Category Archives: Orlando

Texas de Brazil – strictly for carnivores

Whatever you do, do not visit this restaurant if you are a vegetarian. For anyone who hasn’t tried it, that’s assuming you like meat and lots of it, this place is a must at least once. It’s become a bit of a tradition when we are in Orlando, partly because it’s actually quite a fun place to go, but also because finding restaurants that you really want to be in is very hard out here. I am sure that if you are a local that’s not the case, but when you are out here for work and you need to find somewhere on the spur of the moment that isn’t stupidly priced or just following a tired formula, it can be quite difficult.

Dining room – Orlando

The way it works is you first serve yourself with your eponymous starter which consists of every imaginable salad that you could ever think of. Although I think the lobster bisque is the thing to go for because first of all it’s very good and secondly the last thing you want to do is to pig out on the starter, because you have the mother of all meat-eating experiences just around the corner. When the starter has been cleared away, you’ll see by your plate there is a little cardboard disc which has a green side and a red side. As long at the green side is visible it tells an endless stream of waiters to keep appearing at your side with sword-like skewers about three feet long loaded with meat which they slice off at the table for you. Straight from the barbecue. You choose what you want and the way it’s been cooked direct from the chef, as it were. The real experience here is the beef, but there’s plenty for those who prefer chicken, pork and lamb. What I like about it is that you can eat a little and often and the guys coming to your table know everything about the meat they are bearing. Then when you feel you’ve had enough, just turn the disc over to the red side and they instantly stop troubling you. After a rest, turn it back to green and they start appearing again.

The wine list is extensive, not cheap of course, but comprehensive. There really is something from everywhere and you can drink an exclusive French bordeaux, and pay accordingly for it, or work your way through a comprehensive list that majors on the States but has good selections as well from other quality wine producing regions like South America and Australia. We always manage to go overboard on the Californian wines, but then that’s part of the fun of experiencing what you might not normally get the chance to experiment with back at home.

The service is excellent as you would expect in a top quality American restaurant. It’s quite pricey with the exchange rate as it is. Forty bucks or so a head without the wine. I forgot to mention the deserts, partly because I’ve never actually lasted that far. But they look overblown and I’m told are nothing to write home about. But you know what? You don’t come here for the pudding. And the value? Well, it’s all about whether the glass is half empty or half full. You can eat just as much as you are able to. So probably on balance that sounds like quite good value.

Orlando – where it was also cold

You always associate Florida and Orlando in particular with being a warm and uncomfortably humid place. Well let me tell you that it isn’t always so. I had some friends from the Orlando area staying last week and they said it was definitely warmer in England. It doesn’t get exactly freezing but it gets to nearly that there, just a couple of degrees above and enough to discourage you from being a smoker. For those that don’t know, you are banned outside to smoke just about anywhere in the States now.

We were staying at the Orlando World Center, a Marriott property (as the Americans like to call them) south of the city and north of International Drive. It’s a strange characterless area with these vast hotel and golf complexes dotted around the Kissimmee area centred on the Disney and Universal tourist attractions. You only realise just how little there is in terms of civilisation out there when you have a room high up and can look out across this vast flat expanse of flood plain, pretty much at sea level having been drained and reclaimed in the 19th century. High rise hotel and resort complexes appear out of the landscape in isolated pockets of development. It’s really quite eery. And the whole place is make believe. From the shopping malls, to the hotel complexes, to the fantasy attractions, it is home to a constantly changing, transient population of tourists, visiting with the sole intent of having fun. As always in life, when that is the sole contrived objective, it never really works. Personally I hate the place. That’s not to say that there aren’t really nice parts of Orlando, where normal people live out their daily lives, just like anywhere else in the world. Well, maybe not quite like anywhere else, but I think you get the point.

To be honest I have only ever done the conference thing in Orlando hotels, so I do not know what it is like as a family holiday destination. But I guess there’s an excitement to any really large hotel if you are there on holiday. More restaurants than you can imagine, pools of every variety and all the usual big hotel amenities. Conferences revolve around massive ballrooms that seat hundreds of people and endless supplies of coffee, carbonated drinks and unhealthy snacks. Like so much in the US it is larger than real life. Alcohol when it’s served invariably comes in disposable plastic containers and outside, where it’s either uncomfortably humid or, as in this case, too cold. But the event must go on regardless.

The bedrooms are tired and don’t feel very clean. I think it’s a visual thing rather than anything else, to do with the dark wood finish and slightly grubby carpets. There’s never anything better than a low level foot bath and the showers are always badly pressured and alternate between being too hot and too cold. Mind you, if you’re taking a shower in what must be nearly a thousand rooms, then I can imagine that’s going to be some kind of plumbing miracle. And of course there’s the inevitable connecting door to an adjoining room, which you could always go to reception and get changed, but you’re in some tower on the umpteenth floor and frankly it took twenty minutes to get there and anyway if you turn on the air-conditioning it will be so noisy that you can’t hear the television properly let alone anything from the next room.

I did go to Disney and Universal once. With some clients. The company insisted I take them over one weekend. After seven hours on the first day at Disney they begged me, please, no more. It was the weak bottled beer and the frozen margaritas that did it I think. There was so much frozen stuff and so little tequila and a chemical green tinge to everything. It sounds a bit like the start of a bad joke, but honestly, there was a Turk from Istanbul, two Nigerians from Lagos, a Pole from London, a South African from Munich and a German, also from Munich. So on the second day I promised them we would only do the really good rides at Universal and then I’d take them for a special treat in the evening. So we raced around Back to the Future, Terminator and Jaws, followed by a long lunch. All of which I have to admit was quite fun for a first time experience. The treat in the evening? Well, I am now ashamed to admit that it was an evening at Orlando’s very own little strip club, Rachel’s. A sort of feast of silicone and peroxide. They told me it was the best part of the trip.

It really isn’t my thing these resort hotels.