We don’t usually eat out but we decided to head to a new restaurant in Southend to try it out. Tang’s Oriental Buffet is located on the high street as part of the Victoria Shopping Centre and opened in September 2016. It’s deceptively small ground floor location Is a mere Tardis in comparison to the immense size of the restaurant which lies on the first floor.
Immediately you enter into a great environment with a grand centrepiece as you go up the stairs to the restaurant. We head to the counter and the prices for the evening buffet are £13.99 per person from Sunday to Thursday and £14.99 per person on Friday to Saturday. You head to the bar to buy your drinks from the menu, including soft drinks and alcohol. There is a huge amount of variety in the stations which in the evening included Dim Sum, Teppanyaki, Sushi, Salad, Fruit, Starters, Soups, Dessert and a chocolate fountain among others. You could certainly make many trips to each section (as we did!) with lots of different dishes to suit different tastes.
We were impressed with a lot of the main dishes they had such as Chicken in Honey Sauce, Prawns with Ginger and Spring Onions, Stir-fried French Beans, Seafood Curry, Salt and Pepper Prawns and Chicken, Preserved Tofu with Mince and Spare Ribs in Peking Sauce. There was a wide variety and the staff were very useful in replacing the trays when they were almost empty and this was impressive to see considering that in other buffet restaurants, the staff are slightly slower to replace foods.
We found the Aromatic Duck Pancakes slightly dry and the accompanying spring onions and cucumber had been pre-cut so they had dried out slightly making it hard to eat. But there were lots of options available for palates less used to the oriental cuisines such as Prawn Toast, Satay Chicken, Spring Rolls, Lemon Chicken and Deep-Fried Crab Claw.
It was good to see there was a Dim Sum station here with lots of traditional Chinese steamed goods from siu mai (pork dumplings) and har gow (prawn dumplings). Personally I would have liked to see a greater range of options there as there are plenty of other dim sum dishes that could have been served such as beef balls with beancurd or cheung fun (rice rolls). And unfortunately some of the char siu buns that we had were still frozen cold in the centre which was unpleasant.
The sushi platters were both attractive and regimented in appearance, all of them like little soldiers lining up ready to be eaten by the Southend population! Ranging from octopus and salmon nigiri and inari (beancurd wrapped around rice), there was enough sushi here to challenge any of the leading sushi companies! They tasted very authentic and were very good quality. Personally as someone who is allergic to fish, I wish there were tongs for each type of sushi so I didn’t have to use chopsticks (which they did have) to pick my own sushi up. They also had wasabi and soy sauce on hand which was good to see.
Moving onto the restaurant layout itself, there were lots of tables and none of them too close to the bar which was useful so no one could judge you too much for going up on too many occasions! The décor was great and the atmosphere suited the buzz of a brand new restaurant. I felt that some of the tables were a bit close together and I think perhaps a few tables could have been sacrificed in order to make everyone feel more comfortable.
The waiting staff were overwhelmed with it being so busy but we found they were helpful in clearing away our finished plates pretty quickly and actually the tight space meant it was easy for them to clean up the plates. It was also good to see that all of the staff said “goodbye” and “hope you had a nice meal” as we were leaving, something that not many other restaurants can claim to do!
But as with any new restaurant, there is always scope for improvement.
The desserts were very hit and miss. The coffee and walnut cake was slightly dry whereas the chocolate and orange cake was wonderfully flavourful and moist. And the slices of these cake were very large, one slice would have been more than enough and you would have missed out on other desserts. And the smaller petit fours style desserts, again, were varied in quality. The mini eclairs were fine, the carrot cake squares were lovely and spiced with a moist crumb and then the chocolate cakes were hard and dry. Some of the jelly pots were also something that reminded me of what we had for school dinners! And as a dessert connoisseur, I know what I’m talking about!
Besides the dessert, they had a chocolate fountain. All that was available to dip into the chocolate were marshmallows and I would like to have seen some fresh fruit there such as pineapple, banana and melon. Speaking of fruit, the fruit bar was good with large bowls of fruit to cleanse your palate between each plate however I would also have liked to have seen a much greater variety too with more fresh than tinned. Moreover, different ice cream flavours besides the standard 3 Neapolitan flavours would have been more exciting.
The drinks were okay, again there could have been a greater variety of soft drinks on the menu. Diet options and other brands would have improved the night. Other buffets we’ve tried had fruit crush drinks and lots of different fun drinks to try so I would like to see this implemented. In the end, we chose the Chinese tea which had free hot water refills so we just cycled through that all night but charging per drink means that it could get very expensive so perhaps charging slightly more for the drinks and offering free refills would have been better? Maybe even upping the price of the buffet and having unlimited free soft drinks and hot drinks would be more appealing! One more disappointing thing is that water wasn’t free.
One more thing that I thought could improve would be a greater variety of main dishes. These were tasty and aesthetically pleasing so I would have liked to have seen more just to try! Lastly, I understand the need for English food but it did seem rather untouched throughout the evening suggesting that perhaps the customers tonight were truly looking for more Oriental cuisine? Perhaps fewer of the 100 dishes claimed to be on offer could have been English food such as chips and nuggets and more of the Oriental dishes?
Overall this was an impressive first time in the restaurant. Obviously no restaurant will be perfect first time around but we were fairly happy with both the service, the food and the price. The average person in our party would have spent around £16 – £17 on the meal and considering the sheer amount of food we ate and what it would have cost, it was a huge bargain. From previous buffet experiences we’ve had, I would like to have seen better desserts and more variety of desserts and the same goes for drinks. But I personally couldn’t fault any of the meals I tried and I think it would also be fantastic during the day where there are fewer dishes on offer but it is just £7.99 per person from Monday to Thursday.
I would go again in the future if they made a few of the changes I suggested above with regards to the drink system and the dessert bar. It’s a great place to bring your friends and family who maybe aren’t from the area and is actually a very welcome addition to Southend High Street after the closing down of Wok and Grill, a former buffet restaurant also on the High Street. One would argue that the gap of Wok and Grill has been filled with Tang’s but we have to wait and see whether it lasts longer!
Access: 2 minute walk from Southend Victoria Station, 5 minute walk from Southend Central Station
Price: Average spend in the evening of £16 – £17 per person; average spend during lunch service of £10 – £11 per person (including drinks)