Published: 05:00, 19 May 2022
When I read the recent Tripadvisor reviews describing the food as 'awful' and bad mouthing the staff, I was slightly nervous heading out for lunch at Spoon World Buffet in Chatham.
It’s been a long time since I’ve eaten at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Not only because of Covid, but also because I’m vegetarian and it’s always risky going somewhere that doesn’t have an online menu you can look over in advance.
But myself, my partner (also veggie) and my stepson (not veggie, but a picky eater) took a gamble and I’m pleased to say, it paid off… Well, sort of.
We strategically picked the early lunchtime slot on a Saturday to get the restaurant at its cleanest and food at its freshest.
It was confusing getting in the Spoon's door as they have a strict one-way policy, and navigating the drinks queue was also perplexing because of this, but we were seated swiftly.
After reading reviews about sticky floors and messy tables, I was pleasantly surprised that where we sat seemed clean.
It was also quite empty when we arrived. However, the restaurant quickly filled up with families and birthday parties and it soon became clear how things could quickly spiral out of control if the staff didn't keep on top of things.
We walked up to the endless rows of metal food trays and were spoiled for choice.
World buffet is right - from pizza and pasta to noodles and curries, and even a conveyor belt of sushi, the cuisine is certainly varied.
I was pleased to see lots of vegetarian options, something I didn’t expect.
I won’t list off everything we ate but our first round included soft noodles, egg fried rice and crispy potatoes, all of which were tasty.
They also had crispy duck pancakes and Chinese ribs, among other things, which looked good and were something I definitely would’ve tried in my meat-eating days.
We also gave the tofu a go, which had a nice flavour but was sadly far too chewy. The vegetables were also a bit watery, but it was nice to at least see some healthier options on offer.
On our next visit to the buffet, we sampled the curries, including paneer, lentil dahl and chickpea curry, all of which were nicely spiced. They also had meat and seafood dishes such as tikka masala and Thai green curry, to name a few.
We couldn’t resist a slice of pizza, which was nothing special but good enough, and the pastas - spinach, mushroom and tomato - which were my least favourite dishes. All three were flavourless, overcooked and cold.
As mentioned, my stepson can be picky but we encouraged him to try some new things for lunch.
He had a taste of the duck, calamari and even crab claw, all of which he surprisingly loved.
We tried to get him to taste the beef stomach, but that was a step too far.
For dessert, we squeezed some enjoyable Black Forest gateau, profiteroles and ‘eaten’ mess into our full bellies - I just hope that last one was a typo…
We also had the obligatory bowl of fruit salad, but it was sitting in sugary syrup from the tin and wasn’t great.
The staff were quick to take our plates the entire time and, other than one of the waiters looking like I’d asked for something from outer space when I requested more cutlery, they were pleasant enough.
Is it fine dining? No. Is it the best food you’re ever going to eat? No. But it definitely wasn’t the horror show I’d expected from the online reviews.
A decent amount of the food was tasty, our fussy family found plenty to eat, and my stepson has already asked if we can go back for his birthday to try even more new things, so I can’t really argue with that.
Ratings out of five
Food: Some of it was nice, some of it was bland and cold. Definitely hit and miss, but lots of options for all kinds of eaters and the allergies are displayed really clearly above every dish. ***
Drink: It’s £3 for a refillable soft drink from the slightly-sticky machine, which I thought was reasonable and actually cheaper than refillables at some chain restaurants ***
Decor: It’s recently been refurbished and, because we arrived before the crowds, it was quite clean, spacious and fairly modern looking. ****
Staff: The front of house staff were a bit bristly and very strict with how to enter and exit, but the staff who cleared our plates were on the ball. ***
Price: It’s £17.99 per person and we each had two main plates and two dessert plates so even though it’s not the best quality food, it’s certainly good value for money when it comes to quantity. ****