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All you can eat, unlimited buffet food at great price
Member Name: julwhite
Advantages: All you can eat! Good quality food
Disadvantages: Need to resolve dirty cutlery problems and stock control
I am a massive fan of all you can eat restaurants, so when I heard about this chain on the BBC, I thought I'd give it a go. In short, it's an all you can eat, but with lots of choices of food.
There are around eight Taybarns restaurants in the UK, but the owners Whitbread have said that they are planning many more. I haven't heard any news of new openings, but I'm still hoping for one near Norwich!
To get in, you will likely have to queue. I've been twice, once on a quiet January night, where there was still a ten minute queue to get in, and secondly on a busy Saturday, when the queueing time was nearly an hour. It shows just how busy this place is, and it's a big venue, so very popular!
You pay on your way in, and get your drink and are shown to a table. The prices are very reasonable, I paid 8 pounds when I went, but it's cheaper at lunch-time. Certainly it's an exciting sight to see all the counters full of food when you're waiting in the queue, and a cheap way of eating! On both occasions I've gone I've got a free drink using vouchers they had e-mailed, but the drinks are still good value at normal price.
The food on offer is quite wide ranging, and is all served on a long counter which you help yourself from. I won't list everything that you can choose from, but a selection of my favourites were chilli con carne, chicken fajita wraps, roast meals and the fish and chip shop was my favourite with cod, saveloys, chips and mushy peas!
If the wide selection of main courses isn't enough, there are also starters, usually in the form of soup, and a wide selection of desserts which you can pick from. The profiteroles were my favourite without a doubt!
Drinks are all you can drink (non alcoholic) pepsi, tango and R White lemonade although there is also a selection of beers and other soft drinks should you prefer.
I went with a group of friends, some of whom were not initially sure whether they'd like the whole experience. They were worried that the food would be "pile it high" food which was cheap. It was far from that, the roasts were good quality, with the meat carved by the chef, and foods such as the cod were hand battered and good pieces of fish. The same went for all the meat that I tried.
You can re-use the same plate if you want, or go and retrieve a new one and help yourself all over again. I found that the plates were taken away relatively promptly, although it is of course a busy restaurant, and at times they do get a bit behind in cleaning down tables.
Aside from the gluttony of the whole experience, I do have some complaints however. The plates and cutlery are gone through in large numbers I understand, but they are often put back in the warmers ready for use by customers still dirty. Water marks on plates and cutlery I can understand, but there are sometimes still pieces of food on the plates, and this isn't really acceptable. I might not have high standards, but someone really should check this. You can of course just select a plate and cutlery that you're happy with, whilst putting dirty ones to one side, but this just makes more cleaning up for the staff!
The other problem was that they did have problems on one of the two nights that I went with managing to keep up with stocking the counters. Inevitably not everything can be on all of the time, but some foods were rarely replaced, and large gaps appeared in the selection. That often led to queues of people selecting from the other counters, which made the whole process rather busier than it might have needed to be.
We were told that unfortunately you can't reserve tables at Taybarns. We did ask politely, but were quite rudely told that "Taybarns don't need to do reservations". They probably don't, but it might be worthwhile making that clear without staff being slightly aggressive about it, as it was a question that I heard being asked a few times by customers.
However, these complaints didn't take away from what for me is a superb eating experience! The quality and range of the food is very good, and at the prices that they charge, amazing value.
The site is disabled friendly, and there is a disabled toilet. The toilets generally were clean and tidy, and seemed well looked after. As the restaurant is on a retail park, there is lots of parking, so this is unlikely to be a problem.
If you want to find out more about the food and the chain, Taybarns has a web-site at http://www.taybarns.com/. I'd advise signing up for their e-mail newsletter as they have sent me twice now free drink vouchers to use, which makes the evening meal even better value!
Overall, superb, and I wish that there was one nearer to me! I hope my wish will be granted!
Summary: Overall, excellent value!