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The Three Broomsticks

What: British fare in an enchanted setting
Where: On your left as you enter from Lost Continent
Price Range: $$

Grab a seat inside the tavern where Harry and his classmates unwind after a hard day of supernatural scholarship. The entrance, marked by the namesake trio of broomsticks, may appear deceptively brown and bland, as it is intended to blend in with the surrounding village. But look for subtle magical touches throughout its rough-hewn walls. The design of this wood-timbered restaurant actually inspired the look of The Half-Blood Prince film’s set, instead of the other way around. So the elaborate catwalks and seemingly endless ceilings appear to have stepped straight off the screen. From time to time, shadows of house elves and delivery owls at work appear on the walls, surrounding you with wizardry while you dine.

The eating experience itself falls somewhere between counter-service and sit-down dining. You’ll be directed by a greeter to a numbered cashier, who stands in front of an animated menu, in the style of Potter newspapers. Place your order, then pick up your food from an adjacent counter. You will be shown to an empty table by a staff member who will bus your tray at the end, and even refuse a tip. It’s a far more civilized system than elbowing your way around similar quick-service eateries, but it can lead to lines out the door at peak mealtimes.

Tip: If it’s not too hot outside, try a table on the back patio with a view of the lagoon.

Menu offerings are as authentically British as any you’ll find in a theme park, and tastier in some cases than in many an authentic pub. Shepherd’s Pie ($10) is slightly spicy seasoned ground beef and minced vegetables covered with a piped mashed potato crust; it’s served with a standard iceberg salad and an un-magical selection of dressings. Cornish Pasties ($8, with salad) take a similar meat filling and stuff it into three small half-moon pastries, sort of like British empanadas. Finally, the Fish and Chips ($12) features three generous pieces of sustainably caught white fillets, fried in an ale-infused batter, and served with wedge-cut potatoes and tartar sauce. More American-oriented entrees include rotisserie smoked chicken ($10), chargrilled ribs ($14) and combo platters ($12), all served with roasted potatoes and corn on the cob. If you’ve a Hagrid-sized appetite, consider the “Great Feast” ($50 for four, $13 each additional serving), a giant-sized rib and chicken combo platter with salad. Other options include baked potato ($3), split pea or potato leek soup ($6 with salad), or a rotisserie chicken salad ($9). Desserts ($4) include strawberry & peanut-butter ice cream, apple pie, and a chocolate trifle with cake and fresh berries.

In the mornings, a fixed-price breakfast is served for $15 including beverage. Choose from the traditional British breakfast (with black pudding, grilled tomato, and baked beans, a big hit with the Virgin Holiday tourists), Continental (with croissants and jam), American (scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes), porridge, pancakes, or Scottish smoked salmon (excellent, but would be better on a bagel). You can even start your day with a small serving of Butterbeer. Breakfast is sometimes available to regular guests; ask the greeter out front.

Attached to the side of the restaurant is the Hog’s Head Pub, a gloriously grimy shrine to intoxication. In addition to virgin Butterbeers, there’s a fine selection of European brews ($6.50) on tap, including Guinness, Bass, Stella Artois, Newcastle, Boddingtons, and Strongbow. (Bud Light is available for those who refuse to get in the spirit). The featured potable is “Hog’s Head Brew” a hoppy dark-amber Scottish ale brewed exclusively for the park. Sadly, the “Firewhiskey” on display isn’t drinkable, but a full selection of hard liquor and wine is available behind the bar if you prefer. Be warned that liquor service may be unavailable during peak periods to keep the Butterbeer flowing. There is no happy hour here, so serious drinkers will want to continue to the Watering Hole in Jurassic Park.

Tip: Be sure to slide the barkeep a tip if you want to see the establishment’s grizzly namesake (mounted behind the bar beside a brace of shrunken heads) come snorting to life.

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Universal Orlando 2011

 

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