was flagging.

No, it’s not my fault if they decide to quote the rule book at you.

General tips

Many of these are mentioned individually above, but to summarise:

  • Take a small water bottle and refill it at the water fountains every day. Along with loos, fountains tend to be found at the entrances to parks and separate themed areas (lands). This will save you a substantial amount in bottled water.
  • Booking is easy, and advisable. Do so either locally in person / at your hotel or up to two months in advance using the booking number (+33 1 60 30 40 50).
  • Consider finding ways to ‘make do’ through the day so you can splurge on a bigger meal.
  • Take snacks. Even if you buy meals throughout the day, kids function so much better with little boosts to their blood sugar and, frankly, so will you.
  • If worrying about meals is going to spoil your trip, look into the Meal Plans, which mean it’s all paid before you go and you can save up to 15% on the menu price; there will be some restrictions, but you’ll have it all mapped out.
  • Alternatively, work out which options appeal and factor this in to your budget when you’re saving.
  • Disney tends to be extremely good at accounting for dietary restrictions. There is a guide to allergen-free meals available as a PDF here. Additionally, as with Florida, if you book in advance and contact the restaurants beforehand to give them advance warning, they’ll let you know what they can accommodate. Generally, at least 24 hours notice is appreciated.

Blue Lagoon

The minute I heard about Blue Lagoon, I knew that was where I wanted our date night to be. We were in the privileged position of having grandparents willing and able to take our daughter for the evening, so we made an early booking – 6:30 – to have a leisurely meal before Disney Dreams! started at 9pm. This turned out to be good planning, as the full three-course meal took a good two hours, with service being friendly, helpful but not particularly speedy (a good thing for us, as we were having a Romantic Moment, but something to consider if you’re coming with kids).

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Blue Lagoon’s setting is its major selling point, nestled as it is within the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, so that you can watch the boats go by as you eat – in the photo, the lagoon is just behind the families in the background. The seating alongside the rail giving you the best view of drifting tourists tends to be for four diners plus, so actually it’s a good way to keep the kids occupied, waving at the goofily-grinning boatloads. The darkened, romantic atmosphere might otherwise not be such a draw for them. (It’s also what’s responsible for the quality of the photos – sorry).

There are a number of set menus available, ranging from €30-odd to €50-odd. We found that our choices actually fell within the most expensive of these, so went for it and added a half-bottle of red and a large bottle of water.

The menu (an example can be found here, though we had slightly different options and prices were higher) is largely surf and / or turf. There is a strong and deliberate nod to Caribbean – or as DLRP calls it, ‘exotic’ – cuisine, with ingredients like cassava and a healthy smattering of fruity salsas and spices thrown in any given dish. As a result, this is not a location for picky eaters or those who prefer simple dishes. My starter of swordfish, octopus salad and a an avocado mousse was generous, and though the octopus salad tasted a bit canned, the rest was excellent. Ashley’s included a hunk of super-soft black pudding, prawns, more avocado and little fried bites of deliciousness. We also gorged far too much on bread rolls (the standard mini baguette found at all breakfast buffets) and butter alongside it, but this is a pretty indulgent place, so perhaps we can be forgiven.

photo 1

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I opted for a ‘surf and turf’ main of veal medallions and half a lobster tail with coconut rice and ginger butter. There was also a fruity-spicy salsa which was a real winner alongside the lobster flesh and tender veal. The infused butter was absolutely gorgeous, and brought the whole thing together beautifully. Ash’s steak was nicely cooked to order, and nicely complemented with cassava and mixed vegetables.

photo 3

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I was truly too full to enjoy dessert as much as I should have, though for me it was also the slight weak point; while the rum baba was fluffy, generous and delightfully soaked, the kiwi-based fruit salad and huge amounts of cream with it were actually slightly too much and I felt a little sick by the end. I still finished every single bite, though… Ash’s more restrained chocolate fondant was gooey and simply lovely.

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The final bill came to €130 (before service), but as we were asked about vouchers it appears Blue Lagoon is on the Meal Plan system, and might be better value under that plan (there are various grades of plan and menu restrictions, so you should check this before booking / buying).

If it’s not clear from the above, I would absolutely recommend Blue Lagoon, particularly if you are able to escape for some alone time; however, if you prefer to be with the kids (or haven’t got an alternative option), they are extremely welcome. There is a kids’ menu for a reasonable price, but if you have an adventurous child perhaps you could go for a starter instead, and share mains with them.

Bon appetit!

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3 responses to “Disneyland Paris with a Pre-Schooler: Dining at the parks and a Blue Lagoon review

  1. Pingback: Disneyland Paris with a Pre-Schooler: An Overview | ALEXANDRA ROUMBAS GOLDSTEIN

  2. Pingback: Disneyland Paris with a Pre-Schooler: Sequoia Lodge | ALEXANDRA ROUMBAS GOLDSTEIN

  3. Pingback: Florida 2015: ALL THE FOOD (featuring Le Cellier, Be Our Guest, Via Napoli & The Leaky Cauldron, among others) | ALEXANDRA ROUMBAS GOLDSTEIN

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