I THINK it’s only natural to be slightly dubious of the quality of the food at any restaurant which offers a set price buffet, allowing you – if you so desire – to eat yourself into oblivion.
The Mandarin Buffet in Northampton is one such place. Hidden away behind the Lidl supermarket at the Weston Favell shopping centre, it’s easy to miss.
Nestled among a row of takeaways, the Mandarin Buffet rises above the standard of many buffet restaurants. Deceptively small from the outside, the restaurant is split into two sections, each with their own bar.
Between the two areas is what, on closer inspection, turned out to be a large boat – offering 50 different oriental dishes with starters, specials and desserts dotted around the edges.
After a short wait, me and my partner Alys were taken to a table at the edge of the restaurant and our drink orders taken. From there on it’s the customary self-service free-for-all.
This is where crucial tactics and common sense come into play, especially as I’d normally be content simply making a dash for the lemon chicken. What follows is a roundup of what we tucked into on our (multiple) visits to the food boat.
Neglecting a formal starter , I tucked into small portions of pork yuk sung, crispy shredded beef and sweet and sour chicken with rice, while Alys opted for prawn toast, satay chicken, a spring roll and crispy seaweed.
We shared two pork steamed dumplings.
The crispy beef was great, even if there was a bit more crisp than beef to the strips. The prawn toast was hot and fresh while the seaweed was crisp and tasty .
For round two, I opted for a plate of lemon chicken, a chicken ball in batter with sweet and sour sauce, a couple of Peking ribs and noodles while Alys returned with prawn stuffed mushrooms in an oyster sauce, seafood red Thai curry , a bit of the chef ’s special seafood curry and a crab claw in bread crumbs.
The strips of lemon chicken had a crisp deep-fried top and sweet sauce while the chicken ball will was reminiscent of those on sale at any Chinese takeaway. The chef ’s special curry was spicy and contained generous chunks of seafood.
On my third trip back to our table, I returned with a plate of duck, hoisin sauce, cucumber and pancakes while Alys opted for prawn and beef teppanyaki. The duck wasn’t quite as crispy as it could have been but it was plentiful. Despite dozens more main dishes on offer we decided after three plates of food, it was time to move on to desserts.
Besides slices of cakes, most of the desserts took the form of individual small pots – perfect if you want to sample a selection. I returned to my table with a mini banana mousse and crème caramel while Alys returned with a slice of black forest gateau and a mini proﬁterole. The crème caramel wasn’t fantastic, but the mousse more than made up for it.
The food at the Mandarin Buffet isn’t going to win awards, but that’s true of the majority of buffet restaurants. Saying this, everything we ate was ﬂavoursome and complemented with a great range of dishes – which we only touched the surface of.
It’s little wonder Mandarin Buffet is fast becoming a favourite with diners after a taste of the orient. Our bill came to £34.40 and included one soft drink each.
Where: Octagon Way, Weston
Favell, Northampton, NN3 8JL
Call: 01604 408388