I enjoy food of all sorts, although “traditional English” still tops the list. I also enjoy eating out in restaurants, and discovering new places to eat, especially when doing so with friends and family. While I tend to mostly eat out on special occasions, I am quite liberal when it comes to defining “special”. Today’s adventure was an example. After morning church, my wife announced she wanted to visit our town centre to pick up some items and suggested while there we could eat out. If there was a special occasion, besides celebrating an award earlier in the week, it was our first weekend away from our son, who is embarking upon his university career.
While Mrs B, was shopping, I decided to follow a hunch. Next door to where I do gym during the week, I had noticed they were converting the unit into a restaurant and I wanted to check out if it had opened and what was on offer. To my pleasant surprise, I found it was open for business. The name of the restaurant is Tangs (check here for their website), in the Victoria Plaza. The leaflet handed to me by the nice lady at the door contained the words: “Tang’s Oriental Buffet Restaurant – Start your gastronomic journey – Select from over 100 Delicious Dishes – Main dishes in the style of Chinese / Japanese / Malaysian / Thai”. This was enough to win me over and all that remained was to persuade the wife, who agreed we can eat there. I decided then to write about my experience, fancying myself as a restaurant critic (as yet unpaid).
It became quickly apparent that this was one of those eat as much as you want types of establishment where one serves oneself with whatever takes one’s fancy (something I find personally appealing, although if time were less an issue I still like the idea of being waited on, and similar thoughts apply if it is ambience one is looking for). The Tang set up was a slight variation on what I have been used to – here you pay in advance for the meal and then go to the bar to order, collect and pay for drinks, and you can help yourself to your preferred selection of culinary delights when you wish (with efficient waiters clearing away each plate), until you have had enough, and after that you leave. The cost of the Sunday buffet was £13.99, although during the week the cost is £7.99, which I felt represented fair to good value. My wife had a pot of tea and I indulged in my favourite Oriental Lager – Tiger beer (water was free). We found the restaurant fairly full, especially given these were early days, with a wide cross section of the Southend public among the diners. There was a good smattering of East Asians, which was a good sign.
As far as the variety of food which was on available, we were not disappointed and both me and my wife were able to enjoy our particular favourites. The challenge was, in the light of so much being available that I liked, how I could plan my return visits to the food counter without being full up early on such that I would miss out on some delights that I would certainly want to sample if I were not full. The secret was taking just a little of as many examples that caught my fancy, that I could find, with the view that if I were to make future visits I would have already made up my mind regarding preferences. In Southend, I recall two similar type restaurants: “East” and “Wok and Grill” (since closed), and it was tempting to make comparisons. While we have in the past enjoyed eating at both those establishments, our “Tangs” experience compared favourably, and if anything there was even more variety to choose from. My own approach meant making four visits: 1. Selection of starters, 2. Visit to the salad area for cold fish and sea food, 3. Selection of main courses, 4. Selection of desserts. My wife did something similar regarding her choices. As for the food, we could not find fault; it was delicious; and this coming from two food connoisseurs.
While we did not want to over-indulge, we both left fairly full and did not feel up to anything strenuous after that. As for the verdict on this our first visit, I was not over wowed. I felt the atmosphere was a little stiff and, while courteous, lacked in warmth – a few more smiling, attentive faces would not go amiss. There is need for more attention to detail – the beer could have been colder and the ice cream warmer. Yet I could not fault the efficient service. For folk who like good food, lots of it, no hanging around and at a reasonable price, Tang’s is ideal. Everything was clean and tidy. We both enjoyed our experience. As for coming back, this is something we intend to do, and Tangs is a place we would happily recommend to our friends. I hope they do well; they have made a good start.