Charlotte and I are not really buffet people. We do like a breakfast buffet every now and then, but we typically don’t go out and ‘do’ a buffet. In our early twenties, though, a buffet was my dream, so when Red Hot World Buffet got in touch to invite us down for a free meal and a free (not including mocktails!) drink, we thought there was no harm in reliving some of our youth a few weeks away from a new baby arriving!
Buffet fans and foodie fans are not usually from the same worlds, and when they collide it isn’t always pretty. I pull no punches when I say that the food at Red Hot World Buffet is not the reason to attend. It is not bad; it is even rather nice in its own way at times (more on this later) but a dining experience there is more about the atmosphere, the slightly odd environment, and the general sense that it’s nice to be out with your mates having a laugh. Similarly, if you are with kids, or having a party with a group of teenagers, I can honestly think of no better place for the value offered if you go at the right times (avoid a weekend dinner if you want to avoid paying the big bucks). All that said, this is not a place for fine dining, and to be fair it is not marketed as such.
When you arrive at Red Hot World Buffet you are greeted in a nice, if slightly odd airport style of ‘checking in’ (or if you haven’t booked you are likely to be waiting in the bar area) before heading downstairs to check out the ‘departures’ area where you sit down in one of the designated spots before heading to the main buffet area. The waiters are polite, if a little rushed off their feet as they look to clear plate after plate of food whilst bringing out a range of drinks, and you are invited to place a drink order before going up to grab your first (and probably not your last!) plate of food.
The range of food on offer is clearly very diverse. To start with, I tried some sushi, some spring rolls and various other oriental offerings that were clearly marked as starters, whilst Charlotte opted for some hummus, onion bhajis, and chicken tikka pieces. The food was alright. I would say that the salad options were not bad and the sushi was certainly far better than I imagined it could be, with everything appearing fresh and like it hadn’t been sat there too long!
For our main courses, we tried to mix it up a bit again. I had a strange mixture of chicken biryani, noodles, piri piri chicken wings and some beef with black bean sauce. Charlotte declined the option to go for a full roast (but did grab a sneaky spud with rosemary and garlic!) and instead went for some chips, lasagna, chicken tikka masala, some dhal and a slice of pizza – an ‘interesting’ mix! Much like the starters, there was nothing great and nothing that was awful. It was not a foodie ‘experience’; instead it was more a case of just eating for the sake of eating, chatting, and generally having a bit of fun reminiscing about the old days and the various exploits we’ve each ‘achieved’ at buffets in years past!
For my final crack at a main dish I did stumble upon what was the closest experience of the night to a foodie moment. This involved ordering from the Oriental live station, where the chef kindly put together an excellent plate of noodles, beef and chili and onions for me in the teppanyaki style, adjusting the food to my spice and flavour requests in a way that showed that this was not just a slop on your plate job; the man was cooking it live and you would get it how you wanted it.
For pudding, we went for a range of options. As there was an advertised idea of a pastry chef on site, we both went for the almond financier, which wasn’t bad at all. The fruit cake was a bit of a soggy disaster though! The Chocolate fountain was a fun touch for families but don’t expect the finest chocolate coating your fruit or marshmallows; it is more about the fun of the experience than the eating in a strange kind of way. It does let you grab an awesome slow motion video of how it all takes place though (check out mine here). The strawberry cheesecake was rather nice, the ice cream bar was a little more show than it was delivery but certainly did its best to make you feel like a kid in a sweet store. We were both a little disappointed that we didn’t find the waffle/pancake making station as I would have been intrigued to see what it was like.
All in all, this is clearly not a foodie paradise, and nor should it be. It fills that gap in the market for a fun, slightly crazy, restaurant in which everyone can find something they like to eat (all food was nicely labelled to show if it was gluten free or contained nuts). The atmososphere is such that a group of mates can have a great time. If you are a couple, I would certainly recommend trying to sit in the room closer to the buffet area as it was a little quieter and less ‘shiny’, making for a more intimate dining area.
If you are after something classy where the focus is on the food and the tricks and innovations of fine dining then I would suggest you might have stumbled into the wrong place. Red Hot World Buffet does what it says on the tin: it brings a sample of the world’s flavours to Leeds, all in one place, and lets you have a laugh with your mates as you do it, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Categories: Restaurant reviews