“ 5 Wrottesley St, Birmingham, B5 4RT. Tel:+44 121 666 6800 „
Big Wok, Birmingham.
Big Wok in Birmingham is an all you can eat Chinese restaurant located in the city centre and used to be one of my favourite places to eat until I was lured away to the amazing Ming Moon all you can eat Chinese just around the corner.
Big Wok is located in the city centre on the edge of China Town very close to the Arcadian Centre. The entrance to the restaurant is actually down a very dodgy looking side street, Wrottesley Street, and not really that noticeable at first glance. The front of the entrance is made of large glass windows with tacky looking blue frames. This initial view of the restaurant does make it look quite cheap, but nevertheless I've always ventured inside regardless!
Entering and Getting Seated
Entering Big Wok isn't exactly the most welcoming experience as there is usually a large queue of people waiting for tables and rather than have a waiting area like Ming Moon do Big Wok have you waiting in a kind of long porch area for you to stand and queue in, on the odd occasion the queue has been out of the door.
The staff who work on the door welcoming you aren't the most friendly people but they do keep the queue moving as quick as possible and are very efficient in asking you how many are in your group and getting one of the many waiters and waitresses to show you to your table.
Once at your table your table you will be asked if you want any drinks and then you are free to head for the buffet located in the far corner of the restaurant.
The Restaurant and Menu
The seating area in Big Wok is large and actually spread across 2 floors, this is a bit of a pain if you are sat upstairs as the entire buffet is on the ground floor. There are lots of tables of varying sizes and they will happily rearrange tables for larger groups if required. In my opinion the tables aren't particularly spaced out well and I have often found that I'm squeezing between chairs trying not to knock people who are trying to eat. I also find that other people are doing the same and I often have to move my chair to allow people to pass through.
The buffet area is located in the far corner of the restaurant and like the tables and chairs this is also not very well spaced out and I have found in busier times people are pushing to get to the food and it is hard to squeeze back through everyone once you have got your food and want to go back to your table. Towards the back of the buffet is an area where you can choose things like duck pancakes and the bits and bobs for making your pancakes. Next to this are 2 ice cream machines and along the back wall there is a selection of cakes, fruit and puddings to choose from. There is also a chocolate fountain in Big Wok with a selection of marshmallows and sweets, but this isn't always switched on.
The food quality in Big Wok isn't amazing, but most of the time it is good and nice enough to make us go back repeatedly. We have had the odd occasion where we have questioned the quality of the food, even more so since Ming Moon opened around the corner and just seems to be so much better quality. We've never been poorly from the food in Big Wok so this is always a good sign, but I have sometimes questioned the safety of the food as there have been occasions where I thought the food wasn't as hot as it should be or the rice was a bit hard as if it wasn't cooked properly.
Most of the time the food is kept well stocked and if anything is ever low or empty I have always found it has been stocked up by my next trip up for more food.
It seems that no matter which all you can eat Chinese I visit, I always start with a couple of pancakes with shredded duck and hoi sin sauce. This is my weak spot when it comes to Chinese and I can never get enough of them. Thankfully in Big Wok I have always found these to be delicious and the duck is nicely cooked, not too soft but not to crispy and hard either.
After fulfilling my love of duck my plate usually end up as a mixture of complete randomness, containing anything from Ribs and chips with sweet and sour sauce to chow mein noodles, lemon chicken and shredded spicy beef. These things in particular are my favourite, although I do find that from time to time the chow mein is a little 'iffy' and has a strange after taste to it which leaves my mouth dry.
I usually continue with these random mixes until I start to feel full and then I will head to the ice cream machine. For some reason I have never really liked the look of a lot of the cakes as they all seem to contain fruit and I'm certainly not a fan of fruit in cakes so I've always gone for ice cream and when possible I've stuck the bowl under the chocolate fountain on my way back to the table. The ice cream machines are self service and you can choose either a wafer cone or a bowl... of both! I've often been known to have a bowl of ice cream and then go and make myself a cone to eat walking down the road. The ice cream is really nice and quite creamy. On the one occasion which I took my little brother I think he had about 3 or 4 bowls of it!
Price wise, Big Wok is cheaper than Ming Moon and rightly so as in my opinion Ming Moon is much better!
Last time I visited Big Wok the prices were approximately (I can't remember exactly):
Lunch Time, Monday to Friday from Opening until 5pm £5.99 per person and at the weekend £6.99 and for children under 1.4m it is slightly cheaper.
During the evening the prices are higher and you can expect to pay between £9.99 and £11.99 depending on which night you go.
While I was in Big Wok I did notice a lot of signs warning you about food waste and to only take what you will eat as there is 5% charge for excessive food waste. While I see how this encourages people to choose sensibly, I would also like to know how they judge what counts as excessive. Thankfully we have never incurred this charge.
When you are leaving Big Wok you must show the person on the door your receipt before you can leave, so make sure you don't leave it behind or throw it away!
There is a bar area at the back of the restaurant but the drinks are usually brought to your table for you so I have not had to use the bar itself, but the till where you need to pay for your meal is located at the end of the bar.
If you go to Big Wok for your birthday and you inform the staff then they will play the Happy Birthday song for you and announce it over a tannoy system. While I appreciate that this is a nice idea, it is really annoying and sounds distorted, too loud and just plain terrible when they play it.
