“ 114, Upper Parliament St / Nottingham / Nottinghamshire / NG1 6LF / Tel: 0115 958 3666 / „
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I have eaten there many times, and I really love this buffet restaurant. The price is very cheap than anywhere else in Nottingham, comparing to Flaming Dragon in the CornerHouse is like £10 per person and here is £5.99 in the lunchtime buffet and £9.99 in the evening buffet, which has more choices of the food. The staffs in there are very nice and friendly that they give you a friendly introduction and express themselves to make you and their customers happy which I would say it is recommended in the East Midlands.
They do announcements to share the customers' occasions if they want it to say it out to the entire restaurant to appreciate them and to enjoy their day. Like Birthdays, Congratulations (for example, engagements, marriages and so much more) and farewells that they will miss their customers. If you don't want to have your announcement out, it's okay because they do understand of your feelings and would not make you embarrassed. They do accept your own cakes in if you want them to celebrate and prepare your cakes too for announcements and prepare in excellent time.
The service in Big Wok is amazing! Because they take your plates away from your table to keep your space clean and when you get more food, it would not be recommend using your old plate, for health and safety reasons that it would be good to have a new plate to enjoy your new set of food you picked.
In my experience that I do recommend Big Wok as your choice of Chinese food and also appreciate them that it is their first and half year of being opened. It would be grateful if you can give those ideas or suggestions to improve their attitudes, ideas of work and they will listen to you and also being grateful for telling them of what they want from you. So, please don't take Big Wok the wrong way, honestly... they have done a great job to get of where it wanted to be!
I would give a definitely a 10 out 10!
While I was at Uni, Big Wok was a bit of an institution - with a lunchtime all you can eat Chinese buffet for just £5.99, you can see why!
The Chain: Big Wok has restaurants in Birmingham, Lincoln and Nottingham, I've only had the pleasure of trying the Nottingham branch.
The Food: The best thing about Big Wok is the vast range of dishes available. Within the £5.99 buffet there are over 30 different main courses (such as Roast Duck and Lamb Curry), and these are not limited to Chinese dishes - they also serve Thai, Malaysian and Indian. The thing I love about this place is the huge range of vegetarian options - I've found at similar buffet places I haven't always got value for money due to there being a lack of choice, but at Big Wok they have every vegetarian dish imaginable (a personal favourite is the Garlic Mushrooms). Also on offer is a range of soups, starters and noodles. If you have a bottomless pit for a stomach then there are also a variety of desserts on offer - which I find isn't often the case in Chinese restaurants. Here you can pick from Ice Cream, marshmallows dipped in chocolate from the Chocolate Fountain and Gateaux (though I would avoid this - it tastes like cardboard and looks like one of the Tesco '99p' ranges).
The Atmosphere: This is really where Big Wok is let down. The atmosphere is a cross between vultures circling a carcass (...or buffet as is the case here!) and a fast food place. The seats are tough plastic and the décor is pretty unimaginative. As it is so popular, the place is always jam-packed, and there are often big queues outside, and as children under two eat free, there is often the sound of hungry screaming kids and angry parents everywhere. My advice is to get there early (the buffet starts at 12), and to try not to get a seat on the upper floor (it is hard to maneuver a plate full of hot food up stairs and through crowds), or at the front (there is a huge glass window and the hungry faces of those queuing is enough to put you off your food).
The Service: This is another area where I feel Big Wok falls short. Last time we went we were told we could only sit down if we promised we would not take longer than 15 minutes to eat our meal (!), and we weren't allowed to leave (we had left our payment for the meal on the table, but we were meant to have received a proper receipt, which is your ticket out of there - though no-one explained this to us!). Drinks orders also take a long time to arrive, and you always feel that they are in a rush to get rid of you. Although the staff are friendly when you do catch them, they are in such a rush all the time, it's hard to get them to stop!
Overall: A good place to go for cheap food that is good quality, but not the place to take anyone you're trying to impress!
What is Big Wok?
