“ Address: Greenside Place / Edinburgh / Scotland „
Chinese food is my all time favourite kind of food so I was a little hesitant when a friend of mine suggested we go for dinner at a buffet because I have heard all of the horror stories about the food being under or over cooked and the quality generally not being very good.
Chinois Chinese Restaurant can be found in the Omni Centre, at the top of Leith Walk in Edinburgh city centre. The pricing differs according to the time of day that you eat, ranging from about £6 for lunch through to £13 for dinner - I think we will all agree that this places the restaurant toward the cheaper end of the market!
The lighting is fairly harsh, with a lot of strip lighting and bright white lights. This could put a lot of people off as it creates a similar atmosphere to a fast food restaurant like KFC or Burger King. The music is a little strange too; it is a mixture of cheesy pop music, traditional chinese tunes and chinese pop. The overall atmosphere is somewhat strange and unique to this place and I get the feeling that the experience of the customers depends very much on which staff are working that particular evening!
The set up is pretty straight forward, you go to the front desk, tell them how many are in your party and you are shown to a table and given a set of cutlery. You then approach the food buffet to collect a plate, fill up the plate with as much as you like and then once you have finished the plate, you can go back for more, as many times as you like.
The food itself is varied. There are the usual suspects: sweet and sour chicken, crispy shredded beef, egg foo yung as well as some more traditionally British dishes, including chips and roasted vegetables. The variety of food changes as the day goes on; when evening dinner starts, there is more seafood etc for example. There is also a range of desserts available from the refrigerator section, including cheesecakes, jelly, ice-cream etc.
There is a fully-fitted bar and the staff will provide you with whatever drinks you would like. It is worth knowing that the drinks are not included in the flat price and they will be added to the bill at the end.
I really enjoyed the evening. It was something different and, because I went for evening dinner, the food was quite delicious and I would happily go back there any time. It is a wonderful place to go with a group of friends because people are up and moving around all of the time so you get to talk to everyone in the group whereas sometimes with a big group at a restaurant, you only get to talk to the people around you. I would recommend this place.
I did go back here a second time and I found out something that I didn't know about! I went with a Chinese friend of mine and we booked a table for what she called "hot-pot". When I arrived, we went through to the back of the restaurant where there are smaller round tables. The waiting staff brought a burner with a metal tub of stock and we were handed a menu of various items including slices of beef, prawns, vegetables etc and we were asked to tick whichever items we wanted to be brought to the table. The various things were brought and my friend taught me that the little bits of food are dunked into the stock pot until they are cooked and then they are eaten.
It was absolutely brilliant and a real group get-together. It is not for the feint-hearted however! Dunking raw prawns and slices of raw beef into a pot of boiling stock is probably not everyone's idea of a good night. I know at least one of my friends was not a fan - she is a little more pedestrian with her taste! The good thing is that if you go for hot-pot, you are also permitted to take anything from the buffet in the main section of the restaurant too. It is well worth a go and at £15 or so per head, if you don't like it, it's not likely to bankrupt you and at least you can say you tried it!
It was explained to me that in certain parts of China, this is how the food is served on a regular basis. There are various piles of raw food that is all thrown into the boiling stock and then the fun is in trying to find the food again!
The view from the hot-pot part of the restaurant is also much better than the main section - there is a huge window that looks out onto trees and it feels really airy and bright whereas the main section of the restaurant has no external windows so the lighting can seem harsh (as I said above).
All in all, this place holds a lot more than you might think at first notice. My advice is to go for hot-pot after about 6.30/7 and the staff will explain what to do and where everything goes. It is really good fun! I recommend it to everyone.
I had heard a lot of good things about Chinois Chinese buffet in the Omni centre in Edinburgh so when me and my sister had a child free weekend we decided to go across to the Omni centre to catch a bite to eat and watch a film at the Vue cinema.
Chinese buffets have become a really popular type of place to eat recently. Its easy to understand why, for not much more than the cost of a take away you get to pile your plate high with all your favourites and try some new tastes too. I've been to four Chinese buffets which range from exceptionally good to the local one which served rotten prawns which made me extremely ill. Let's see how Chinois compares
It was my first time inside the Omni centre, a fabulous modern glass fronted building just outside the city centre which houses a large selection of restaurants, pubs, a health club, a nightclub and a cinema. There was no map inside the building so we wandered along the ground floor until the smell of Chinese food came wafting out and we let our noses guide us into Chinois.
