Ale & Compass Lounge reopened alongside Ale & Compass Restaurant last week. You can find my thoughts on the restaurant experience here. You can also check out the Marketplace at Ale & Compass review here, which covers the quick service and takeaway operation.
Unlike the restaurant, which changed its name from Captain’s Grille, the Lounge sports the same title as before.
But you’ll now find a very different space.
This is what Ale & Compass looked like earlier this year – it’s “literally” a hole in the wall with maybe 15 places to sit.
The new space is significantly larger with a wide variety of seating options.
The stately couches seem fun.
A fireplace for those rare, cozy days when the temperature drops below 80 degrees and Florida goes into full panic mode. I’m still waiting for my heat to go on this year, which I’m sure is what you want to hear while you read this in Synecdoche, New York in December.
I think the royal navy blues, dark furniture, and wood paneling work a little better in the lounge than the restaurant. At least this says “Rye Manhattan” to me a little more than “Clam Bake” does.
But there’s even more seating, in addition to the actual bar, located through either entryway behind the fireplace.
It’s a little goofy that there are so many tables because it just makes the space “feel” even more empty and cluttered when none of them are occupied.
These pictures are garbage, but there is a classy bar area where you can pull up a chair and chat with the bartenders. Jackie is particularly delightful. As is typical, I was the first person to arrive that morning when the lounge opened at 11:30am. It stays open until 1am, which is among the latest closing times on property.
Food is available through 10pm and in addition to a couple of unique Lounge appetizers, you can also order anything off the Ale & Compass Restaurant menu.
We tried a couple of appetizers with lunch at the Restaurant.
We started with the $12 “Parker House Rolls and Spreads – Bacon Jam, Pub Cheese, and Citrus Butter.” 12 bucks seems a little steep. Three dollars more would buy you five slices of naan and all nine accompaniments at Sanaa, for example. But the rolls are incredibly fresh, soft, buttery, and a little chewy with some delicious salt and herbs sprinkled on top. The Pub Cheese is out of this world too – a real flavorful cheddar with just a hint of garlic and chive and a mellow, distant India pale ale flavor. The Bacon Jam was delicious too – sweet and salty with a little bit of onion and vinegar and a lot of brown sugar. The Citrus Butter arrives in place of the Trout Spread that’s advertised online and wasn’t updated on the Lounge menu. It’s the same as what we saw with the morning pancakes – a really nice lemony flavor sweetened up with some sugar. There’s a really nice aromatic quality to it with the lime and orange zest.
This is the $15 “Roasted Garlic Shrimp,” which is the full menu description. Five large shrimp arrive with the order, delicately placed on top of the bowl of garlic butter with a crusty piece of bread and half of a roasted lemon accompanying. These were expertly prepared – the shrimp had a great bite to them and the garlic flavor was pronounced without being overbearing. It’s perhaps not a terrible price to pay as a shrimp cocktail would cost a similar amount of money, but it seemed a little rough given the amount of food. Leave it to easydubz to order the $15 shrimp and then complain when $15 worth of shrimp is delivered. Tasty, though.
We also tried the $12 “Oven-roasted Oysters with Creamed Kale, White Cheddar, and Cornbread Crumbs.” Five oysters arrived, each topped with quite a bit of melted cheese and creamy kale, in addition to the sweet cornbread crumb topping and a healthy pinch of herbs. The salty sea flavors of the oyster were still present, but it was quickly washed away by all of the other ingredients with the gooey cheese leading the way. At about $2.50 a piece, this isn’t a particularly filling appetizer, but it’s a good way to get some flavors from the sea without filling up on fish and chips.
The cocktail list is surprisingly inspired given how lackluster the offerings at Crew’s Cup and Yachtsman have been for years. This is a serious departure from the standard drink menu, which we’ll revisit in a separate review.
If you’re ever attending trivia at a Walt Disney World resort and the question asks the name of the first drink ever served at the re-imagined Ale & Compass Lounge, then you can correctly answer the $10.25 “Maple Old Fashioned – Jim Beam Black Extra-aged Bourbon, Maple Syrup, Orange Juice, and Angostura Bitters.”
This was really nicely balanced between the smooth vanilla and oak flavors from the bourbon and the sweetness of a little maple syrup. The orange juice works a lot better than I would have thought – adding a fresh citrus quality against a bit of cinnamon and clove in the bitters. I thought it was really tasty.
The $11.25 “NE Avenue – Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, Busnel Calvados, Passion Fruit, Pomegranate Juice, and Cardamom Bitters.”
Another expertly crafted cocktail, this married the bitter flavors of the cardamom with the fruity flavors of the passion fruit and the baked apple flavor of the Busnel Vieille Réserve V.S.O.P. Jack was present at the start of each sip and the mellow flavor of the whiskey lingered a bit, but it was made much less harsh by the other ingredients. Very well thought out.
The $11.25 “Spicy Pomegranate Margarita – El Mayor Blanco Tequila, Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur, Pomegranate Juice, Simple Syrup, and fresh Lime Juice” was not particularly spicy, but there was a little bit of a peppery quality to it and I appreciated that it wasn’t another sugar bomb. It’s certainly attractive looking. Maybe aging in a jug for a few hours would have improved things.
A list of classic cocktails is also offered. I liked seeing more interesting and high-end ingredients in between Disney standards like Bacardi and Captain Morgan’s.
The $13 “Hudson Mule – Hudson Baby Bourbon, fresh Lime Juice, Simple Syrup, and Fever-Tree Ginger Beer.”
This is the most expensive drink on the menu as it hails from a $60 bottle of bourbon. Unfortunately, I think any of the unique flavors of the Hudson are hidden underneath a lot of ginger beer, but the drink does have a brighter, spicier flavor than it would with Knob Creek or a vodka. I want to find out how much a double on the rocks runs.
The $10 “Seaworthy Breeze – Yacht Club Vodka with Juices of Grapefruit and Cranberry.” Refreshing, but instantly forgettable with the juices washing away any uniqueness of the French vodka.
The $11.25 “Purple Mariner – Hendrick’s Gin, Crème de Violette, Simple Syrup, and fresh Lemon Juice topped with Soda Water” was more interesting – perfectly mixed with a floral lavender flavor from the liqueur and just a hint of pine from the gin. My favorite of the classic cocktails that I’ve tried so far here.
Oh good, it really is a gastropub. Bud Light on draft. There are a couple of good bottles here though – try the Crooked Can entry if you’d like to try something local.
What is becoming ubiquitous in the Cigar City Jai Alai is available on draft. Very drinkable at 7.5%. Get one before Oskar Blues runs them into the ground.
Liquor, not including my Hudson Bay.
Overall, I loved Ale & Compass Lounge, though it remains to be seen what vibe the bar takes if there’s ever more than three people inside. But the original cocktails are put together surprisingly well and the classic cocktails offer familiar flavors that should satisfy anyone looking for a vodka cran. The fact that you can pick your seat and order off the full Ale & Compass Restaurant is positive and I’m guessing that the unique appetizers impress as well.
I’ll be back.