You know already what I think of buffets: choice is an illusion! Less is more, we don’t need to be blinded by sheer variety. These places operate on a policy of “never mind the quality, feel the width” – and every other cliché you ever heard. They’re all true. Or so I thought. Not my thing though since my mother and old friend Roy love them, Red Hot World Buffet in central Manchester, one of several such establishments in provincial locations, is where we went for lunch on Easter Sunday.
Indeed, places like RHWB remain undeniably and exceptionally popular by virtue of eliminating waiting and having something to please everybody – otherwise the two biggest bugbears with standard restaurants. They commonly operate a two-sitting basis, the normal preserve of more up-market restaurants, but that is not generally an issue given that buffet means instant and all-you-can-eat dining – appealing to the inner American within all of us. Granted they mark up drinks and waitresses come round at regular intervals to top you up, but for the price you can’t really argue with that policy.
Alas, my phone was charging again so you will have to make do with my verbose description of the place, plus photos garnered from elsewhere. The logo gives you the impression you are entering a Pizza Hut, but inside it looks like a combination between a tacky night club and a brothel, with the glazed black walls and red seating. Tables and chairs, a great many of them, surround the buffet stations in the middle.
There are six, give or take, covering Oriental, Indian, Italian, Tex/Mex, cold table and desserts, though in practice you haul your plate around taking dollops of this and a smattering of that. Food for the purist it ain’t, and as a foodie the mix-and-match approach offends my sensibilities on principle, especially when you end up with a combination of dishes on the same plate and gain benefit from none of them.
Nevertheless, what it does it does with a very slick process, and in fairness the quality is much better than many of the same ilk. Also worth saying that at some stations you can get food cooked fresh to order, such as flash-fry steak and burgers on the Tex/Mex counter and Teppenyaki on the Japanese end of the Orient. Nothing worse than food kept warm for hours, though using pans of hot water used at RHB is a far better method than infra-red lamps.
Never mind the quality, feel the width is how buffets operate, but quality of ingredients and preparation here is better than most, especially the fact that they have quite obviously sourced artisan cakes from good suppliers. Some areas fare better than others. Indian comes out quite well, both the snacks and the mains, though arguably it’s pretty hard to screw up a curry, providing you’ve started off with good fresh spices and cooked it well. To choose one example, the roasts section looked far less appetising, though I didn’t actually sample any of their wares to be sure.
The choice is pretty staggering: desserts too include a huge range, supplemented by a chocolate fountain with endless things to dip in, plus a wide range of ice creams. I’d argue there are way too many choices but swamping and flattering people by choice seems to work the trick for many.
Still not my thing, but if I had to go to a buffet I would sooner it be done well. This is probably as good as it gets, short of the US – where the choice is so impossibly vast that most people simply can’t cope. The occasion where we went to a Chinese buffet in Florida and saw a couple going back repeatedly sticks in the mind. She was pretty huge, but he could only fit one cheek at a time on the chairs. That’s not dining, it’s fattening up for the slaughter!