Meals for Muggles
From the soaring towers of Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft to the carnival-themed boxes of candy in Honeydukes, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando (you have to say it all) is an enchanting and exacting reproduction of a place that doesn’t actually exist. But building a magic wand shop is easy compared with conjuring up wizard-worthy meals.
The only place to sit down and eat in the new attraction is the Three Broomsticks restaurant and its adjoining Hog’s Head Pub in Hogsmeade Village, around the corner from the Hogwarts School. I don’t know what the deal is with all the hogs. Ask your kids.
Three Broomsticks is a gorgeous English inn with high ceilings and weathered wood, and lunch and dinner lines get very long. An authentic British breakfast (sausage, beans, black pudding, English bacon) is only available to those who book a vacation package through Universal, but rumor has it that will change.
The best family dinner deal is the Great Feast platter ($49.99), with salad, roasted chicken, grilled corn, char-grilled ribs and potatoes. It’s also the best food in the house. Someone in the kitchen must have been rushed on my visit: Fish and chips ($11.99) consisted of fresh North Atlantic cod with, unfortunately, too much coating; crisp outer shell, lovely fish, and a layer of gummy breading in between. The miniature Cornish pasties ($7.99)–pastry pockets filled with ground meat and veggies–are good if you have never had a real one from Cornwall, but disappointing if you have.
The Pub serves English beverages on tap—London Pride, Newcastle Brown Ale, Guinness, Bass and Strongbow cider, and a very hoppy brew called Hog’s Head Ale. In the Potter books written by J.K. Rowling, the pub is a rather disreputable place that “smells strongly of goats.” Universal’s rendition is safer, and smells mostly of butterbeer.
After slurping through the caramel and cinnamon whipped topping of butterbeer (how long it stays foamy is the real magic at WWOHP) and into the butterscotch-flavored cream soda below, I can see why there’s no alcoholic version. The sugar rush from a glass of regular ($3) or brain- and chest-freezing frozen ($4)—I liked them both—is enough to make you run around Hogwarts a couple of times.
Pumpkin juice, made with real pumpkin and, thankfully, no high fructose corn syrup, is sold by the glass at the restaurant ($3) and bottled throughout the park. Think refreshing apple juice with a pronounced pie flavor, in a cute, Halloweenish bottle for $6.25.
Chef Steven Jayson, a 21-year veteran at Universal, designed the menu and the drinks under Rowling’s close supervision. “It was difficult to reproduce beverages like butterbeer and pumpkin juice because they didn’t exist,” Jayson told me. He took the recipes directly to Rowling in Scotland to garner her approval.
“Probably 15 or 16 different takes,” Jayson says, and as far as I’m concerned, he ended up getting them right.
Three Broomsticks/Hog’s Head Pub
Universal Orlando Resort
ADDRESS 5601 Universal Blvd., Orlando