Last Wednesday, I was enjoying a Michelin-starred tasting menu in a Tipi on Queen Square while the live act sang soothing Laura Marling tunes.
Three days later I was dodging elbows in the back, and plates piled high with chips, while holding my 14-month-old-daughter, at Cosmo which has reopened on Clifton Triangle.
The pan-Asian restaurant provides a buffet of up to 120 dishes from nine countries including China, Japan and India. There used to be three sections in the first version of the restaurant although the curries were never particularly appealing as they swam in their soup-like sauces; the fried foods were passably good, and the Chinese dishes were mostly quite nice.
Around the time that buffet-extravaganza Za Za Bazaar opened on the Harbourside, Cosmo shut down and in the hands of new management took some time to transform itself. The seats used to be on the outer edges of the restaurant with the central floor space left for the food.
The new Cosmo sees every available space filled with seating and with the seating area at the back of the restaurant extended to provide more covers. They have increased the number of dishes and improved the curries.
There used to be more Asian-styled desserts with jellied mousses and individual cups of creamy sweets. This has now changed to slices of cake, fruit (including cherry tomatoes) and Summertime ice cream straight from the tub.
The perils of a buffet were made apparent as my daughter and I watched a bowl of very nice looking grapes be picked over and handled by one diner before he chose only one or two bunches. The profiteroles were from frozen and some were still ever so cold. The cakes were tasty though.
The renovations mean that the food space has expanded and the aisles narrowed. One row of warmed food tubs was made of only fried food like spring rolls, prawn toast and chicken dumplings. It looked like a sea of light beige. The Chinese dishes which used to be quite edible in a late-night-takeaway sort of manner had lost any of their charm and tasted vinegary and plain. Sauces were in big squirty bottles like mass catering offerings although more care had been taken with the Indian food.
There were fresh naan and a tandoor oven for the chicken which seemed colourful and not unpleasant. There was mango chutney and lime pickle for the fresh popadoms and the usual rices. The sushi bar is only open on Sunday lunch time and evenings but the food was already being prepared and looked as it should.
The whole experience was quite depressing and not just because it was a buffet prepared for the masses but because the previous incarnation was actually quite nice.
The lunch time price of £7.99 for adults and children 1.5m or less at £3.50 means that it is accessible to families and a cheap way to eat out. It’s a shame however when eating out equates to a rushed service, a poor selection of not very appetizing dishes and a cramped experience.
As Mersina and I were venturing back to our seats, Laura Marling started playing on the radio and I guess that’s the only time that this buffet style cattle market will have anything in common with the fine dining experiences available at the moment.
See the following blog post for my housemate’s experience at Cosmo of having to delete his photos from his camera phone.