“Like a cross between a market and Selfridges Food Hall” is how a friend of mine described Za Za Bazaar after her first visit – and she’s spot on. The fixed price, all-you-can-eat “world banquet and bar” – officially Britain’s biggest dining venue – opened this week, and we headed along for the trial night for local companies on Tuesday.
Za Za Bazaar was completed in just 13 weeks – a ridiculously short amount of time considering the scale of the place. The £3m restaurant is housed over more than 30,000 square feet, seats 1,000 diners at any one time, has created 130 local jobs and can have up to 2,100 people dining on a single night. 36 chefs from around the world are supported by 8 porters, and their projected food consumption levels are astounding. Za Za reckon diners will consume:
- 1,300kg of rice per week
- 1,000kg of beef per week
- 60kg of pasta per day
- 2,500 chickens every four days
- A truckload of vegetables each day.
The extravagance doesn’t stop there. The bar offers over 300 different drinks from around the globe, including Indian lassi, Brazilian beer, Swedish cider and Thai-themed cocktails.The front entrance leads to a beautiful downstairs bar area, with exposed pipework and brown leather seats, which has space for 300 diners should the 700 seats upstairs not be enough.
The upstairs restaurant can be accessed via either stairs or a lift (the lift doors are copper-plated – I was told by the restaurant’s project manager that there was only one sheet of copper left in the country after they’d finished the restaurant) – and is an assault on the senses as soon as you walk in. The chatter of hundreds of diners, the smell of so many different types of food in one place, the noises of various foodstuffs being fried, pans being clattered onto stoves, chefs shouting to each other, the number of people milling around filling their plates with weird and wonderful combinations…it’s not a place for the faint-hearted.
Aiming to create the feel of a Far Eastern market, the restaurant is divided into “stations” for various types of cuisine. Helpfully, each diner is given a place mat that doubles as a map, so that they can decide where to go next.
While much of the food is available on a help yourself basis from large serving dishes on the counters, it’s also good to see that plenty is made in front of you: including sushi, Vietnamese pho and Indian breads.
Our group managed to sample a wide number of cuisines on offer between us – some opting for one region at a time (recommended by Za Za), some coming back to the table with plates laden with very strange combinations of foods. Highlights for us were the Indian snacks (our Indian colleague was raving about them!), Chinese duck pancakes, Vietnamese pho and dumplings.
Other options were a little hit and miss. The ribs were enjoyed by some, but deemed too chewy for others. The sushi looked fantastic, but was a little bland (and mostly involved crabsticks). And the dessert counter gave the choice of cupcakes, “Mr Whippy” style ice cream, a chocolate fountain, and a selection of mini desserts that were very much style over substance.
Lunch is priced at £6.99 Monday-Friday and £9.99 Saturday-Sunday, with dinner bookings costing £12.99 Monday-Thursday and £15.99 Friday-Sunday. Children get a great deal, with under 5′s able to dine for free, and those aged 5-11 getting their meals half price. Drinks are a little on the expensive side, but 5-7pm happy hour deals on beers and cocktails on weekdays make them more reasonable.
I’m not really sure what to make of the place, to be honest. It’s a great venue for large parties with differing tastes when it comes to eating out, and has a buzz that makes it ideal for celebratory occasions. While it’s certainly far superior to other all-you-can-eat venues in the city, it’s a little overwhelming in terms of its size. There’s no denying that the food is great value for money, but it remains to be seen whether the owners – who are planning on opening another seven “super-restaurants” across the UK at a cost of £10m over the next 18 months – have been a little too ambitious with their plans…
Find Za Za Bazaar on the Bristol Bites Directory…