Friday, January 9, 2015

The Leaky Cauldron Review (Lunch/Dinner)

If you look closely, the sign actually leaks!
I'm not going to lie- living in Orlando definitely has its perks. Namely, the vast array of dining venues, attractions, and experiences you just cannot get anywhere else. 

While I like Disney and SeaWorld as much as the next person, I must admit that my heart truly belongs to Universal Orlando Resort of the "big 3" as they are home to the two-part Harry Potter experience that can only be seen to be believed. The "lands" have a presence in both the Universal Studios park and the Islands of Adventure and bring to life the experiences of our favorite boy wizard and the magical civilization dreamed up by J.K. Rowling. 

Although I have been to the original Hogsmeade village which opened in 2010, I have not been in over three years and have not been with gluten and dairy intolerance a major factor in my visit. With the opening of Diagon Alley last year, I knew that I'd invariably have to make the pilgrimage there during my winter break as January is a nice time to do the parks after the mad rush of the holiday season. Diagon Alley's sole table service restaurant is the Leaky Cauldron, and arriving to the park around lunch time, I felt the timing was perfect for trip to this London landmark.

Before going any further, here's a quick refresher for those of you not so polished on your Potter lore. The Leaky Cauldron is a wizarding pub in London, England which is the gateway between the magical and non-magical world. Witches and wizards could stop in for a pint, get a room for the night, or grab a hot meal in the massive dining room before heading off to Diagon Alley to shop for various wizarding supplies. 

Cut off from the bottom of the kids menu is the cottage mini pie ($6.99).
Although the park was not swamped with people, there was a decent crowd for a weekday in January. Wanting to beat the lunch rush, my dad and I stopped in before noon and I immediately requested to speak to the manager or a chef after discovering that the restaurant is set up in quick service fashion: you order and pay at a cash register then go to a table where food is brought out to you. The Leaky Cauldron serves traditional British fare and accompanying wizarding brews- both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. Butterbeer is non-alcoholic by the way.

The hosts and hostesses managed the line brought a chef right out (I believe his name was John) and he was equipped with the house allergy binder. Covering at least the eight major allergens, the binder provided a list of what one could, and could not eat- to help chefs understand cross contamination and possible allergens in the food. 

My only option once gluten and dairy were factored in was the specialty chicken sandwich, which I was okay with. It normally comes with bacon, which I requested to be removed, and due to either gluten or dairy could not have the typical toppings (cheese, apple butter and mayo) except a roasted tomato. Gluten and dairy free buns are available. Fries are not safe (I don't know for dairy, gluten, or both), so my meal came with a side salad. Ranch and blue cheese dressing was rendered off the table so I selected Italian dressing.

Although conflicting and out-of-date info on the allergen status of butterbeer is floating around the internet, I inquired about ordering this signature brew and was sadly informed it is not an option whatsoever (but I was not clear if it was dairy or gluten containing).

Once selecting my meal, the chef escorted us to the cashier where he helped put in my order with an allergy notice. I was pleased to see that I was not upcharged for my meal.

When it (magically) appeared at our table, the runner announced my meal as the "allergy" chicken sandwich. I liked that they did this as double confirmation that my meal was prepared separately.

I initially thought I had received salmon on my sandwich due to the dining room's diminished lighting, but realized that the chicken was just thinly sliced and grilled. The bun appeared to be an Udi's bun, but I cannot say this definitively. The chicken was really good as it was juicy and well-seasoned. It had a 1:2 ratio of chicken-to-bun, but I didn't care because I was hungry and just happy to be eating a pretty great meal after mentally preparing for the possibility that I'd be turned away hungry. Its deliciousness was enhanced by a squirt of mustard and the addition of some crunchy romaine lettuce from my salad.

I ended up eating the lone roasted tomato on its own instead of on the sandwich and loved the garlic-y taste. Next time I'll request extra tomatoes on the side! The salad was rather unimpressive as a bed of greens only, but hey- it's rare to see a serving of veggies as theme park fare! I ended up not using the accompanying Ken's lite Italian dressing as I am not a fan of salad dressing or products that contain high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, and unpronounceable ingredients. It should be noted that the dressing is free from the top eight allergens. 

Overall, I really enjoyed my meal. You just cannot beat a not (too) expensive theme park meal that is not fried and includes vegetables. I would definitely go again when spending a day in the park and plan on going soon for breakfast as I saw gluten-free pancakes on the menu (I'm not quire sure if they're dairy free though Chef Bob, a quality control chef, has confirmed that the pancakes are dairy free- see my review here). To risk sounding cliche, it's simply magical to find oneself dining in a pub that only 10 years ago was a place that existed purely in my imagination. Despite the challenges and changes of growing up, for this moment in time, my inner child emerged in full force and relished the sheer magic of getting to eat out in such a magical venue.

Kudos also goes to the Leaky Cauldron staff who not only once, but twice offered to bring Locke a dog bowl so he could have some refreshment as well. 

To see my breakfast review of the Leaky Cauldron, click here.

The Basics

Address: Universal Studios Orlando; 6000 Universal Blvd, Orlando, FL 32819
Ideal For: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Drinks, Dessert
Price: See above menu with prices
Accessibility: Easily wheelchair accessible 
Special Features: From entering the pub to dining, keep your eyes peeled for enchanting details that provide an insight into the wizarding world! There is a passholder discount for those with a premiere or preferred annual pass.

Disclaimer: Restaurant reviews are based upon the information I have at the time of the review and do not reflect changes in ingredients or availability of items. Please contact the restaurant directly for up-to-date information and feel free to to contact me with any questions or comments. I was not compensated for this review and it is a reflection of my personal opinion.

The Leaky Cauldron on Urbanspoon

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