Food and Drink's Harriet Laban discusses how healthy comfort eating is for your mental healthWritten by Harriet Laban on 17th December 2018
Review: Za Za Bazaar, Bristol
Adele Franghiadi reviews a recent trip to Za Za Bazaar in Bristol, for a novel experience that is sure to leave diners feeling full.
Za Za Bazaar in Bristol is a unique buffet experience, to say the least. As the largest restaurant in the UK, with the capacity to seat 1000 diners at once, it is worth preparing yourself both mentally and physically before you visit due to the sheer size of the venue and range of food on offer.
“This is not the place for wishy-washy commitment
Before reviewing the food at Za Za Bazaar, it is worth warning that preparation is also essential prior to your visit. Booking is required, and there is a £5 fee per party member who doesn’t turn up, or cancels with less than 24 hours notice, so make sure everyone is certain they can make it - this is not the place for wishy-washy commitment. The restaurant also has strict in-house timings, allowing 1h45m per table. Whilst this may seem like enough time for a meal, time flies by as you spend little time at the table with all the time spent at the buffet collection itself, so keep an eye on your watch.
Za Za Bazaar has a huge range of foods, for all tastes. There are 6 food stands and a bar listed on the restaurant plan - yes, it’s so massive that you literally get given a map - and each stand is broken down into categories within that given cuisine, which sometimes feature a "live cooking"station. The decor is very modern, and seems to be going for street-food market vibe, but in a warehouse. If you're lucky, you might also get a table that overlooks the harbourside, which is a lovely view especially at sunset.
My sister - a Za Za Veteran - recommended we start at the Indian stand, and work our way back through the cuisines on each refill-trip. However, I love Indian food, so I really went to town on my first plate and peaked way too early in the buffet process - I do not recommend doing this, it is a waste. In the excitement, I don’t actually remember what dishes I chose at this stage, but it was all delicious and surprisingly fresh-tasting, something which I’ve found is quite rare at multi-cuisine buffets.
“It was all delicious and surprisingly fresh-tasting, something which I’ve found is quite rare at multi-cuisine buffets
Having a quick wine-break at the table (2-for-1 bottles at happy hour, thank you very much), I braved the European stand. To me, this was far-less exciting and not as veggie-friendly, but I was interested to see a fresh pasta outlet. From the range of fresh ingredients, the chef can prepare a number of sauces on request, so I opted for a pesto dish. Whilst a little too salty for my liking, it was a great flavour, and again, I was impressed by how fresh the food tasted compared to my previous experience of buffets.
By this point, I was seriously struggling, so at the Tex Mex stand, I opted for nachos and salsa. Plain, I know, but great for picking at whilst you wait for the rest of your party - who paced themselves much better - to finish their current plate. However, Tex Mex was a little tricky as a vegetarian, as it was largely based around grills and burgers, so in many ways, it’s a good job I got my fill early on.
“Tex Mex was a little tricky as a vegetarian, as it was largely based around grills and burgers
Plate Four was from the Far East stand. Again, not so much for vegetarians, but this stand also has the unfortunate position of being an end-of-buffet plate, so most people are full up by time they reach it. The food, however, looked and smelled delicious, and judging by the quality of other stands, would have been just as good. There is also a Salad stand which isn’t so much for full-plates, but useful for adding some side veggies at each stage.
Finally, as if all that food wasn’t enough, we ventured into the Desserts stand. Surprisingly, most of the desserts weren't vegetarian, but I have to give credit to Za Za Bazaar for being very transparent. Many places don't bother with labelling desserts as vegetarian, which makes them all appear as veggie-friendly, but this is actually quite misleading. Whist Za Za didn't have many desserts listed as vegetarian, at least it was clear which ones were. Also, by this point, I was so full that I doubt I could have eaten much more.
One thing we hadn't realised was that Za Za Bazaar's pricing structure varies based on both time and day. Lunch prices (before 5pm) are £9.99 Monday-Thursday, and £10.99 Friday-Saturday. However, we went for dinner on a Saturday, not realising that the price would be much higher - dinner prices jump to £15.99 Monday-Thursday, and £17.99 Friday-Saturday, which we were caught off guard with. Sundays cost £13.99 across the board according to the website.
“We went for dinner on a Saturday, not realising that the price would be much higher
Overall, Za Za Bazaar is a novel experience, with surprisingly good food. It's definitely not one for a chilled and leisurely meal, and you can definitely get better food elsewhere, but for the overall experience it's definitely worth a visit with friends or family if you find yourself in Bristol.