The Leaky Cauldron – Lunch and Breakfast
One of the things Lebeau and family had fewer opportunities to experience than I did when they visited Universal on Father’s Day prior to their Disney cruise this past summer was the variety of food offerings. In the interest of offering the most complete coverage we can here at LeBlog, I’m presenting some of my thoughts on the eateries I had a chance to try while my family and I were in the Universal parks in late March. I visited the Hot Dog Hall of Fame in CityWalk for lunch one day and experienced dinners at Mythos and Lombard’s.
Today I’m going to talk a little about the primary meal destination in the relatively new Diagon Alley area in the original Universal Studios theme park. Come along, won’t you?
The Leaky Cauldron is located directly to your left when you enter Diagon Alley through the parting brick wall (which you can hear moving aside to make way for wizards and witches). On the days I was there, The Leaky Cauldron opened for breakfast at 8AM and for lunch at 10:30AM.
Nobody in my party loaded up at breakfast time on Saturday because we knew we’d be dining at the Leaky Cauldron shortly after its opening time. We made this plan based on several on line sources which suggested that walking up carelessly whenever we happened to feel hungry might result in a bit of a wait for the Harry Potter themed restaurant. Those reports may be outdated or overrated, because we were able to walk right in when it opened at 10:30 for lunch and I never noticed a big line for the place. One of the many strengths of the Harry Potter portions of the Universal parks is the excellent casting of staff in key positions. The fellow who greeted us at the front door of the Leaky Cauldron was not only friendly and informative (making sure to inform my brother of the brew and beer available without being asked), but boy did he look like the sort of amiable old wizard that would populate parts of J K Rowling’s invented world.
The Leaky Cauldron is one of those counter service style restaurants that are popping up with more regularity in theme parks nowadays in which you make your meal selection and pay at a counter, but then find a seat and have the food delivered to you there by the staff. It’s a development I appreciate, and I’m sure families with small children are even more happy about it. At Be Our Guest in Disney’s Magic Kingdom, for example, lunchtime guests are given a red hockey puck in the shape of a rose bloom that emits a signal which helps the cast members there to find you with your food. The Leaky Cauldron appears to favor a slightly less high-tech solution, assigning a numbered “candle” which helps your meal arrive accurately.
Anyone who has walked awkwardly through a crowded restaurant carrying a tray full of food and drinks (and how many of us haven’t) knows how nerve-wracking the experience can be. I have personally developed a method for these situations in which I use just two or three fingers on my right hand to support one side of the tray while securing my drink with my thumb and another finger. It works, but I sure wish it wasn’t necessary. As you can see by the above photo, I decided to try one of the better-known Harry Potter themed drinks with my lunch, the very tasty Pumpkin Juice. As I’ve said elsewhere, if you like pumpkin pie, then you’ll like Pumpkin Juice. Let’s take a look at the Lunch and Dinner menu for the Leaky Cauldron. Menus tend to change, but this looks pretty accurate to what was offered there in late March of 2016.
Fish and Chips $13.99
Ploughman’s (serves 2) $19.99
Bangers and Mash $11.99
Toad in the Hole $8.99
Beef, Lamb and Guinness Stew $12.99
Cottage Pie $11.99
Fisherman’s Pie $14.99
Mini Pie Combination $12.99
Soup and Salad $8.99
Banger Pub Sandwich w/ fries $11.99
Chicken sandwich w/ fries $10.99
Sticky Toffee Pudding $6.99
Chocolate Potted Cream $4.49
There are a variety of themed beverages, including the infamous butterbeer and “Fire Whiskey” which can be ordered either as a shot or with a mixer from among the other non-alcoholic drinks. Seeing as it was only late morning when we were there, I decided against spiked libations. Looking back over the menu now, I’m not sure why I selected what I felt was a relatively “safe” dish in the Cottage Pie, but that’s what I did in that moment. I considered the Fish & Chips, but reasoned that I have that with regularity at my local Irish pub restaurants. Perhaps if I’d made that decision I would have avoided the disappointing seafood at that night’s dinner at Lombard’s. You know what they say about hindsight.
Not that the cottage pie was bad. It definitely was not. It was just a little boring, featuring a soupy ground beef concoction beneath a layer of baked mashed potato topping. The disappointment was that there did not appear to be much variety to the ingredients. It was almost exclusively ground beef and potatoes. As I looked around the table, it appeared that at least a couple of my party had made better choices.
My Brother had ordered the Bangers and Mash, which included not just the eponymous sausage and potatoes, but also a variety of cooked vegetables. It may not measure up to the best versions of this dish, but my Brother claimed to be enjoying it.
Even more enticing was the Beef, Lamb, and Guinness Stew my sister-in-law had, which came in a bread bowl. Again, this dish was not large, but from where I was sitting it looked like a tasty and interesting meal and she expressed that she was happy with it. Like my Cottage Pie, this stew came alongside a salad of fresh cold greens.
In the foreground of the photo you can see the chocolate milk my nephew was able to acquire. We had good luck finding this, one of the few items he will consistently enjoy and finish while we were at Universal. This was one of the times during our trip that we knew he would need something other than what was available at the restaurant, so his Mother brought along an “Uncrustable” peanut butter and jelly sandwich that had been defrosting in her purse since that morning. This seemed to work for him, even though the loud fire-breathing dragon just down the street continued to be bothersome.
For me, the spot-on Harry Potter theming, excellent customer service, and Pumpkin Juice were enough to call lunch a success, even if I had been mildly disappointed with my Cottage Pie.
But that reservation made a return for breakfast on Monday morning seem like a necessity. After all, it would be my final day in the parks and I’d be returning to Diagon Alley at 7AM. Dropping in again for its 8AM opening and different menu only made sense. I’ve got Starbucks at home in Durham in droves.
Let’s take a look at the morning menu.
Traditional Breakfast $15.99
Pancake Breakfast $15.99
American Breakfast $15.99
Apple Oatmeal Flan with Yogurt & Fruit $15.99
Egg, Leek & Mushroom Pasty $15.99
Kid’s Breakfast $12.39
Mindful of the results from ordering “safe” at lunch a couple of days prior, I went with the “Traditional Breakfast,” which included eggs, baked beans, sausage links, ham, potatoes, sautéed mushrooms, a croissant, and what I assumed at the time was a bit of a pumpernickel bagel. As it turns out when I look back at the menu, what this was was black pudding. Either way, it was not the key piece of the meal for me, as the ham, mushrooms, and potatoes were all very nicely textured and flavored, making the entire breakfast a more than worthwhile experience. This time, the Pumpkin Juice I ordered and enjoyed again was not necessary to prop up the meal overall.
The Diagon Alley area of the Universal Studios theme park is an experience that is bigger and more rewarding than any single attraction or meal, and The Leaky Cauldron extends its truly excellent thematic design. You are fully immersed in the world of Harry Potter. Meanwhile, you’re likely to find food that is more than acceptable to most palates.
Posted on April 2, 2016, in reviews, theme parks, travel, Trip Report, Universal Studios and tagged Breakfast, Diagon Alley, food, Harry Potter, Lunch, Pumpkin Juice, The Leaky Cauldron. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.