We were immediately seated at a comfortable table for two with nice comfy leather seats and our drink orders were taken, a jasmine tea for me and a coke for my sister. I had a look around and the restaurant was really busy with families, couples and even a group of elderly people. The décor is modern and bright with lots of glass and different coloured lights giving the place a really modern feel. We then went up to the buffet carts to see what was on offer.
The buffet is set along two lines of heated serving dishes along the back of the restaurant with the desserts in separate fridges and tureens of soup too. It was a pretty tight squeeze getting around the food with people just avoiding bumping into each other.
The selection of starters was not brilliant, from memory I seem to remember spare ribs, samosas, spring rolls, chicken wings as well as a lot of European dishes like hash browns, onion rings and breaded mushrooms. There was also some chicken and sweetcorn soup. I can't say that any of the starters wowed me, I would say that the food was extremely average and I was disappointed not to see some of my favourites like won-tons, prawn toast or chicken balls here and thought there were too many cheap fillers like the hash browns.
Moving on to the main courses there was four or five meat dishes and a few veggie dishes with rice, noodles and chips. The only sauces on offer were sweet and sour and curry, not a lovely selection like they have in Jimmy Chungs. The food was all a bit greasy and overly spicy. I love spicy food but the curry sauce blew the roof of my mouth off unlike most Chinese curry which is mild. The noodles tasted like they had been doused in chilli oil and were so spicy that I had to leave them. One of the serving dishes contained cauliflower and broccoli which looked soggy and was lying in a pool of water, does anyone really go to a Chinese buffet to eat that? When we visited on Sunday lunchtime the restaurant was full yet there were several empty spaces in the servery which makes me wonder if they ever fill it with more dishes.
Moving on to desserts there was the usual selection of frozen cakes but also a large refrigerated section which had fresh fruit, pineapple and banana fritters and an ice cream machine. I liked the fact that fruit was available as a lighter option for those who had overindulged but I decided to get some fritters. My banana fritter had a black bit of banana inside it and the pineapple ones were extremely hard but still tasty. My sister went for the cakes. I then went and got myself a couple of bits of melon which were rock hard and far too cold to be pleasant.
It took ages for the drinks that we ordered to arrive. My jasmine tea was in one of those cheap metal teapots which you would associate with a greasy spoon type café and when I poured it out loads of the leaves came through the holes in the spout. I opened the lid to have a look thinking that the tea bag had burst but found that the tea was made with loose leaves and the strainer was simply inadequate. By the time it came to pouring my third cup the tea was stewed and disgusting so I went to the water cooler to get a glass of water. The water cooler should be renamed the water warmer because the water was placed next to the food and the cooler obviously broken or not switched on so what I got was a glass of hot tap water which was truly horrible.
The service left a lot to be desired, generally the service in buffets is good with drinks brought quickly and plates cleared promptly but empty plates were piling up on tables as they took ages to take them away. The only good service we got was from the lovely cheery bloke when we went up to pay. The toilets were a mess too with lots of toilet paper strewn around the place.
I was not impressed with my dining experience at Chinois, the food was pretty poor, the service poor and even the drinks were horrible. I always regret eating at buffets too, by the time I was finished I was unpleasantly full and had to sit down after we left the Omni centre to recover. It seems that the ethos of Chinois is quantity over quality but I would have preferred to pay a bit more and had a more enjoyable meal. It might be a good place to take a family for a cheap and cheerful bite to eat but there are far better buffets out there.
Greenside Row, Old Town, Edinburgh, EH1 3BN, UK
+44 131 556 9053
A meal cost us £6.99 on Sunday lunchtime but prices will vary depending on the time of day you visit and children under 12 eat half price.
Wigglylittleworm's unofficial guide to Chinese buffet restaurants in East Central Scotland.
1 City Buffet, Perth. Simply outstanding in both range of food and quality. It's more expensive than the rest but worth the extra.
2 Jimmy Chungs, Edinburgh. Brilliant selection and great prices.
3 Chinois, pretty poor.
4 Eastern Buffet Dunfermline, rotten prawns which gave me a very sore belly.
The cafeteria-style buffet dining experience caters for diverse tastes