The words Chinese buffet may fill you with dread, but fear not, for the Water Margin’s Oriental buffet is a grand tour of Far East cuisine, including Chinese, Thai, Singaporean and Malay. It’s at the new O2 centre formerly known as the Millennium Dome, and it’s the best feast you could possibly get for under a tenner.
Since the re-branding and re-opening of the Dome in Greenwich as The O2, what was once a white elephant has turned into an exciting and buzzing menu for all seasons. This is what the government should have done in the first place: made it a leisure complex with something for everyone: concert and sports arena, cinema, music club, ice rink and just loads and loads of restaurants, bars and coffee shops – all that and Tutankhamun too. Entertainment Avenue runs around the perimeter of the centre and Water Margin is part of it. A large bar takes up the ground floor while upstairs is a 300-seater restaurant. It is attractively designed in muted brown and gold with plenty of space. The centrepiece is the kitchen/serving area, from where you help yourself to up to sixty different dishes for dinner, or thirty for lunch. Nobody ever leaves Water Margin hungry…
It’s actually a nice and comfortable place to be. Nobody hassles you and the staff are all friendly and helpful. You may stay for as little or as long as you wish. Busy days are when there’s a band booked for the arena. Water Margin is therefore ideal if you are in a hurry but still wish to eat before a concert or a film. With such a vast choice of dishes on offer, there’s something to suit everybody’s taste. Pay as many visits to the buffet as you’d like, but pay just one price.
Those terrible Chinese buffets that offer you all you can eat for just £4.50 bear no relation to the top quality food dispensed at the Water Margin. The others usually fill you up with stodge but here the ingredients are high grade, fresh and attractively presented in clean metal containers which are regularly replenished. It’s impossible, however, to list every dish on offer, but some recommended ones include slices of roast pork and duck with pineapple, Chinese sweetcorn soup, which is thick and deliciously glutinous, and the ever-so-piquant hot and sour, but you can also have the Thai Tom Yum soup and one of beancurd and vegetable. A platter of starters involve lip-smacking spare ribs, chicken wings, prawn cakes, crab claws, sesame toasts and seaweed: all very appetising, and only a selection of what is actually available, such as aromatic duck and lamb, chicken fillets, minced chicken, satay chicken and red curry fish cakes. A plate of sticky sweet and sour prawns goes very well with the special noodles and the egg fried rice. One of the highlights in this marvellous selection of dishes is the Singapore laksa, a kind of soup with chicken, prawns and noodles: one of the best.
There is so much more, however, that the range is seemingly endless. Individual chicken dishes, with cashews or black bean or curry, or with lemon or sweet and sour sauces or in Teriyaki style with soy sauce. Similarly with the duck, beef, lamb and pork dishes, you can choose from any number of different ways to eat them. There are eleven main courses just for prawns, and another five for squid. Vegetarians can really go mad here and eat their way through umpteen dishes prepared just for them. And, as if that were not enough, you can choose from a range of raw ingredients of meat, seafood, vegetables and noodles and have the chefs cook them for you on the open teppanyaki hot plates.
You may think you won’t have room for a dessert but when you see the array, you’ll give in to apple or banana fritters, any of the various gateaux and ice creams, plus a range of fruit jellies and fresh fruits.
A short list of a dozen wines includes house bottles from £11 or from under £3 per glass and nothing is over £18 except the Champagnes. A good range of beers and ciders includes some Oriental ones and the usual aperitifs, spirits and liqueurs are all available plus soft drinks, coffees and teas, including China tea.
The Last Word
The price of the Water Margin buffet varies depending on when you visit. Monday to Thursday it’s £7.50 at lunchtime, and on Friday to Sunday £8.80. Dinner Sunday to Thursday costs £13.80 or £14.80 on Friday and Saturday. There are discounts for children under eleven years and up to 140cm tall, and it’s even cheaper for smaller children under 100cm tall. But, penny for penny and pound for pound, whenever you go, it’s the best value in town, particularly as the food is so very good and tasty.