And so finally after about a month of it being open, I made my way to Zaza Bazaar, Bristol’s new ‘premium buffet dining experience’, or Temple Of Gluttony - depending on your point of view. But the facts first: it offers seating to potentially 1,000 hungry eaters, it’s based in the old site of naff club experiences BRB and Baja Bar, and it’s fantastically busy, so if you do ever intend on going along book early.
So first impressions weren’t altogether that great. The ‘reception’ is about 10 feet from the main entrance, and on the Saturday we went there was a queue of about fifty people in a mass queued up back through the door and outside all looking generally confused, and the three people behind the desk looking lost. Luckily my eating companion and Za Za veteran knew to just push through, say we’d booked, collect a ticket and then head upstairs. Genius.
Once you actually get in, Za Za is probably the best looking buffet diner you’ll have ever seen. Nice wood flooring, clean and spacious and lots of bright neon-lit stalls that will make more than a few people think of Bladerunner. Unlike certain other buffets, you don’t have to pay at the start of your gorging. Instead you hand your ticket in and are shown to your seat, asked for drinks and told to go nuts. And seeing as you have to walk past most of the food on offer on the way to your seat you’re also pretty clued up as to what you want to eat by the time you sit down too.
Six stalls offer a variety of dishes under the headings of Indian, European, Tex Mex, Far East, Salads and Desserts. All pretty self-explanatory, and it must be said all pretty delicious looking. My eating friend knew what he wanted, so he was off. I was on a research mission however and therefore decided I had to try a bit of everything. First up was the Tex Mex stall, and aside from generic chips and chicken nuggets (who goes to a buffet, pays £10-20 and then just eats chips!?) there was a nice array of fresh looking meats, so I settled on a spicy burger with lots of chilli and gerkin, and one of each type of chicken wing. The burger was okay, but the wings were excellent. Strong flavours abound, nicely meaty and – a crucial one this – not greasy and oily.
Round two I thought to move on from meat, so went to look at the Salad stall. Mostly unappealing dry vegetable went untouched, as is the problem with air-con for 1,000 when combined with fresh food, but I took a clump of lettuce and one of each of the sushis on offer (with a healthy dollop of wasabi of course). Heading back in the general direction of our seat I spied the freshly grilling peri-peri chicken and thought I’d have to try some of the succulent looking hot goodness. To finish off the plate I went with some rice and a small piece each of the lamb rogan josh and butter chicken. Sadly then the sushi was ‘competent’, but ultimately felt like an own brand 99p pack from Iceland, while the rogan josh was bland and watery. The butter chicken on the other hand was really very delicious, and the peri-peri chicken was fantastic. If you try one dish at Za Za Bazaar in fact, seriously, have the peri-peri. It was that good.
Plate #3 was a purely Far East excursion, with oyster broccoli, some mystery cauliflower, Singapore noodles, sweet and sour chicken and chao chao pork forming a nicely light final savoury course. The noodles were good, not soggy or rubbery, the vegetables were properly cooked, not solid and not mushy, and the two meat dishes were great. The chao chao pork in particular comes highly recommended.
Taking advantage of the vast array of desserts was a hard choice. Faced with unlimited Smarties, jelly beans, ice cream, a chocolate fountain, cup cakes, all manner of jellies and much more besides,I settled on a trio of chocolate, taking in a profiterole, mini-brownie, and chocolate cake cube with icing so dark… it scared me frankly. I also grabbed one of the ultra-chocolicious cup cakes and hoped I wouldn’t regret the extra weight gain. Food friend had no such qualms however and bundled everything into a bowl, covered it in ice cream and then put half the bowl under the chocolate fountain. The desserts were great happily, and the fountain chocolate hardened nicely to form a shell of chocolate that can only be described as awesome.
After all that we needed a walk to ease the burden of full stomachs, but generally I enjoyed the Za Za. On the downside there’s a lot of chicken dishes, with little else, and the vegetable selection is somewhat lacking. Additionally the drinks are somewhat ludicrous. Order a pint of coke and you will get a pint of ice with 5ml of coke. Also the pricing is more expensive in evenings and weekends, and the available selection seems to match that of the price, so if you’re thinking of the cheap weekday lunch, prepare to be disappointed.
Foodwise it’s the best buffet you’ll find, with a decent array of food for carnivores, less so for vegetarians, and an ever changing guest option (poor sushi soon to be replaced by more promising Thai food). If you don’t like buffet eating then obviously Za Za will not convert you; the organization of the door staff is bizarre and the £20 option for weekend evening seems slightly ridiculous when you could just go to a decent restaurant for that price, but otherwise this is nicely presented eaterie with some good food and in nice surroundings. And it beats the hell out of Baja Bar, which was just abysmal wasn’t it?
If you are still curious check out their website