Big Wok is a growing chain of fast food buffet restaurants, and the branch I am reviewing is the Nottingham branch. Its open from 12 noon till 11pm and the basic premise is simple - eat as much as you like from a huge selection of dishes, and pay one price for the meal and then extra for your drinks.
Do I need to reserve?
Theres no need to reserve, although you can. Simply turn up at the door when you wish to eat, and you'll generally be seated at a table within a few minutes. Generally, you get to stay for as long as you want, although on busy days you may be asked before being seated if you'd mind finishing up within 2 hours, and if you come in at lunchtime and stay beyond 6pm, you will also be charged the higher rate for the evening buffet.
Staff and Service
The staff has always been friendly on every occasion. The majority of the staff is Oriental, a mixture of Chinese, Malaysian, Japanese, and Thai. Because of this, language barriers do occasionally crop up, but very rarely.
I actually find it very surprising that the staff is so friendly and cheerful - simply because through several visits to this restaurant, I've observed exactly how busy they all are. Particularly being so close to several city centre bars and having to deal sometimes with the occasional drunken customer, I have seen nothing except professionalism from the staff, in particular the chefs operating the Sushi and Teppanyaki bar, who are very happy to chat while they prepare your food.
One thing that may put people off is that you do tend to be asked immediately upon being seated what you'd like to drink, but don't let it put you off - if you sit back for a few minutes and observe, you'll see all the staff running about like racehorses on speed trying to get tables wiped down, dishes taken away, drinks served, and people seated. It can be very hard to catch the eye of a member of staff to order a drink top up, so I find it easier to visit the bar myself to order drinks, or to ask a staff member to get what I need as they take the empty plates away.
You don't get personal staff attention here - its not through rudeness or laziness on the part of staff members, its just simply that there isn't time. No staff member is designated to a set table or group - they all chip in to get everything done, and bearing in mind this restaurant can sit hundred of customers at any one time, they do have to really exert themselves.
How is the atmosphere?
Its a very large restaurant, taking up 5,700 square feet, and extremely busy, so in can sometimes get a little loud, and especially on occasions when some unseen person has bellowed a birthday greeting down a microphone, I do find it a little too loud to be comfortable. However, apart from the aforementioned birthday greetings, generally its possible to hold a conversation without shouting, and the background music is at a decent volume (although it is packaged pop, which I hate!).
The clientele is very mixed - At lunchtimes; you get office workers, building site workers from the casino being built around the corner, families with children, and tourists. In the evenings, add into this the drinkers, the pre theater groups, people heading out clubbing, and couples.
The decor is pretty basic - Large pale wood tables, minimalist decoration, and bright lighting. Theres a Mezzanine floor upstairs that provides extra seating, (although this is somewhat inconvenient as it requires you travel downstairs to go to the toilets or to top up your plate) and a bar along one side of the room at the front. The food areas themselves are large metal cabinets, containing many dishes, and the restaurant is cluttered with cutlery stands, cleaning stations, and piles of clean crockery. The tables are very close together, and on one occasion I had to ask for a change of table simply because the narrow gap between tables meant that, with a lady sitting behind me already, my admittedly well cushioned figure was a little cramped.
Cleanliness and Hygiene
One thing that very much impressed me here was the hygiene standards - particularly from the chefs and the people topping up the food containers. Many many restaurants require kitchen staff to wear hairnets; Big Wok goes one step further. Staff who deal with the food wear gloves, hairnets, caps, and masks to cover their mouths, which goes a good way to making me feel happy with the standards here.
Staff in general seem clean and well presented, although the restaurant does seem to be fighting a losing battle with clutter. On your way to the toilets, you pass through an area near the kitchen which seems to house storage for cardboard boxes, trays of clean cutlery waiting to be polished, and several packages of the blue kitchen roll. The clutter is evident elsewhere. The area around the ice cream machine is surrounded with packets of wafer cones and ice cream mix, and the restaurant floor itself is a minefield of cutlery racks, cleaning stations, and customers making it hard to get to the food, or get to the toilets, without bumping into someone.
