Months on from being on Radio 5 Live I realised I should host it here for anyone who missed it (and before I lose it in some PC crash etc)
Buffet Bitch on BBC Radio 5 Live
As you may appreciate Covid-19 has made going to buffets a struggle. As the hospitality industry has ground to a halt they are considering their future if there is no vaccine or treatment available.
The hotel industry is considering moving away from the breakfast buffet and industry sources discussed the plans in this Times article https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/hotels-to-bin-buffets-and-pull-plug-on-spas-as-covid-19-lockdown-eases-g9pvcs77q
I discussed the article and long term implications this policy may have on the buffet food industry in general (about 45 mins). Let me know what you think. Are buffets most at risk in this new normal or can they come back stronger than ever.
The Big London Bake, Tooting
Have you ever watched The Great British Bake Off and thought “Yeah, I could do that” The Big London Bake offers the opportunity to put yourself to the test, without humilation on national TV.
Up to ten teams of two compete to make the best bake (which changes monthly). I took my friend Alison, a great baker I still dream about the pumpkin samosas she made for a party 10 years ago.
Me on the other hand
Our Paul Hollywood for the evening was the lovely Chris, supportive, gave a delightful giggle when I told him what this blog was called. This was the man Alison and I needed to impress.
What does impress is this large tent behind the cavernous The Castle Pub on Tooting High Street. It looks the part, they have fancy Kenwood mixers and there are people to clean up after you. The dream baking environment.
Our task was to make summer inspired marshmallow cones. On paper a simple technical challenge with detailed instructions. What could possibly go wrong? The ovens are on, the materials are provided. Let’s do this!
We started with a simple task of mixing the cone batter, adding colour and flavourings (we went for a tropical theme of reds, yellows, oranges and ginger flavouring) before creating a cone to bake using the silicone stencil. This was a new challenge for us both but Alison smashed it. I only burnt 1 cone which is achievement because I don’t understand what happened.
You also have to make your own marshmallow. I didn’t even know you made marshmallows. I thought it grew somewhere, like asbestos. In the big Kenwood Mixer. For 15 minutes
It was a tough task, the silicone spatula melted for at least two groups and after what felt like half an hour we were informed, mid-piping, that we had 1 minute left. OMG!
Then came presentation, only one group (Not us, Thank Mary Berry!) failed to pipe their marshmallow centre and whilst we didn’t we (we were beaten by the attractive looking ones who had more piping time) and I am pleased with our pineapple flavoured marshmallow tropical inspired cones
Of all the experiences in London right now this by far is the most value for money, certainly one of the most interesting. There might be debate about the chosen bake, this is not something I would eat, make or even consider in my repertoire but as the team create recipes there is a real consideration to create something interesting. If you just want to competitively bake a Victoria Sponge or some Shortbread this probably isn’t for you but I am very keen to see what future months bring. The time went quickly, it is just a lovely way to spend an evening. I am not going to be auditioning for Bake Off anytime soon. Not unless Alison can help me but this is definitely a better and more welcoming option anyway.
Thanks to the lovely Joanne Mortlake at Love London Pop Ups https://lovepopupslondon.com/ for arranging my ticket.
Tickets from £35 https://www.thebiglondonbake.com/
Regal Spice, Ruislip
It has been a while. The problem, as I am sure you fellow Buffet Bitches will agree, is that I am so dangerously full after a good buffet that I can barely remember my name let alone offer a decent review.
Regal Spice, an Indian and Nepalese buffet. Whilst it may lack the Aladdins cave quality of larger buffets its small but perfectly formed menu provides classic curry cuisine. From sundries like Poppadoms and chutney (Naan is provided on the table), to side dishes like rice and noodles and an array of meat and veggie curries. All for £9.95.
There isn’t a lot to say about Regal Spice, the drinks are a bit pricier but that is to be expected in London and a worthy sacrifice for a cheap lunch. Service regarding drinks and naan breads are prompt and the buffet dishes were regularly topped up. It is a nice alternative to your curry house as the buffet also includes a small dessert selection (though if you are me your dessert might end up poppadoms and mango chutney)
If you are local to the area then it is worth a trip for a different kind of Sunday lunch but even if not it is worth the journey. 4 Plates our of 5
528-530 Victoria Road, Ruislip , Greater London, HA4 0HD
Wingstop is finally in London!
