Restaurant review, Spoons World Buffet, Ipswich: "A jack of all trades, a master of none."
PUBLISHED: 07:54 30 October 2018 | UPDATED: 12:57 30 October 2018
Emily Cotton heads to Spoons World Buffet in Ipswich to indulge on cuisines from across the globe.
I really wanted to leave Spoons World Buffet feeling pleasantly surprised. But, to cut straight to the point, I didn’t. I can’t say I was disappointed either though, as I didn’t exactly go in with high expectations. Don’t get me wrong, I love my food and all you can eat isn’t exactly a bad thing, but there’s just something about food that’s been sitting on the side for a while, with multiple people touching it, that just doesn’t appeal to me. However, after all the hype surrounding the buffet restaurant, I thought I’d give it a chance.
My first thought was that there was definitely a huge choice of food on offer, with sections for Chinese, Italian, Indian, Japanese and traditional British roasts. I’m not really a fan of Chinese food (controversial opinion, I know), but if you are, you’re in luck as this section is by far the biggest. You’ll find everything you expect here – satay chicken, lemon chicken, chow mein, prawn toast, spring rolls, sweet and sour, egg fried rice and even duck pancakes.
We did try a good few of these dishes and surprisingly one of them was possibly my favourite dish of the evening. It’s hard to distinguish the taste of specific foods when you’ve thrown loads of mismatched choices onto one plate, but the one choice that had the most flavour had to be the mushrooms in black bean sauce.
The Italian section consists of multiple varieties of pizza – pepperoni, ham and mushroom, margherita – and pasta – carbonara, Bolognese, tomato. Both of these, as well as garlic bread, were a little cold and chewy so they’d likely be sitting there a little while. But if no ones eating them, I guess there’s no reason for them to be replaced.
The roasts section, with beef, pork, turkey and more, looked even sadder. The cuts of meat were dry and the vegetable selection was a little unexciting. But then again, I can’t image a roast dinner is the top of everyone’s agenda when visiting an all you can eat buffet.
The Japanese section of Spoons World Buffet was made up of small plates of sushi that moved their way around on a small conveyor belt. Most looked to be vegetarian, however I think there were a few California rolls with crab meat thrown in. These looked very fresh and seemed very popular, therefore the chefs behind the counter were continually preparing more.
Indian is by far my favourite cuisine, however I didn’t notice Spoons even had this until the very end, as it was tucked away in the corner. The food looked hotter in temperature here (maybe it was fresher than the rest) and there was a good selection of curries, sides and what looked to be a tandoor clay oven.
One area I was surprised by was one server cooking up fresh seafood and steak. While the chef didn’t mutter a word to us (we only knew what was on offer thanks to a couple of little signs next to him), he did nod and quickly whip up some fresh squid while we waited. It was promising to see that some of the food here was cooked up fresh when it was wanted.
A couple of final notes for the mains: the lids on all of the food are left open, so quite a lot is cold by the time you put it on your plate. Personally I think the lids should be really be shut. The restaurant would also benefit from more signs telling diners what each food is. While some are labelled, it was often the ones that were really obvious as to what they were, that had signs. Many didn’t and I can’t imagine this would be any help for those with allergies.
The dessert section, at the back of the restaurant, was made up of plenty of cakes, a few small mousses, a freezer for ice cream, crepes and a chocolate fountain. The freezer was mainly empty, with two small tubs inside – one chocolate and one strawberry – while the chocolate fountain could have done with a little more than just marshmallows to dip into it. The cake stand however had much more, with gateaus, carrot cake, swiss rolls, cheesecake and more. My boyfriend and I took a small handful back to the table to try and while they all looked delicious, they didn’t really taste of anything. There was one dessert that looked a little questionable in the corner though. A large bowl of what looked to be full cold custard, with slices of brown banana and sprinkles on top. Three lonely cubes of jelly thrown in too suggested to me this was meant to be a trifle, but a very deconstructed one at best.
There was a drinks menu on our table when we sat down, so we assumed that we went back up to the counter by the door, which looked as if it doubled as a bar, to order. We both chosen refillable soft drinks which were priced at £2.60 each. The menu said these included brands such as Tango and Vimto, however when we took our glasses to the machine to fill up, the real brands weren’t on offer and the cheap supermarket equivalents were quite flat. The drinks menu did include other choices such as juice, tea and coffee, but most were wine, beer and spirits.
My boyfriend and I went on a Tuesday evening, around 7pm, and when we first arrived it was relatively quiet. We went in the door and were immediately faced with a counter and a cashier. No welcome, just ‘please pay’. I suppose it’s simply easier to get the payment sorted first at this type of restaurant. I asked for two adults and was handed the card machine (I had to look at the machine to see the price – I wasn’t told the cost). We were shown to a table and then left to it. Throughout our time dining, our used plates were cleared pretty quickly, but there was never any interaction with any member of staff. At the end of our meal, we got up and left. I think the only times I really spoke to someone after paying was when asking if the empty spoon tray could be refilled.
If you’re after somewhere quiet to eat, this isn’t the place for you. It’s loud – with people talking all in close proximity and the noise of the kitchens – and there were children running around constantly. The tables are also set out in rows, and quite close together, so the feel of the place is very much like a canteen.
Although I wasn’t told, we paid £14.99 each for the buffet. My receipt said this was for a ‘full buffet Monday – Thursday’, so I can only assume that the cost is a little more on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. I believe there’s also different prices for lunch and a sign by the till mentioning that children over a certain height would have to pay adult prices, suggests that there’s a smaller cost for children too. Once I was back home, I tried to look online to see prices for different days, however (and correct me if I’m wrong), there’s not actually a website for Spoons World Buffet, and for the Ipswich branch, no Facebook page either – not helpful for those wanting to know how much it costs before they pay a visit.
Location and parking
Spoons World Buffet is located on St Matthew’s Street in Ipswich. While there isn’t any parking for the restaurant, there are plenty of public car parks which are just a few minutes walk away. As it is right in the town centre, bus and train links are very accessible too.
Oddly, my favourite dish and the one I thought had the most taste was mushrooms in black bean sauce. The cakes were really eye catching too, and it would be hard for anyone not to pile their plate up.
For families that all have different tastes and can never decide on a place to eat out, then a world buffet is probably a good idea. There is a huge of choice of options here and as a result, there’s something for even the fussiest of eaters. However don’t expect five star dining or exceptionally tasty dishes – not that you would when you’re serving up multiple cuisines yourself, all onto one plate.