The toilets, or at least the ladies toilet, are very clean. They are checked every 20 minutes and cleaned every hour, and smell pleasant.
Empty plates and glasses are cleared from tables within a reasonable amount of time, considering how rushed the staff are, although occasionally empty tables remain littered with beer bottles for up to 10 minutes.
In general, they rate very well for hygiene and cleanliness, but not so much for tidiness. They clearly need more storage, as I dont feel that ice cream mix, cones, and kitchen roll should be visible to customers.
How is the food?
The food, considering the price you pay, is excellent. There are several main food areas, each with a selection of dishes. Salad bar, Starters, Main Courses, Desserts and a Noodle Bar, and in the evening these are joined by the Sushi and Teppanyaki sections. The food is replaced very frequently with fresh batches.
A selection of some of the dishes available include: Char Sui Egg Foo-Yung, Fried Tofu with Vegetables, Sweet Potato Tempura, Honey Spare Ribs, and Sweet Red Bean soup. There are 70 dishes in the daytime, and about 100 in the evening. Food quality is good - obviously, a lot of it is not authentically Chinese, but rather a westernized version, but it tastes delicious, and is obviously fresh.
They have a good vegetarian range, including many starters, tofu main courses, a selection of different vegetable dishes, and of course the salad bar. They also have some relatively plain dishes the less adventurous would enjoy - chips, roast chicken, battered chicken balls, etc. I would imagine though that the food here would not be suitable for those with food allergies, as many dished contain nuts and seeds, and are prepared in sesame oil, plus with customers serving themselves, theres a risk of cross contamination. Each dish comes with its own serving utensils, and theres a selection of sauces, spices, and peanuts to add into your dish should you need them. One problem I do have here is that I see people helping themselves to prawn crackers with their hands, which has stopped me eating them, simply because you don't know how many hands have touched them, or where those hands have been.
How are the drinks?
The drinks range is basic, a small selection of draught and bottled beers, several soft drinks, and a modest selection of wines. I'm a little saddened that they dont focus more on oriental and Asian beers - they serve Tsing Tao, but nothing else, which is a shame as there are some great lagers, and also some lovely fruit wines that I believe they could sell. The drinks are fairly priced, but don't forget they are not included in the meal, so budget separately for drinks.
The restaurant is located at Axis Building, 114 Upper Parliament Street, Nottingham, (0115) 958 3666. It does not have its own car park, but is located near several large multistory car parks, as well as to bus and tram stops. There are several bars nearby, a few nightclubs, both theatres, and a cinema, so its right in the heart of the evenings entertainment. In the daytime, its right in the heart of the city centre and convenient for the shops. Its entrance is negotiable on a wheelchair, although you may have to wait a little longer to be seated while they find you a table with suitable movement space. They are very happy to rearrange tables a little, but I would recommend if you do have any special requirements, such as a need for space to accommodate steering a wheelchair, that you phone up in advance and they'll sort it out for you.
Whats the cost?
A lunchtime buffet is 4.99 per adult, 3.00 for children under 1.3 metres, and children under 2 free. The evening grand buffet is 9.99 per adult and 4.99 for children. Choosing to have sushi or teppanyaki will set you back an extra quid in the evenings, and remember that drinks are extra.
Be aware that after paying for your meal, as you leave the restaurant you WILL be asked to show your receipt at the door. A review I read earlier online where someone thought this was rude is what inspired me to write my own review. The reason they ask is that with hundreds of people through their door every day with no reservation, its very hard to prevent dine-and-dash any other way. So long as you keep your parties receipt after paying, it's no problem, so please don't be offended when they ask.
Would I go there again?
I've already been back! I've been a total of 6 times in the last 3 months, so it's doing something right. The food, while being slightly anglicized, is hot, tasty and fresh, its very hygienic, self service means no long waits for food, and its cheap. The only downsides for me are the lack of space to move about, and the occasional struggle to catch a waiters eye, but these are not enough to put me off. I also like that they are friendly with children dining there - I have a four year old daughter, and she loves it.