Buffet restaurants generally get a raw deal from food snobs.
I’m not usually a fan of chowing down on what other people might have sneezed over.
However, when there’s a big group with a low budget, they come into their own.
Sadly, the new addition to North Road did nothing to change my mind about the “pile it high and sell it cheap” ethos.
Formerly the sticky-floored Australian theme bar, Walkabout, and before that the cinema where I spent many happy hours as a youngster, China Town has cut a large old building down to a more manageable size.
And that’s where the praise ends.
We arrived shortly after 7pm for the evening grand buffet and some birthday celebrations.
Our choice wasn’t so grand at first, as there was no chow mein or duck on offer. A heap of boney ribs, with a sparse covering of meat, made an appearance first, followed by a chilly chow mein about 30 minutes later, contrasting with dry and overcooked duck.
Fans of battered or fried food are in for a treat, with onion rings, chips and some lurid sauces to splash about.
Pictures of Chinese lanterns on the walls were the most exotic nods to the huge wealth of taste and flavour that is Chinese cuisine.
Given that most of the dishes didn’t have labels on, it was a voyage of discovery I wished I’d never been on.
I tried a few mussels in black bean sauce – too large to pack any flavour and jaw-achingly chewy – plus fragments of duck with a gloopy hoi sin topping and some limp mixed fried vegetables.
Deep-fried chicken wings were all wing and no chicken and breadcrumb-coated balls of prawn-flavoured cotton wool came with a claw helpfully stuck in, so you have some clue where in the food chain they originated from.
However, it wasn’t all bad.
The little ones in our party loved being able to help themselves to piles of chips and bowls of brightly-coloured ice cream.
I depressed myself further with some lack lustre tinned fruit for pudding.
The staff were friendly and attentive, as our large party were pretty much the only people there, apart from a young couple on an uncomfortable-looking date. Maybe it was indigestion.
Prices, like the choice, are low – £9.95 each for food and £3.95 for kids.
You get what you pay for and according to its Facebook page, China Town is looking for a new chef, with a salary of up to £30k.
Watch this space.