|The Cardiff Bay branch of Cosmo can be found in Mermaid Quay|
When my friends invited me along for an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet on the afternoon of the Royal Wedding, I couldn’t possibly say no.
Restaurant chain, Cosmo, offer a Chinese Pan Asian banquet dining experience with the aim of “providing delicious, freshly prepared food… and prices that offer exceptional value for money.” Set in the heart of Mermaid Quay, the Cardiff Bay branch offers diners over 120 freshly made dishes from nine countries: China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Mongolia, Singapore, Vietnam and India.
Stepping into the restaurant, I am greeted by a young Chinese waitress who escorts me to a table where my friends are sat. I’m already impressed.
Abandoning our table, we make a bee-line for the buffet. With so much food on offer, this dining experience deserves the label of ‘banquet’. An endless array of hot, aromatic dishes, just asking to be eaten. Whereas some all-you-can-eat-buffets are let down by food shortages, this isn’t an issue at Cosmo. No sooner does a dish run out than a waiter is bringing a fresh one from the kitchen to replace it.
If that’s not enough, I turn around to find a selection of sizzling grills lining the back wall. At the Teppanyaki bar, the chef combines your chosen marinated meats, seafood, vegetables, noodles and sauces to produce a mouth-watering result. It looks very appealing, the queue less so. Seafood lovers will be pleased to hear there is a sushi bar, but being a bit of a food wimp I give that one a miss. Dim sum is more up my street – literally meaning to ‘touch your heart’, but in reality just small steamed dumplings filled with tasty ingredients like pork and prawn. These live cooking stations are all part of Cosmo’s ‘entertain as we cook’ philosophy, a welcome break from the self-serve buffet.
I grab a plate, but don’t know where to start. The obvious choice would be a starter but, amid my excitement, the starter/main distinction disappears and I begin to pile my plate high with anything that takes my fancy, or in other words, everything. Crispy aromatic duck with pancakes and hoisin sauce, sesame prawn toast, lemon chicken, dragon fire chilli shredded beef, spring rolls, spare ribs, you name it – I even stretch to a deep fried crab’s claw.
Retreating to our table, we waste no time in devouring our food. With sesame prawn toast being one of my favourite Chinese foods, I start with that. This is one of my takeaway favourites, but the prawn filling is quite mushy and after a few bites, my mouth is coated in grease. But with plenty of other food to get on with, I’m don’t dwell on it. The crispy duck pancakes put the smile back on my face and, bracing myself, I taste a tiny morsel of crab’s claw. My newfound bravery is shortlived when I realise it tastes like a battered fish stick. The real star of my first course is the dragon fire shredded chilli beef – crispy, moreish and just as fiery as the name suggests.
On the subject of spicy food, I just had to try some curry. Before long, I find myself circling the Indian and Thai bars, bowl in hand, pondering the possibilities. I eventually opt for Thai green chicken curry. It’s okay, but as a lover of Thai cuisine, let’s just say it’s not the best I’ve had, although it does have a nice kick to it.
Curry polished off, it’s onto dessert, and my inner fatty comes out again. I opt for profiteroles with chocolate sauce – fresh from the fountain – a wedge of moist sponge with sweet raspberry filling and to round it off, a toffee apple fritter. All three get my full seal of approval, and I pay my bill on a high – until I catch sight of a waitress bringing a shop-bought, pre-made gateaux out from the kitchen!
So, do Cosmo fulfil their aim of “providing delicious, freshly prepared food… and prices that offer exceptional value for money?” There’s no doubt the majority of the food I ate was extremely delicious, and if it wasn’t for the sight of the boxed gateaux, I’d have thought everything was freshly prepared. Gateaux accounted for, though, I’m beginning to feel apprehensive about how much of my food was produced ‘from scratch’.
That said, £12.99 is a small price to pay to enjoy an all-you-can-eat meal in a relaxed yet classy environment, perfect for dining out with friends and family of all ages. For this reason I would definitely visit Cosmo again, although whilst I enjoyed endulging in all those exotic foods, thinking about how many calories I’d consumed sent me into a state of shock (well, that or the sugar overload!)
Unfortunately, Cosmo has now closed down.