Wingstop isn’t one of the big American imports, like Taco Bell (which also arrived in London this month) or Wendy’s (which hasn’t exisited in London for a long time) but I regularly do focus groups and when I was offered a focus group in summer 2017 that involved trying wings it set over a year of anticipation.
Wingstop, which has opened in the old HSBC building on Shaftesbury Avenue faces a lot of competition from chicken rivals such as Nandos and KFC but also locally as it is close to Chinatown, Shake Shack and McDonalds. The plus with this location is that it will get a lot of passing trade, particularly tourists and theatre goers (it is opposite Harry Potter and Cursed Child and not far from the Shaftesbury Avenue theatres) but I question whether people want this style of fast food, mainly because it isn’t very fast at all.
When I arrived there was a long queue and it became apparent that service wasn’t bad, it was customers confused by the range of options. Customers face choices over what style of chicken they want, what flavour, what dip, what kind of side and what flavouring your side you has. That’s before you even get to the Coca Cola Freestyle (which British customers are familiar with in Burger King and Five Guys) machine which offers a wide range of fizzy drink flavours.
I went for Lemon and Pepper Wings with Blue Cheese dip and Wing Stop style sweet potato fries with a Freestyle drink (which is unlimted and thus on buffet bitch) I ended up with the Lemon and Pepper boneless due to miscommunication and the fact that customers seemed to be choosing boneless options on the whole. I have to complement to lovely server who thanked me for printing out my voucher (I got the wings for free and didn’t feel I was in position to complain when I got the wrong kind of chicken) but also my knowledge of the product, as I said it is clear that UK customers are struggling with the concept even though it is very similar to Nandos.
Is it worth getting excited about? I think it offers a change but foodies may struggle with the fast food style service and the relatively long wait. Each meal is cooked fresh and once you order and pay you find yourself with a buzzer, which goes off when it is ready. If you go upstairs be prepared to have to come back down to collect your meal, hence why I didn’t make a fuss when my order was wrong. I couldn’t face a 10 minute plus wait but once it sorts out these minor issues and with plans to open across the UK in a competitive market then it could become a major fast food brand; the biggest criticisms are that customers cannot mix and match flavours and it is far more expensive than KFC/McDonalds and closer to Nandos in pricing
Wingstop UK’s first branch is now open https://www.wingstop.co.uk/locations
Date of Visit: 15 August 2018
Address: 38-40 High Street
How to even begin to describe Preto (also known as Rodrizo Preto) a chain of Brazilian Steakhouses. I am aware so far, so not very buffet sounding but as well as an extensive hot and cold buffet, which includes salads, cheese and Brazilian specialities such as Fried Banana and pão de queijo (Brazilian Cheese balls, which I would recommend). What I like about the options is that the buffet options are seemingly refreshed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the same line up twice and whilst that can occasionally be disappointing it does mean that Preto is rarely a buffet you can be bored by.
The real reason to come to Preto is the meat as passadors come to your table and carve the meat in front of you. You are given a card on one side it encourages the passadors to keep on coming
If you aren’t as open to food as Buffet Bitch’s good friend Homer Simpson then you do have the option to stop, or at least pause for a bit
It could easily be cheap cuts but the variety it offers in the form of steak (rump, sirloin etc), chicken, lamb and pork as well as more interesting options such as chicken hearts and even garlic bread. Depending on your preference some meat can be over/under done. I had a concerned passador ask if I was okay with rare meat (I love all meat!) and my partner in buffets complained that the garlic beef was a bit chewy.
There is also an extensive drinks menu, which is not included in the price and the alcoholic drinks are reasonably priced and a dessert menu, which contains Brazilians classics or with a Brazilian twist. As nice as the desserts are we didn’t have them on this occasion as we were too full.
Some terrible photography below but Tripadvisor offers much better pictures
For £19.95 this is already a bargain and the introduction of 2-4-1 Wednesdays and Student Discounts makes this more value for money. Preto has numerous locations and are expanding across the UK.
