Orlando is a fabulous city, famed for it’s roller coasters, tourist attractions and Mickey Mouse, but behind Universal Studios and SeaWorld is a sophisticated, upmarket and fascinating up-market scene catering for the discerning executive. We travelled around the vibrant and modern city sampling some of the best hotels, restaurants and nightlife to bring you our exclusive guide.
Where to stay
Possibly the most recognisable brand in this months guide, the Ritz-Carlton name is symbol of luxury and opulence, and the Orlando resort in Grande Lakes not only lives up to the groups reputation, but exceeds it in stunning fashion.
Located within it’s own vast grounds, surrounded by beautiful lakes and an 18-hole Greg Norman-signature golf course, the spa hotel takes inspiration from the grand palazzos of Italy. With over 600 rooms including two Presidential Suites and one Royal Suite, the Ritz-Carlton is centrally located close to the Downtown area and all of the surrounding conference centres.
The standard rooms are luxurious, modern and obsessively clean, and the larger suites are really something special. For the full Ritz experience, we recommend upgrading to the Club Level, which gives you access to the exclusive Club Lounge and extra amenities like the media room, kids programmes and even a complimentary garment pressing service.
This is a very popular hotel, and will be fully booked if there’s a big conference in town, so be sure to check early if you plan to stay.
Rosen Shingle Creek
Rosen is a big name in the hospitality industry in Orlando, with a portfolio of hotels ranging from motels to the luxury 5 star Shingle Creek resort. Located on Universal Boulevard, the spa and golf retreat is perfectly positioned for easy access to the conference centres, Downtown district and the Florida Turnpike.
Featuring a grand entrance hall and an enviable array of pools and outdoor lounging areas, the Rose Shingle Creek sits on a large estate with a plethora of both casual and fine-dining restaurants and bars.
The rooms are spacious and well appointed, and if you ask for a poolside view the friendly staff will do their best to accommodate your request – which is well worth it if the space is available. Customer service is the main draw for the Rosen Shingle Creek, and cater for any special requests without hesitation – it’s like having your own private concierge service.
Where to dine
Slate is an unassuming chef-driven fine-dining meets casual eatery and bar. The restaurant is well hidden, set back away from the main road, and even the website doesn’t give much away. But when you walk through the doors, you’re greeted with a rustic yet modern setting, with an open kitchen and island bar. If you like exposed brick and open fires, you’ll love Slate.
As an independent establishment, Executive Chef Jacob Woolf has been given carte blanche to create some very special dishes for his ‘modern American with a twist’ menu. Featuring wood grilled specials and exceptionally fresh seafood paired with a boutique wine list curated by sommelier Leslie Johnson.
For starters we recommend the lobster “corn dogs” – a light and modern take on a classic dish which comes with a refreshing truffle honey mustard and parsley sauce. The lobster is pre-grilled then finished off in the fryer with a light and crunch batter.
Best known for their wood fired grill and ovens, the main courses are varied and with such a generous selection it’s hard to choose, so we went for our waiters recommendations. With the brisket as somewhat of a speciality item from the head chef, with a preparation process taking days, the juicy beef falls apart and tastes incredible.
We also tried the locally sourced snapper fish, which is hearth roasted to perfection. It’s light and fluffy, similar to cod but less flakey and more flavoursome, and accompanied by zucchini noodles, lemongrass, rosemary bread crumbs. It’s complemented by a special aioli-like sauce, with the blend of 10 ingredients ingredients kept a closely guarded secret.
Located within the Ritz-Carlton, Norman’s is a fine dining experience like no other in Orlando, perhaps even in the entire state of Florida. Headed up by Award Winning Chef Norman Van Aken, the namesake eatery is internationally acclaimed for its new world cuisine. Fusing Latin, Caribbean, Asian, African and American flavours to create Norman’s signature style really sets the Normn’s apart,
The restaurant sits in an elegant yet modern setting, with sumptuous decor and a very relaxed atmosphere. The space is large, and the tables are set apart enough provide a peaceful and private dining experience. There are also separate rooms for larger parties and private dining events.
As you’d expect from the ultra sophisticated restaurant, the menu is something quite special. This is immediately evident from the Russian Caviar, served with Lemon Crema, Toasted Brioche, and a shot of Beluga Vodka. Sourced from the rare Ossetra sturgeon, it has a rich, deep flavour, smooth texture and is very light, and has a pleasant salty aftertaste.
Everything from the scallop starters to the Wagyu steak main and the artistic deserts, are all cooked and presented to absolute perfection. Norman’s impeccable level of almost obsessive detail ads to the unique experience.
A Land Remembered
A Land Remembered is the signature fine dining steakhouse and seafood restaurant of the Rosen Shingle Creek resort. Located in the hotel grounds, hidden away down a discreet pathway within the golf club, A Land Remembered is famed for its prime steak cuts, sourced from the Harris Ranch, and fresh seafood.
The restaurant is named after the late Patrick Smith’s best selling novel, and the decor takes inspiration from Florida’s pioneer era, with deep rich wood, brass adornments and Native American artwork.
The simple yet bold menu has been created by head chef Brett Beavers, and with a vast array of accompaniments, appetisers and steak toppings like Suwannee Creek crab oscar, there’s something to cater for every palate.
We sampled the filet mignon from the black Angus five diamond prime beef range, which was cooked perfectly to our taste, as well as a selection of entréess and sides, all fresh tasting, flavourful and not too heavy. The handmade desserts are all lovingly created and are the perfect finish to a fabulous meal in a sumptuous setting.
Where to entertain
Orlando’s Downtown area is a vibrant and popular destination for a night on the town, with hundreds of bars, nightclubs and live music venues.
One80 Skytop Lounge
This premium, high-end bar hosts VIP evenings almost every night, and sits aloft the city’s Amway Centre, providing stunning skyline views from the large outdoor terrace, and an opulent bar inside. Stylish dress is required before you can even step through the door, and table packages are available. Monday night is industry night, with Orlando’s biggest movers and shakers in attendance along with drinks offers and special guest DJs.
For a more sophisticated evening, Mathers Social Gathering is a unique antique-filled, parlor-style cocktail lounge with boutique spirits. A truly unique and sophisticated space that encourages interaction and relaxation with comfortable seating, social tables and decor that will spark all kinds of conversation. With the entrance to the bar hidden behind a bookshelf in the reception area, this really is a hidden gem in the downtown area or Orlando, and easy to miss…