The Disney 21 Royal Private Dining Experience

Disneyland is known as the Magic Kingdom, but what that name elides is the source of the magic: storytelling and attention to detail. Those two principles, elevated to their highest level, animate a new fine-dining experience the park is making available to just a single party of 12 per night.

The 21 Royal evening begins with specially trained guides greeting your party at the Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and leading you to the most exclusive address inside the park: 21 Royal Street, a private apartment overlooking New Orleans Square. When you arrive, a butler from the skilled and unobtrusive staff admits you via an ornate, gated staircase into what was to have been Walt and Lillian Disney’s private residence within the park.

The apartment is a realisation of plans the couple made with Dorothea Redmond, an Imagineer who had been the movie industry’s first woman production designer – it was her original watercolour “storyboards” that the Disney team used to create the two-bedroom space. Its design blends Empire-style elegance and residential comfort; special flourishes abound throughout, from a pair of murals in the parlour depicting the castles that inspired Sleeping Beauty’s iconic home at the centre of the park to switches that bring rooms to life with theatrical surprises.

A cocktail hour gives you and your guests time to explore 21 Royal and be regaled by your guides and sommelier Matt Ellingson with the lore and history of the space. The personal connection to “the man behind the mouse” infuses the suite with a lovely intimacy, and the coloured lanterns and firefly lights of the courtyard at the heart of the floor plan cast a gentle glow over close conversations.

Storytelling remains the theme in the just-completed dining room, where executive chef Andrew Sutton and chef de cuisine Justin Monson present what they call “epicurean theatre”: fine cuisine with an exciting dash of showmanship. Sutton, the culinary director for signature restaurants at the Disneyland Resort, aims at 21 Royal to give the kind of dinner party Walt and Lillian would – but in the present day, and with a culinary style that ranges wide while staying rooted in California.

The seven-course menu is fully tailored for every group, whether your wish is for the chefs to delight you with untrammelled inventiveness or to design an entire meal from the starting point of sourcing a fondly remembered wine from a special occasion in your past. No matter what shape your menu takes, the chefs and Ellingson introduce each course and pairing with stories about their inspiration that draw you into their lives and help build the experience of communal connection that defines the most memorable shared meals.

As the evening draws to a close, you adjourn with coffee and desserts in the dining room or on the spacious private balcony for a view of the charm and lights of the park at night; if the skies are clear, you might enjoy the fireworks spectacular from your perch.

And when it’s inevitably time to part, the fabled sweet sorrow is tempered by the warmth of an evening spent in an incomparable setting enjoying peerless service and food in lively company – true magic.

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