By Amy Drew Thompson
Dining in Orlando? It's entirely possible to capture the essence of a family vacation or romantic getaway to the lake. The views are stellar. The food is farm-to-table. There is a warmth about it, a vibe that allows families and couples to bond. Laughs are had. Meals are shared.
They've captured this essence at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress' LakeHouse, a breakfast, lunch and dinner venue that despite its soaring ceilings, which let in gorgeous light and views of Lake Windsong, still manages to feel cozy, intimate.
"We wanted to make the restaurant feel like you're in our home," says Connor Michael Francis, assistant food and beverage manager of the new eatery, the product of a $2.8 million makeover. It replaces what was previously known as Cascades. "This is our lake house.... Each day, we want to make sure you're feeling as comfortable with the menu as you are in your day, enjoying your time at the resort."
Comfort is key here, and you'll find the culinary variety in spades. At breakfast, the LakeHouse Benedict, with its poached eggs and creamy Hollandaise christens the day, while dinner offerings like shrimp and grits and slow-smoked baby back ribs close it out. Save room for desserts like the sticky toffee fig and date bread pudding, served and house-made ice cream (and in a charming cast iron pan quite befitting a lake house setting).
The LakeHouse likes to change things up, though, says Executive Chef David Didzunas. Bread pudding does more than a dessert turn here.
"We have a savory version that we're serving with a filet," he notes. It's proven quite popular. "Everyone thinks of bread pudding as heavy and sweet and this one is savory, a little lighter, and makes a wonderful alternative to a side that's more expected, such as potatoes."
Mid-afternoon/evening brings with it lots of small plates, which Didzunas says is one of LakeHouse's raison dêtre. "We invite guests to order two or three and pass them around, share," he says. "And that will work whether they are ordering from the seafood bar - a sushi roll, a few oysters a few shrimp - or something like the French onion fondue."
A runaway hit, he notes, "it's full of onions and cheese - nice, stringy Swiss cheese - a sort of French onion soup without the broth."
LakeHouse's menu is seasonal and oft Florida-inspired. Francis notes that Hyatt's F&B philosophy - "Food thoughtfully sourced, carefully served." - is always in effect, ergo local purveyors are always the first choice.
In fact, some of the ingredients are so local, you'll find them right outside. Their herb garden is a walk-through sanctuary that showcases some of what you might be seeing on your plate come meal time.
Didzunas notes that while the Hyatt name is well-known, the hotel a grand dame of Orlando's resort corridor, it's a stand-alone restaurant that locals will love, as well.
The setting is spectacular, and we're putting a lot of love and passion into our seasonally-driven food. We will continue to grow and evolve and expand," he says.
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Amy Drew Thompson has spent more than 20 years as a journalist and roughly two decades as a Floridian. A roller coaster enthusiast, she readily admits there is fun to be had amid the theme-park madness, but has found magic, as well, in the outer-lying reaches of Mickey's long shadow. She is a full-time freelancer, an editorial jack-of-all-trades and the Orlando Local Expert for USA Today's 10Best.com