Address and Car Parking
The address for Big Wok is:
5 Wrottesley Street,
The restaurant itself has no car park so you will need to use the city centre car parks. These can be quite costly depending on your choice of car park. Using my personal experience of living in Birmingham I would advise you not to use the Arcadian car park although it is the closest it is also the most expensive, however if you have a sat nav and put in Bromsgrove Street there is a couple of car parks that are only £2.50 for a 24 hour ticket. These car parks are about a 5 - 10 minute walk away from Big Wok.
The toilets in Big Wok are clean looking, but they do smell a bit mouldy and more disturbingly, they are located through a door which opens into the middle of the buffet food area.
While I would recommend Big Wok I still prefer Ming Moon as it is just a generally nicer dining experience. I'm going to give Big Wok 3 stars out of 5 with 2 stars being lost for the cramped layout and the toilet area being too close to the food area for my liking!
Thanks for reading :)
This place is a favourite for students and is well-known across the student community of Birmingham. It is an all-you can eat Chinese buffet in the centre of Chinatown and I have known it be so popular that people have been queuing around the corner of the street to get in.
The lunch-time buffet costs £5.99 and is said to include over 60 dishes. In addition there is a "Grand Buffet" 5-11.30pm, which offers over 80 dishes with a sushi and tepanyaki bar, although this costs £9.99. Children under 2 eat free and children under 1.30m pay £4.00 at lunch and £5 in the evening.
The food actually doesn't taste too bad even though you might expect something cheap and nasty. It is rather the same as you would expect from your local take-away. There is a starters buffer, a main course buffet and a dessert buffet. Examples of starters include Mongolian lamb, sweet and sour chicken balls, samosas, spring rolls, ribs, soups and dim sum. Main courses include sweet & sour pork, chicken curry, beef in black bean sauce, egg foo yung and all the other favourites you would expect. Actually although it is a chinese buffet you also get a little bit of Indian and of course chips. There is a good vegetarian selection and generally something that most people can eat. The Grand Buffet also includes some wonderful duck pancakes and the tepanyaki where you choose your ingredients and it is cooked in front of you. Although I never have the patience for that! The desserts are where they are let down. There is an ice cream machine, some fruit salad and cake but the cake is like something you would buy at Iceland not homemade. There is also some dubious looking tapioca. At night they also have a chocolate fountain. Overall the food is usually something to look forward to and there is rarely anything I shy away from. I haven't heard any complaints yet!
The main disappointment is that in busy periods they do tend to rush you in and out and even though it states on the menu that during busy periods you may only have an hour and a half, I have only ever known them allow an hour. This makes me feel slightly peeved because they shouldn't put on the menu something that they will disregard later. Not all the staff are very pleasant either and some can only just speak English.
Although the drinks prices are not too high, expect around £2.00 for a coke, they do charge for tap water and as you now have to go to the bar yourself and if you want tap water you pour it yourself from a jug into a glass they provide after you have paid, I wonder what they are charging for. Glass rental perhaps? This gives the impression that they are out to get what they can. Also if you want to go outside to smoke or actually for any other reason you have to pay first to leave and show your receipt on the way out. I understand they don't want people to run out but I often feel like I'm at school and have to show my toilet pass or something. Although the last time I went (I don't know if it was because it was a busy period) they made me pay straight away. Once again I feel that if there is something wrong with my experience or I found something in my food I would not want to pay and this prevents you from standing your ground. I also went out to smoke once and when I came back in I was asked if I wanted a table for one by the same person who I had just shown my receipt to. I suppose if the staff are that forgetful they need to charge straight away.
Another annoying factor is that whenever it is a birthday or anniversary you have to sit through a rendition of Cliff Richard's, Congratulations. This is very amusing...the first time. However we have had a few laughs pretending it is someones birthday who hasn't been there before and them getting the shock of their life when their name and table number is announced.
You often get a lot of families here so sometimes it gets a bit chaotic and as cute as a child may, when I see them grabbing the chips directly with their hands it makes me wonder what is floating around in the dishes.
The restaurant decor itself is rather disappointing. It has school type tables and chairs that might be reserved for parents evening and it very bland. It is on two floors and the stairs are a bit steep so going to the buffet from upstairs is a bit of a hazard, especially if there has been a spillage. Apart from a few chinese posters and an advertisement for a chinese cosmetic surgery (£1500 for a sex change if anyone is looking), they really have not made much effort. You also have to get your own cutlery and serviettes so really all the waiting staff do is open the door and take you to your table.
At 5pm anyone wanting to have the Grand Buffet gets given a sticker. We went once just before 5pm and thought we were having the Grand Buffet but when I went over to the duck pancakes a hand grabbed the tongs out of my hand and demanded "Sticker!". I explained that we had told the waitress we wanted the Grand Buffet and was rudely told "no sticker, no duck!". Charming. From then on I was watched like a hawk in case I should be thief enough to steal a sushi roll.
Despite the shabbiness of the service and rip off of the tap water, I still go to this buffet, mainly because of the price and overall food quality. It is a good deal and I suppose you can't expect too much from a £6.00 all-you-can-eat and actually it is cheaper than preparing three meals in the day so sometimes I just go here for one meal for the whole day. I just think that if they were not so grabby and pushing me out, I might stay longer, buy more drinks and tip more!