I must admit that fixed price buffets are not normally high on my list of places to eat, although I'm a firm believer that everything has its place, especially in this these economically trying times. So I decided to ignore my preconceptions and go check them out.
With the help of their PR Company and a little bit of digging online, I was able to come up with some background information ahead of the night. It appears that they were founded in 2004 in Nottingham and that Cardiff is the seventh restaurant in the chain. Industry reports are that they are looking to open a further 18 sites over the next three years to bring their total to 25.
The Cardiff location is in Hill Street, the road that links the old and new sections of St David’s Shopping Centre. At 16,000 sq. feet, the two-storey restaurant represents a £1.8 million investment in the city. The figures are impressive no matter which way you look at them; 375 covers at any one time, 8,000 covers a week on average, a 5,000 sq. foot buffet area, 35 chefs, 300 dishes, 9 cuisines from 10 live stations. Wow! As for the food, well how about and expectation that 550kg rice, 1,100 pizzas, 1,200 litres of ice-cream, 800 crème brulees and 9,000 Japanese prawns will be consumed during its opening week.
Now I’m not going to pretend that all this food will be (or could be) locally sourced from nearby farms and producers. So what else, if anything, will RHWB be doing as part of its corporate social responsibility? Well, apparently, they will be creating 120 jobs for starters. When I’m not writing this blog my ‘proper’ job, the one that pays the bills, is in training and development and until recently I managed a Work Based Learning contract that provided training to people living or working in South Wales to achieve Modern Apprenticeships. As such I was delighted to discover that RHWB has created its own apprenticeship scheme in conjunction with ACT Training and has committed to taking on an additional 30 apprentices over the next year.
Helen Dhaliwal, Director of Red Hot World Buffet & Bar, said: “Our apprentices will not only have the opportunity to learn essential skills in food preparation, presentation and service, they will be helped to develop a work ethic that will allow them to flourish in the hospitality industry.
“We feel the Red Hot World Buffet & Bar’s apprenticeship scheme is an excellent way to give back to the local communities that are so integral to our success. The company is expanding by 300 per cent over the next three years, and if this scheme is successful we intend on becoming the biggest provider of apprenticeships in the UK.”
This, trust me on this, is a ‘good thing’.
So, what of the launch night itself? MrsA and I, made our way to Hill Street and were greeted with a troupe of performers outside RHWB entertaining the passers-by. Inside it was pretty packed but we spotted a few of Cardiff’s foodie glitterati across the room and made our way over and claimed some seats.
RHWB had certainly gone to town on the hospitality, there were plenty of wait staff on hand to take drink orders. There was entertainment to match the various cuisines on offer; Japanese Drummers, Indian Dancers, Italian Opera Singers, Chinese Dragon Dancers and whatever the Tex-Mex equivalent of a Mariachi band would be. BBC News Presenter Sian Lloyd was on hand to act as host and to ‘interview’ some of RHWB’s key players.
I’m not going to write a food review based on the launch night as I think that it’s only fair to give them a few weeks to bed themselves in. But I will say two things about the food service. Firstly, with the place absolutely heaving, I did expect the buffet to be overwhelmed when it was opened as everyone rushed to get food. Surprisingly not! This is after all a tried and tested formula and so it was pretty easy to get to the food. Even the live service stations coped admirably. Secondly, of all the things I tried on the night there was only one that I shook my head to after a mouthful and passed on and that was a dessert. Oh sure some things were better than others but on the whole everything was pretty reasonable. Quite impressive for a first night.
With a week day price point of £7.99 for lunch, £13.99 for dinner and kids under 10 eating for half price, it’s hard to fault on the value for money stakes. Throw in the huge amount of choice (where else are you going to get Cottage pie with cheddar and mustard mash, Prawn Sashimi, Mexican Bean Salad, Chick Pea Masala, a tray of Taco’s, Crispy Seaweed and Chicken Yakitori all on the same menu) and it’s bound to appeal to a huge cross section of people. Got one fussy eater in the family? This is the place for you. Vegetarians might think they’ve died and gone to heaven such is the choice; although they might have missed a trick by not putting those little v’s on the menu.
My plan is to go back in early December, when they’ll have had a chance to iron out the inevitable kinks that a new location and new staff must bring and do a review proper. Until then, if you are in Cardiff doing your shopping and can’t quite decide what you fancy to eat then it might just be worth giving the City’s newest food offering a try.
Red Hot World Buffet
03-06 Hills Street
Cardiff CF10 2LE
Tel: 029 2034 2499