2-4-1 Wednesdays are available until 2 September
25% student discount is available every day until 3 September
All You Can Eat or Buffet? or How I relate to Homer Simpson
So very few words or phrases get me excited than the word ‘buffet’ or the much more trashy ‘All you can eat’. When my mum and I went to Paris she wanted clarification on what ‘All you can eat’ breakfast buffet meant exactly the hotelier responded with a confused and very Gaul “All. You. Can. Eat?” I suppose buffet sounds classier than a suggestion you eat until cannot eat no much
Buffets bring about images of a small amount of choice that fits well together, like at a wedding or a restaurant that has a limited cuisine. All You Can Eat brings to mine Homer Simpson, a man who was never satisfied with what the Frying Dutchman could offer in it’s all you can eat range.
Homer in his quest to be full resorts to some pretty drastic action, including bringing Marge, who has a fish allergy along with him.
which results in a court case and Marge’s emotional testimony
I am obviously a Homer in this situation, I am in most scenarios involving food but All You Can Eat is never the unlimited food extravaganza you hope for. If you don’t fill up on fizzy drinks then you fill up on carbs and yes, there will be a blog about perfect buffet etiquette (send me your tips) and after the second plate you are full, except they have pudding options and you’ve already paid in advance.
Echoing The Simpsons’ Season 4 episode Bill Wisth threatened to picket Chuck’s Place when his amount of All You Can Eat fish wasn’t sufficient enough. Wisth refused to pay, the owners claimed he had violated the terms and conditions. Does that sound like a man who had all he could eat?
Buffet life is tough and often unsatisfying but the frugal bitch (another blog for another day) means that buffets whatever happens on the night feel like value for money; did get at least three plates, did I try something I will never ever try again or have fallen in love with? Absolutely. A buffet, whatever your appetite, is always worth the money.
China Royal, Chichester
Date of Visit: 28 July 2018
6 Market Avenue, Chichester PO19 1YE
Mon-Fri Lunch £8.50
Mon-Thur Dinner £17.99
Sat-Sun (Bank Holidays) Lunch: £9.00
Fri-Sun (Bank Holidays) Dinner: £18.99
Children under 8 are half price
This was my first time at this restaurant, whilst it has always offered a buffet service but they brought it to your table (a Lazy Susan remains in place on large tables) now you go up to the hot trays. I went with a group of 7 and whilst there were complaints of small plates from some members of our party I actually found this lunch menu more manageable as a result.
As it was lunchtime you were limited to around 25 dishes, the website claims there are around 100 available for dinner. I stuck with the classics; spring rolls, chicken curry, prawn toast, chips and egg fried rice. The more exotic amongst you have a choice of a less beige option of ribs, mussels, noodles etc. There is nothing exciting here but it is all cooked well, hot and offers a small dessert option of vanilla ice cream and fruit, which compared to lunch options is disappointing, the ice cream is pre scooped into small silver bowls, meaning you cannot add much to it. For the £9 we paid China Royal offered an adequate lunch buffet option.
As with most buffets, there is a mark up on drinks and the service wasn’t as bad as Tripadvisor reviews would suggest; drinks were bought promptly and we were able to pay for the bill at the till with minimal issue.
Images and other reviews can be found here
China Royal’s Resturant website can be found here
I’ve decided to start a buffet blog because I love buffets. I love finding new ones, I love reading up on KFC buffets in the US and I think as people are moving away from standard dining there is an attraction to buffets as the easy option.
A buffet is about choice; they might be grouped by cuisine (Chinese, Indian and Brazilian options continue to be popular) but increasingly by lack of speciality; JRC Global Buffet, Jimmy’s and Cosmo provide global buffets, an extensive selection of cuisine from ‘around the world’. Choosing to go to a buffet such as this is increasingly popular with diners as it offers value for money choice and also deals with large groups, who have their own tastes and interests.
Global buffets are increasingly offering unlimited refills of soft drinks, though this varies from branch to branch of franchises. We aren’t yet at a point in the UK where this includes alcoholic drinks, which many are used to from foreign all-inclusive options but as large chains such as Byron, Prezzo and Jamie’s Italian struggle in the current economic climate buffets appear to go from strength to strength with Rodizio Preto opening a new branch in Colchester but is the bubble set to burst with the high rents and changes in tastes that have seen larger chains move away from city centre locations. Will the buffet find itself banished to retail parks to continue to offer value for money?
My blog will mainly be reviewing buffets I know and love and those that are new to me but I will try to cover openings of new branches and the rise of new buffet chains.
I hope you will join me on my journey and please send me in your reviews and comments. This isn’t Trip Advisor but we will do our best.