When visiting Epcot one thing to surely not miss is IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth, the nighttime show. It’s absolutely spectacular; fireworks, an illuminated globe and even the World Showcase itself are all part of it. And as with all nighttime shows, there are options to enjoy a meal while watching it in Epcot too.
I’ve previously written about the Dessert Party and how much I have enjoyed it, however, this is not your only option in this park. Due to the build of World Showcase around the lagoon which hosts IllumiNations, certain restaurants actually offer a (partial) view of the show while you are eating your dinner.
In the running for our decisions were the Rose and Crown (UK), Tokyo Dining (Japan), Monsieur Paul (France) and La Hacienda de San Angel (Mexico). I will say straightaway that not all of these have a perfect view or an unlimited amount of tables with a view of the show, but you will find a good way of seeing it without standing at the lagoon for hours beforehand.
We ended up picking Mexico, as it seemed our chances for a decent view were the highest there, given their large windows across the entire restaurant. We’d never eaten there before, so we wanted to give it a try. Getting a reservation time that matched the IllumiNations showing was not as difficult as I had expected — and maybe this should have been a clue. I should also add that requesting a window table is not possible in advance; you can ask upon arrival but there is no guarantee.
We were sat relatively close to but between windows, having a partial view. However, it was still a decent view. The restaurant is quite lovely and its high ceiling makes it feel more spacious than most Disney restaurants. The place was packed and it was loud. I mean really loud. I don’t know if it was the particular crowd or whether sounds echo in this restaurant, either way it was almost uncomfortable.
Now, let’s talk about what you all really want to hear about: the food. The menu is rather short, which I think is not a bad sign. A limited menu normally means that these dishes are prepared regularly by the kitchen and therefore are usually to a good standard. There are still enough options that everyone should find something they enjoy, so you do not need to worry about slightly pickier eaters.
The standout for me was my starter, Queso Fundido. It’s melted cheese with chorizo and other delicious toppings, served with lovely tortilla chips. I am a huge cheese lover though, so anything with cheese will get me excited. This is easily a sharing starter as the dish is very filling. The Gorditas were fine, nothing memorable but not bad either. For the mains, we both went for a variation of tacos. My shrimp tacos were nice; the mixed taco sampler was very good.
During our mains, the show started. For this, the restaurant dimmed the lights down and then fed in the music of the show. Here was when the disappointment really started. For starters, the music was fed in so quietly that you essentially could not hear it over people eating or talking and children running around. Further, guests not only moved to the windows (fair enough) but literally blocked the windows up, even lifting their children up. Obviously, I can’t really fault the restaurant for this and the blame goes to those people who were not considering the other guests. But overall, it really spoiled this experience for us. Between the quiet music, non-existent view and screaming children, we did not see or hear much of the show.
Now this means the main reason we decided to go and try La Hacienda was moot. Could I still recommend people to give it a shot? Probably not. It wasn’t awful but it wasn’t great either. The food was okay, but nothing to go running back for. Sadly, our service was slow and unfriendly as well. Having a good view and experience of the show? A very slim chance. So no, I would not recommend this option to you to see IllumiNations. I believe there are better ways out there to watch the show, whether that be a different restaurant or the dessert party, because IllumiNations is a show that deserves to be fully appreciated.