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Friday 11 May 2012

Lunch at Cosmo

Bristol Chinese buffet Cosmo was closed for what seemed a long time, promised initially for over two months in reality it stretched out to over four and a half. Most of us assumed it was the big fight back against the monstrous buffet experience of Za Za Bazaar, of which I am not a fan in the least. So last weekend we returned to try out the newly re-opened Cosmo to see what they had done with the place.

And first impressions are good. Inside it looks fresh, new, clean and bright (before hand there was a lot of dark wood and black), a lot of white stations making it look a bit like a 60s sci-fi set, oddly they also decided to make some very strange choices over new seating arrangements, including some right by the reception area. Why would anyone want to sit by the busy and frequently crowded waiting area making you feel like an exhibit is completely bizarre. And also you end up sitting in an area furthest from the buffet, and having to push through anyone else coming into the restaurant.

When we went, the place was absolutely rammed and half of those were children between 6 and 12 swarming all over the new stations. This is nothing against children but I noted that most of them were just getting chicken nuggets and chips, and at a pan Asian buffet, this seems a bit redundant to me as you can get those for half the price elsewhere, but then I've seen plenty of adults doing exactly the same thing.

The back area of Cosmo is much brighter than before and it definitely feels less gloomy, although I did spend a minute or two wondering what the fate of all those fish that previously swam in huge glass tanks in the wall was. On that sobering note our group were swiftly encouraged to order some drinks; cokes all round apart from me, I ordered a pot of jasmine tea, which is perfect for cutting through rich food, a complete revelation to me earlier this year and I am definitely a convert.

The buffet area was rammed, it took all the will I could muster to get up and face those crowds, a feeding frenzy is not exactly my idea of a fun way to spend lunch. After nearly tripping over several herds of unpoliced children in the strangely now narrowed food 'aisles' (which now create huge tightly packed crowds) I tried to make some sense of the order in which the buffet was arranged. Curries were first in the block, the then final two were made up of various Chinese dishes and starters plus the odd tray of British fare, like hash browns, cocktail wieners and onion rings.

Cosmo Restaurant Food
Rich's first plate mostly of Indian based foods
Cosmo Restaurant Food
Rich's Duck Pancake Course
Cosmo Restaurant Food
My first plate

After fighting through the crowds, filling my plate more than I usually would just so I had a nice long wait before throwing myself back into the thick of it, we finally sat down to sample. The curries and other Indian dishes were actually quite nice and not as dry as I was expecting, which was a good thing. The Chinese selection of food was vastly reduced from what it was, which actually I think is a big mistake because what they used to do was fairly tasty. Though not the best Chinese food I've had, it was of a good standard and the selection was nicely sized too. Considering the buffet is labelled as Pan Asian at lunch time they have no Thai or Japanese just Indian, Chinese and some weak looking pasta and pizza - when I last looked Italy was not part of Asia. The black pepper pork was pretty good though and the noodles were pretty nice, and it was good to get a choice of Singapore and standard ramen sized noodles.

Cosmo Restaurant Food
Mixed Chicken Course
There was a big queue at the desserts, I rarely queue for anything especially food, so that really put me off but we waited until the massive line cleared a little before sampling. Traditionally I always get fruit after Chinese buffets so helping myself to my customary bowl of tinned peaches I returned happy. The rest of our party ploughed into the cakes and ice cream with gusto and proclaimed them pretty good.

I guess evening is a better time to try it out with more dishes on offer, hopefully they still do dim sum and sushi. Although for £7.99 it is a fairly good deal  for a lunch buffet, I just think that instead of trying to compete with Za Za Bazaar's everything-but-the-kitchen-sink cuisine choices, Cosmo should have chosen the path of higher quality Chinese food and do it really well to show how buffets can be done. I've heard fairly good things about Shanghai Night's new buffet so that may be worth a visit soon.

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