“ The Gate, Unit 7, Newgate St, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 5TG. Tel:+44 191 260 5005 „
My local wokmania is situated in the gate entertainment complex in Newcastle which also has a cinema, casino and some other types of restaurant as well. I've been there before with my parents, but went recently when me and my friends wanted to go for a meal somewhere in the city before seeing a concert at the city hall.
The set up is quite simple and makes for a relaxed meal, if you want something more formal or even romantic then I would recommend going to one of the non buffet style restaurants in china town where you get a set meal and they are just next to the gate, however some of the cheap ones can be a bit questionable! You just walk in and then can pick your own table, we arrived at around 6pm on a Tuesday night so of course it wasn't very busy, we were easily able to get a table but you might have to wait at other times, especially on Friday and Saturday nights of course! Everyone who sits in the restaurant must pay for the buffet price so its not a place to go for drinks. It has very tasteful decor but nothing over the top so therefore you don't need to dress fancy for it, a t shirt and jeans will do and thats what most of the people in it were wearing when we went!
The buffet table takes up most of one wall of the restaurant and you do of course have to get up to get your food and drink, this could be a potential problem but it seemed to be mostly fine. There was a drink station in the middle of the restaurant and a bar at the entrance to restaurant, because there is quite a bit of spicy food the drinks are where they really get your money, so I would recommend going for the option where you pay around £2.00 then get an unlimited amount of soft drink such as coke or fanta which you refill yourself.
There are so many different types of food with many different courses available. The buffet is different from lunch time to evening time because of the prices, the difference is mainly that in the evening there is a chocolate fountain, duck and a bigger variety of food. Examples of what is on both buffets include Chinese favourites such as chicken and sweetcorn soup, spring rolls, seaweed, chow mein, sweet and sour chicken , samosas and egg fried rice. I particularly enjoyed the Singapore noodles which I went back for more of! There was also surprisingly an Indian section of the buffet which included different sorts of curries and poppadums, I sampled these and I have to say that they were just as nice as the good Chinese section! The desserts section was distinctly average though, there was a chocolate fountain but it didn't taste like very good chocolate at all and there wasn't really anything Chinese here considering that it is a Chinese buffet! However the actual quality of all the food not counting the dessert was very good quality and delicious!
For the amount of food that you can have, the prices aren't too bad. It cost me £6.99 because I went between 5-7pm on a Tuesday but if it had been after 7pm then it would have cost me £9.99, so try to go earlier if you can!
If you like Chinese buffets then this is definitely one to try! However if you don't eat much you might be better off going to a normal restaurant and getting a small portion!
I vowed after an incident at the start of our relationship that Mr Lools would never visit an "all you can eat" Chinese buffet restaurant ever again after one of our first dates ended in disaster. We both ended up with food poisoning after eating out at quite a well known "cheap" Chinese buffet restaurant in Newcastle. The food wasn't great and we both felt that these restaurants serve "poor quality Chinese crap" therefore I steer clear of these types of restaurants as cheap usually means poor quality.
However last month my best friend and her new boyfriend were visiting Mr Lools and I and we found ourselves in the Gate complex in Newcastle unsure of where to go for something to eat. We all fancied Chinese but didn't want to pay the price of a meal from a Chinese restaurant especially as all of the other have HUGE appetites and are not full by a standard Chinese meal. Therefore we decided to give Wokmania a go as I had heard some reasonable reviews from work colleagues.
Wokmania in Newcastle is located in The Gate entertainment complex in the centre of Newcastle just off Newgate Street. Therefore is surrounded by numerous bars and other restaurants. Wokmania is located on the 1st floor of The Gate complex.
There is nearby parking in The Gate NCP. Parking is not cheap and you should expect to pay in the region of £1.50 per hour to park in this secure multi story car park. Although expensive the car park is all underground and you can get a lift from the car park directly to inside the entertainment complex where Wokmania is located. This is great for those that do not want to brave the elements of the cold north east!
If you want to travel to the restaurant by public transport, bus stations are about a 2 minute walk away. The Gate complex is also around a 5 minute walk away from either Monument Metro Station and St James Park Metro station.
Wokmania is a chain restaurant and also has restaurants in Brighton, Birmingham, Doncaster, Sheffield and Leeds.
Wokmania describes itself as a "Fusion Buffet Restaurant with food from China , Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam.
We visited the restaurant at 6pm on a Friday night. Restaurants in Newcastle typically get busy at around 7pm in Newcastle where often you struggle to get a table without booking on a weekend so I expected to get a table in Wokmania which we did and had a choice of tables to sit at.
The restaurant was relatively busy though as there was a happy hour deal on until 7pm. So the restaurant was about half full of people making the most of the happy hour like us. The restaurant by 6.30pm was about 3 / 4 full therefore I imagine if you visited after 7pm you would not be seated immediately and would have to wait for a table. As people are coming and going constantly and eat a different paces you should not have to wait long for a table, in particular as this is more of a place to "fill up and eat" rather than go for a long romantic meal.
The restaurant itself is not at all fancy but is relatively clean and modern. The restaurant is quite dark inside as the décor is darker colours and the tables are made from dark wood as are the chairs. The restaurant is very clean and I noticed that the tables were constantly being cleared and staff were wiping tables with clean looking cloths.
The main buffet station is about 25 m long along the side wall, the soft drinks station is in the centre of the restaurant and the desserts station is at the front of the restaurant at the opposite side of the room to the buffet restaurant. Because the food and drinks are located around the restaurant you do find that there are a lot of people walking around constantly. This is not too much of a problem as the tables have enough space for people to walk around without bumping into your chairs or tables but does create quite a chaotic atmosphere especially when the restaurant is busy.
The toilets are located at the back of the restaurant away from the tables therefore you do not have to worry about getting a table located next to the toilets.
