Social & Social Media Secretary Kitty Grant reviews Coventry’s new buffet restaurant Umami World Kitchen.

Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences student and Social and Social Media Secretary
Images by Kitty Grant

Many buffets specialise in a specific cuisine, but Umami in Coventry’s main selling point is that they are an all-you-can-eat buffet which offers food from around the world. Their website describes it as a ‘gourmet tour of the world’s tastiest dishes’, and while there were lots of options from around the world (well, Eurasia to be specific) the word ‘gourmet’ is a little generous.

I was not sure what to expect from Umami before we arrived. Buffets are not generally known for having high quality food, but having read about the £1 million investment in refurbishing the restaurant, I was cautiously optimistic that the food would match the fancy decor. Unfortunately, Umami had the same pitfalls as many other buffets: most of the food was not very hot and nothing seemed very fresh.

My plus one and I first stopped by the Chinese and Indian sections, where the food was mostly underwhelming. The sauce of the sweet and sour chicken was all sour and very little sweet, and the batter of the chicken had gone soggy, which was unsurprising given that it was sitting in the sauce. I did not try many of the Indian offerings, but my plus one said that they were better than the Chinese. 

Next up I went for the continental section (although most of the food seemed more American), trying the pizza, which was okay, the chilli con carne, the mac & cheese, and the meatballs, all of which were nice. I really liked the sauce the meatballs were in and the mac & cheese was the only dish which made me go back for seconds.

There was also a section which had basics like fish fingers and chips. While the chips were nice, the ketchup wasn’t, and as a ketchup connoisseur that is always a bad sign for me.

Umami offers two live cooking stations: teppanyaki and a grill. I wanted to try some of the live cooking but as I do not really eat fish and thought a burger might fill me up too much, I just tried a grilled corn on the cob. I was sceptical about the fact that the corn had been perfectly charred in less than a minute, and after trying it I was pretty sure it had been pre-cooked, which is disappointing from the section where I did expect to find fresh food.

However, since I did not try them I cannot say if this would also be the case for the meat and the teppanyaki. They also had a carvery section, which my plus one said was fine but no Toby Carvery.

Last up we went for desserts. The cakes were okay but the jelly had formed a thick skin that was hard to bite through. However, the highlight of the desserts (and maybe the whole restaurant) was the chocolate fountain, which was, of course, yummy.

I also ordered a few cocktails, including the strawberry daiquiri, which tasted like it had been pre-made rather than done in house. While I don’t mind a pre-made cocktail too much, for £8.50 I was hoping for better.

This brings me to the price. At around £20 per person with prices fluctuating depending on the day, Umami is priced pretty similarly to other buffets in the West Midlands, but is still pretty steep for a student budget. If you really want an all-you-can-eat experience, I would recommend finding somewhere that specialises in a specific cuisine, as I think Umami spreads itself too thin, focusing on having lots of options rather than tasty food. 

I was also a little disappointed by the very narrow definition of ‘global’. I couldn’t find any dishes that were not from Europe or Asia, beside the rogue American choices in the continental section. I would’ve loved to see some Mexican options, or even have the chance to try dishes from less well known cuisines that I might not have tried before. However, Umami stuck to the classics we all know (and can compare to our favourites).

Overall, while Umami did have a few decent dishes, I would not recommend it since the overall quality of the food did not justify the £20 price tag.

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