The Leaky Cauldron

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Cauldron hall

I'm apparently on Universal Studio's no-fly list. When it was planning its big media preview of Diagon Alley, the second Harry Potter-themed attraction, I requested media credentials but was refused. You write a few (brutally) honest reviews over the years and you eventually get taken off the invite list.

Maybe it was my review of NASCAR Sports Grille, the one that ran with the headline "What a wreck of a restaurant; The NASCAR Sports Grille revs its engines and sideswipes its customers with a hit of bad service and lackluster food. Forfeit this one, drivers." I didn't write the headline, but the person who did summed up the review nicely, if nicely is the proper word there. It's fitting that Universal recently announced that it is closing NSG November 1. It should have closed years ago.

Maybe it was my review of the churrascaria at Latin Quarter (also closed and converted to Antojitos), which I also found lacking.

Or any of the other lackluster restaurant in and around the theme parks.

Whatever it was, I don't expect to be back in Universal's good graces with this review of the Leaky Cauldron, the dining venue in Diagon Alley, which I finally got around to visiting recently. Most of the food is embarrassingly inadequate, and what they charge for it borders on gouging.

cauldron pies

Worst of the lot is the mini pies, which is a sampler of the cottage pie and fisherman's pie, which are both available separately. As samplers, the pies are served in small aluminum plates with crusted liners and mashed potatoes on top. The fisherman's pie had a bit of flavor if not much in the way of anything a fisherman might catch. The cottage pie was largely flavorless.

Cauldron stew

The beef, lamb and Guinness stew was served in a bread bowl. Apparently if you get the bread stale enough it won't leak. The meats were hard and chewy and the thick gravy unremarkable. I understand the British aren't known for haute cuisine, but after all this is a fantasy world — couldn't they pretend?

Cauldron fish

Only the fish and chips could I recommend for someone stuck inside the park with no other dining option. The cod had a tasteful breading, nicely fried, and the flesh was white and flavorful. The chips were not quite up to the cod, but we'll take what we can get.

The mini pies and the stew were each $12.99; the fish and chips $13.99. That isn't outrageous for the fish, but the pies are more than a few dollars overpriced for the portion and quality.

Just as with the Three Broomsticks, the nearly identical eatery in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the other Potter park, the Leaky Cauldron is big and loud, with soaring ceilings that bounce the recorded music and the cacophony of voices, no doubt helping to drown out cries of hungered anguish. It's a quick-serve operation: order the food at the counter, take your table holder with a number on it and have one of the staffers seat you. Your food is brought to your table when it's done.

Also as with Wizarding World, the people who designed the area did a fantastic job. It's immersive and fantastical, and I'm certain it makes the books and movie scenes come to life.

The only things missing are picnic tables so visitors can bring their own lunches rather than have to buy overpriced mediocre food.

The Leaky Cauldron is in the Diagon Alley section of Universal Studios theme park. It is open for lunch and dinner daily.