As this is a buffet style restaurant, you do not have a member of staff waiting on your every need. When you arrive at the restaurant you wait to be shown to a table and a member of staff will take drinks orders and then explain the format of the restaurant and that you can help yourself to as much or as little as you fancy.
There are a number of staff milling around clearing tables and plates off your tables. I noticed that when we were away from our table (restocking for the third time) one of the waitresses was wiping down our table as there had been some spillages so are still attentive despite not serving you your meal.
Staff are on hand to take drinks orders and when Mr Lools did re order a drink it appeared within around 2 minutes of asking which I found quite impressive as the restaurant was reasonably busy.
Once you have finished your meal and drinks rather than ask for the bill you take your table number to the till counter and pay for your meal there on the way out. I personally find this convenient as it means you are not sat waiting for someone to come to your table with the bill and then wait for them to come back to your table with your change.
Table service is not a big factor in dining at this restaurant but I certainly think that staff were very good at keeping the buffet station fully stocked. Dishes were constantly being brought out and restocked on the table. In fact on our visits to the buffet station there was always enough of each dish and no dish had run out which was great for people like me who like to try a lot of different dishes.
When we dined at Wokmania we sampled the evening menu. This included at least 10 different starters and around 25 various dishes from the main menu on the buffet station. There is a wide variety of choice in terms of dishes from a variety of Asian cuisines. In addition to the main dishes and starters there was a variety of salad dishes, rices, noodles, prawn crackers and even chips.
The starters menu included aromatic duck pancakes which I sampled. The duck tasted delicious and was quite lean as duck is often very fatty when eaten in Chinese restaurants. I also sampled some BBQ spare ribs which were also very nice. I do not really like ribs as I find there is usually too much gristle and not enough meat. However those that I sampled at Wokmania were quite lean and the meat came straight off the bone which was a good start.
The main buffet menu was very impressive with around 25 dishes. My favourites included the traditional sweet and sour chicken, beef in black bean sauce, Thai Pork in Ginger, Deep fried white bait and Lemongrass and spring onion prawns. With all of the dishes there was a good mix of sauce, meat and vegetables. Although much of the food is fried it was not overly greasy and the food tasted fresh not like it had been standing for a long time.
Between the group we sampled most of the dishes all of which were pleasant. I even had three plates of food from the main buffet station. The others in the group had around 4 plates . All diners in the restaurant get numerous plates of food so it does not feel awkward if you get up for more than one plate. I was surprised with all of the food I tried that those containing meat contained lean meat with no pieces of fat in. This was the case for chicken, pork, and beef dishes. My only criticism is that with some of the vegetable dishes the vegetables were over cooked. In terms of food quality this is very good for a buffet style restaurant but maybe not as good as the food you would get from a Chinese restaurant where dishes are made to order. Mainly because in Wokmania food has been cooked to serve on mass.
The dessert menu was quite random and the choice very wide. There was an ice cream machine which served vanilla "mr Whippy" type ice cream in addition to a chocolate fountain with a selection of fruit and marshmallows to dip in chocolate. Some of the items on the desert counter were very random such as Tunnocks tea cakes and what looked like Cadbury's chocolate fingers. I did try some banana fritters which were absolutely disgusting as the batter had not been cooked properly so these were greasy and soggy as opposed to crispy. But there was a wide choice of sponge and cheese cakes which were very tasty.
When you arrive in the restaurant and are shown to your table staff take drinks orders and are on hand to offer further drinks orders and will leave a drinks menu with you. Mr Lools and my friends boyfriend order lager and this is bottled Cobra lager. This cost £2.80 per bottle which was reasonable as often bottled beers in restaurants cost £3.50 +. My friend and I opted for soft drinks. Soft drinks cost £1.79 which is good value as this includes unlimited refills. Staff simply bring you a glass and you can take it to the soft drink station and fill it up with the drink of your choice (this included Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Tango, and 7UP).
The drinks menu had a variety of drinks available. A number of bottled beers, lagers (Cobra and Stella), bottled ciders (including Magners) in addition to wines and the usual spirits. A spirit and a mixer was priced at £3. A glass of wine was also around the £3 mark but I did notice that you could purchase a bottle of house white or red for £9. The wine list was not extensive but the restaurant is not really a fine dining restaurant therefore I do not think there has been much though or much demand for wines that "compliment the dishes". I noticed that most people in the restaurant ordered soft drinks with those that did go for an alcoholic drink opting for bottled lager.
It is not possible to order lager, beer or cider on draught.
For an adult the price per person is £9.99 for an evening meal. The lunch time price for an adult is £6.99. Wokmania also offer a special happy hour if you are dining between 5-7pm Monday to Friday of £6.99 per person.
For children under 12 the price is £4.99. Included in this is unlimited trips to the buffet station therefore offering "all you can eat".
The cost of our bill came to around £38.00 for four people including 4 beers and soft drinks. This works out as around £9.50 per person which was excellent value as we had all sampled a variety of dishes and even those in our group with the biggest appetites were full.
I was pleasantly surprised by this restaurant and it certainly changed my opinion that Chinese buffet restaurants serve poor quality "Chinese" slop. This by no means is a fine dining restaurant or somewhere I would recommend going if you want a long meal where you can spend a long time chatting over dinner savouring excellent Chinese food. If you are looking for this type of restaurant go to Stowell Street which has a vast array of excellent Chinese restaurants. However if you are looking for somewhere to go as a couple or a group of friends where you can sample a variety of dishes in an informal atmosphere and eat as much as you like Wokmania is for you.
I found this excellent value for money even at £9.99 per person this is very good value for money.
I definitely will be visiting ..... wearing comfy "eating" trousers!
***2011 update Wokmania has now changed name***