N is like his dad when it comes to eating out. If they find a restaurant they like they want to eat there every day. Not really my thing as I like to try new places. But at least N will try different types of foods. Our first evening when we’re on holiday for a city break usually means going for a Pizza Express or a similar chain restaurant because it eases as in to a city and generally helps us find our way around. It also means that I know N will have a good meal to start us off.
When we were in York N had spotted an Indian restaurant on the way into the city on the bus. He decided that he wanted curry one night so who was I to say no to that. It’s rare we get to eat curry at home because the other half doesn’t eat it and I’m always a little wary with N because I never know how spicy and hot a curry is going to be for him when you order it in an Indian restaurant. So when I spotted Panda Mami in the city centre I thought this would be a great opportunity for him to try out different curries.
Panda Mami is a world foods buffet restaurant overlooking the River Ouse. I’m not usually a big fan of buffet restaurants because I’d rather sit and eat out and enjoy being waited on. But for families eating out where everyone has different tastes it works out usually good value and it means children get the chance to try lots of different cuisines.
Panda Mami isn’t the prettiest restaurant, but it does the job. Much of the seating is in booths although there are separate tables for bigger groups. The service was good with the waiting staff at the door taking us to seats quickly and explaining how it worked, then taking our drinks order shortly afterwards. N just wanted tap water, while I had a refillable diet coke. You can just take your glass up to the drinks machines, get ice if you want, then choose a fizzy drink. There are plenty of other options – usually I’m not a fan of refillable drinks because you don’t always want more than one drink, but this was ok for the time we were there as I did fill up a second time.
For an evening meal it’s £14.99 for adults and then half price for children with drinks on top. I wanted a soft drink and that meant refillable drinks while N just asked for a water which was easy enough.
The other benefit to a buffet restaurant is that children don’t have to wait to be fed they can go up as and when they’re ready rather than having to wait between courses especially when it’s a busy restaurant.
When we arrived at Panda Mami it was probably only about 5:30 so the restaurant was quite empty but it did fill up a bit more. I would imagine at weekends it would get much busier and may be at lunch times, but it did mean that there was plenty of food available and there was no waiting around for the food you wanted because it was waiting to be stocked up.
The waiting staff were very attentive and told us where everything was and what we needed to do which was good because it can seem a little confusing if you’re not used to a specific restaurant. But everything was well signed and we weren’t sitting too far across them restaurant away from the food counters which meant it was easy enough to get up and see where we wanted to go without wandering around too much.
One of the best things about Panda Mami York was how attractive all the food looks. The desserts in particular – I definitely wanted to leave enough room for those. But the different counters were set up nicely, and it was lovely to see the chefs cooking grilled skewers of your choice at one of them too.
As N was promised curry we headed for that first. He had pilau rice and korma with some random prawn crackers and poppadoms while I chose chicken tikka as well as korma and rice, plus poppadoms, and tried some cheese balls. The korma, was really nice although chicken itself was a little dry which isn’t really surprising given the way buffets work. N was very pleased with his though.
N wanted to know how much people really at eat these places so we discussed the value of the meals and how much you would need to eat to break even and how the restaurants made their money if you had people who came in and ate a lot. I love a grown up discussion now he’s older and can ask more sensible questions and put forward his own arguments and thoughts.
Before N chose his second plate of food he wanted to see what else there was available to choose from. We saw a carvery with gammon and beef alongside macaroni and a couple of other pasta dishes and more traditional foods. N can’t resist macaroni saying had to have some of that but also wanted pizza so had a bit of an Italian plate going on. He thought the macaroni cheese was delicious there wasn’t too keen on the pepperoni pizza saying it tasted a little bit weird and the pepperoni was much stronger than he would normally have.
For my second plate I decided that I wouldn’t have grilled skewers after all. I didn’t really want to wait to have those cooked but it’s great to have the option to see something cooked in front of you and you could choose different meats to have on your skewers. Instead I decided to have some Chinese food so delicious egg fried rice, sweet and sour chicken and chicken in black bean sauce. I think there was also a beef version but I’d already chosen the chicken by that point.
N went back for more macaroni cheese, while I couldn’t resist the duck pancakes. There was so much choice, I’m sure I could have enjoyed plenty of other dishes and cuisines if I wasn’t a dessert person.
Surprisingly N didn’t have any of the fruit and chocolate fountain. He investigated the desserts shelves before deciding on banana custard and some stripy jelly. I chose more from the patisserie trays, choosing a few chocolate options so I could get a taste of several. One was an Eastern European nut based dessert which was really delicious. I couldn’t fault the desserts. All of those I tried were tasty.
What we thought of Panda Mami
We had a lovely meal at Panda Mami York. It was relaxed, and not chaotic with everyone walking around to get food and drinks. There were lots of options, and for those with allergies or dietary requirements, there were little cards explaining what allergens were in the dish.
The staff were friendly even though they were kept busy, and there was fast replacement of empty plates on the counters so you didn’t have to wait long, if at all, for the food you wanted.
At £14.99 for dinner and around half of that for a child, you don’t feel you have to keep stuffing yourself too much to get a good value meal.
If we’re ever back in York I’m sure N will be dragging me back there at least once.
How do you get on with buffet restaurants?