Red Hot or Lukewarm?

When it comes to food, there are two types of people in this world.  

The first kind are interested in seasonal, local produce - they shop at farmers markets, want to know the provenance of their food and where the chef sources his salsify.  

The other kind gets put off by pretentious menus that list the ingredients rather than tell you the name of the dish and you probably enjoyed the guest post on the greatest sandwich ever invented.

If you fit into the first group, stop reading now.  Go on.  This is not the blog post you seek.  Trust me, you'll be much happier reading about The Potted Pig instead.

Right..... are they gone? Ok, now that it's just us, let's talk about Cardiff's latest buffet restaurant, the Red Hot World Buffet, which opened tonight.  Most of you are familiar with buffet style "all-you-can-eat restaurants" - informal dining where you can have as little (or let's face it, as much) as you like of anything from sushi through to tikka masala.  Diners fill up their plates, only to return later to sample more of the delights.  The common experience is that whilst the quantity may be high, the quality is often mediocre.

"At Red Hot, we aim to turn the image of the all-you-can-eat buffet on its head."  boasts Helen Dhaliwal, joint director of Red Hot World Buffet & Bar. "Many people associate buffets with sub-standard cuisine, with vast vats of food that have been stewing all day. At Red Hot, our five-star chefs will cook food freshly to order in front of our customers’ eyes, so they can enjoy food of a very high standard."

There is certainly a lot going on, with Japanese, Indian, Chinese, Italian, Tex Mex, Cajun, Thai, Mediterranean and British food on the menu.  But is it any good?  

Whilst I enjoyed some things - a moist, meaty hamburger; a thin but flavoursome daal makhani - other things just didn't translate well to mass catering.  The Chicken Korma was overcooked, rendering the meat dry and tasteless and the less said about the battered scallops the better (seriously, why would anyone take a sweet, tender little scallop only to turn it into scampi?!).

But let's be honest, we don't go to buffet restaurants for the quality of the food.  We go there because it's half-term, we're hungry, the kids are frazzled and everyone wants to eat something different.  We go there because one colleague loves spicy food whilst another won't eat anything other than pizza and chips.  We go because we had a few pints last night and we just need something deep fried and dripping in MSG.

It's not bad food, but it's certainly not the five star dining experience it wants to be.  Nor should it try to be.  At £7.99 for a weekday lunch up to £14.99 for a weekend dinner it's also not five star prices.  

Will you see me in there again? Probably, but I'll more than likely be hungover.


Anonymous said…
So........ better or worse than Cosmo down the Bay?
Better - the layout made it easier to get to the food without long queues & the food was less greasy
That said I loathe Cosmo!
gourmetgorro said…
Agree with your views on the food at Red Hot World Buffet.

However, I disagree with your view that the world is divided into people who are interested in the provenance of salsify and those who go to all you can eat buffets.

You're passionate about food yet you'd happily go back to Red Hot for a hangover meal. Most people would acknowledge there's a time and a place for most types of food. Things aren't black and white.
The comment fits with the Tongue-in-cheek style of this blog. Yes I am passionate about food but everyone has days when they just need something deep fried & laden with calories. On those days it is all about the Miss Millie's & Red Hot Buffets of this world.

Would I go there on a date night? No I'd much rather go to a restaurant specialising in one cuisine and doing it well.

That said whilst I appreciate provenance, lengthy menus with lists of ingredients do annoy me - but that's another blog altogether.
Tweeter Cardiff said…
The acid test with these places is always whether any semblance of quality can be maintained in the longer term.
These gigantic buffets certainly have a market (as you well described) but I personally don;t like them but that is mainly because I don't really enjoy the buffet dining experience and is why I didn't attend the opening. I always end up seriously overeating a really bizarre combination of food!
Dan Allsobrook said…
I fall into both those categories and this place sounds horrible. Although I might be tempted if I had a hangover and needed carbs.
@grangecardiff said…
Not a fan of buffets generally and would be nervous of one offering all-encompassing food from around the globe.

However, on Chinese buffets, we have been to the recently-opened Flaming Dragon chain in Cardiff and were pleasantly surprised at food standard and variety, and all importantly the fact food is refreshed regularly and not just sitting there until it congeals.

There have been some poor examples elsewhere in the city - and have also had some dreadful buffet-style meals in Chinatown in London.
Yeah have tried Flaming Dragon (once for the obligatory hangover lunch, once for a friend's birthday) and on both times the stuff in the heaters is fine. Must say that the food coming out of their "live cooking" station was rubbish - gristly meat and a rubbery little scallop. Avoid that and it's generally ok.
H Dickins said…
I've never yet been to such a place. (Ok, just once I did.) Although for me the reason is more because I don't have such a huge appetite - so I can eat a perfectly acceptable quantity at a regular restaurant, without feeling that I'm subsidising those who have more gargantuan appetites.
iain james said…
First: nice blog, Nicki. I've been reading for a year or so. Never commented before, so here's my cherry..

Even before i went (and I have been), they'd lost me with the term 'our 5 Star Chefs..'
'5 Star'? As opposed to what? 2 Star Chefs? Do they mean they have lifts to all floors and 24hr room service? Drivel..

I won't comment on the food, leave that to others, but... it's a buffet. No better or worse than most others. Buffets work great for large groups, an area where a traditional restaurants on an 'a la carte' format usually struggle. A table of 10 at 8:00 on a saturday night can usually expect a very different standard of food to a table of 2 at 7:15 on a Tuesday...

Good luck to the owners, anyway. There's always a market for this kind of thing.
Thanks for the comments both.

I agree there is a place for this, but I agree with Iain that the "5 star chefs" comment made me chuckle. Can you imagine someone passing up working at a Michelin establishment to go cook buffet style? I can't see it myself.

Howard - I think people do use it as an excuse to make pigs of themselves. I tend to stick to my 3 courses as I simply cannot ingest any more without feeling suitably ill!
Anonymous said…
Went went last night. The food was ok, better than any other buffet I've been to but I didn't really enjoy the experience. People were up and down from the table all the time and it was all a bit stressful to be honest!
It can feel a little bit like "ships in the night" if you don't time your visits to fit in with your fellow diners
Anonymous said…
Cosmo is a lot better so are many other buffet places in Cardiff
Clare L said…
I'm normally a lover of anything that says 'all you can eat.' but I went there yesterday and I would go to Cosmo every time in preference.

Based on their menu I had been looking forward to it all day. However, "Jack of all trades, master of none" springs to mind.

Admitedly the lamb sheek kebab was lovely and so was the selection of desserts, even if the woman behind the ice cream bar looked like she would reather be anywhere else and kept glaring at anyone who came up to her.

However, the rest of the food was mostly luke warm and indifferent. The low point was the soggy quesadilla.

To top it off when the table was booked (over the phone)they failed to tell us that they increase their price in the run up to Christmas. So it came as a shock when we were charged £17.99 each instead of £13.99 for a Thursday evening. Between 12 of us that was an extra £48 on the bill.

The poor guy who suggested we go there, after a previous good experience, was gutted.

The experience was a total anti-climax.
Ouch! That is beyond poor service. Sorry you had such an awful experience

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