A few weeks ago, Walt Disney World announced a special spring/summer offering that allows you to stay in Epcot and "lounge around" after the park closes at one of four spots scattered around World Showcase. Called the "After Hours Wind Down," the program gives you the chance to hang out at either La Cava del Tequila in Mexico, Spice Road Table in Morocco, Tutto Gusto in Italy, or the Rose and Crown Pub in the United Kingdom, from 9:20 (after IllumiNations) to 11 p.m., Thursdays through Sundays.
Since I was in Walt Disney World last week for a few days, I managed to find a way to squeeze it into my schedule, and booked my reservations at the Rose and Crown Pub.
After an early dinner, my friend and I showed up at the door of the Rose and Crown immediately after IllumiNations had concluded. The greeter checked our names off her list and gave us wristbands, asking us to wait as the pub staff readied for our visit. After a few minutes, we were allowed to enter and had our choice of seats. The capacity for this event at Rose and Crown is about 50, but I'd say that on this Friday evening there were only about 20 patrons.
Soon after we settled in, a cast member brought us our beverage "flight" for the evening: 6-oz. pours of Bass Ale, Harp Lager, Guinness Stout and Strongbow Cider.
A few minutes later we were brought a plate with our food sampler of typical pub fare -- a Scotch egg with mustard sauce and watercress; English Cotswold cheese with chives with onion jam; and pork apple sausage roll served with picalilli.
Having visited the UK many times, I thought I would know what to expect from the food, but I was actually pleasantly surprised. The hard-boiled egg, wrapped in sausage, coated in bread crumbs and baked, was quite tasty, as was the savory pork roll. The cheese, creamy and oniony, was nicely accented by the sweet jam. The portions were a typical tasting size (though I could have used a bit more mustard sauce) and I really enjoyed them. Even though it wasn't an overabundance of food, I was glad I had skipped dessert at dinner, I overheard the couples at nearby tables complaining that they were too full from their dinners at Le Cellier and Monsieur Paul to really enjoy the food. No problem, though. The friendly cast members were happy to box up the snacks to be carried home and eaten later.
I have to admit that I'm not much of a beer fan, and had thought that there would be alternative beverage options -- but I guess there's not much in the way of British wine, is there? So I went with the beer, and surprised myself. I found that I really enjoyed the Harp Lager, which I'd never tried before. The Bass was, well, to me it was just beer. Not a fan. The Guinness, which I've tried before, was a little too thick and strong for me -- definitely an acquired taste that I haven't acquired. The Strongbow, however, was light and refreshing and went down easily -- and I noticed that the people at the surrounding tables seemed to feel the same.
While 24 ounces of beer-type beverages over the course of almost 90 minutes was plenty for me, you can order additional drinks (and food, too) if you'd like -- at a price. Also, if you decide to go non-alcoholic, you can still attend -- for the same price, of course -- and you'll be provided with soft drinks.
There's no entertainment during the Wind Down, which was fine with me, but I thought that some soft background music would have added a little to the ambience. On the other hand, I could have done without the janitorial staff (three of them!) who took up residence in the corner of the room, chatting on their walkie-talkies and sweeping up non-existent litter while I was trying to relax and enjoy my drink. It really struck me as Bad Show.
The other thing that disappointed me is that the Friday night I was there was evening Extra Magic Hours night at Epcot -- so what was supposed to be "after hours" really wasn't. I was hoping to have the chance to walk through a deserted Epcot after we'd finished, but there were still quite a few other guests in the park. Oh well.
But these are minor complaints. Overall it was a quite enjoyable experience and a pleasant way to end the evening. Was it worth $35? I'd say a qualified "yes" -- maybe it's just slightly overpriced, by about $5. Still, it was great to actually be able to sit in the pub and soak in the atmosphere. That's something that you can't normally do during regular park hours, due to the spot's popularity.
I think the next time I book the Wind Down -- and I do plan to try it again -- I'll make reservations at the wine cellar at Tutto Gusto. On a Sunday night!
The After Hours Wind Down is available Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays now through September 15. Cost is $35, plus tax and gratuity.
Make a reservation at www.disneyworld.com/spring, call 407-WDW-DINE or stop by Epcot Guest Relations.