Behind the Luxe disguise, this is the same old all-you-can-eat buffet
Guys, I’ve got great news for you. The vacant Boar Lane restaurant that was previously occupied by all you can eat buffet Cosmo is back in action as of earlier this month. Funnily enough, this entirely new restaurant also happens to have Cosmo in the name!
It’s purely a coincidence, though. The Cosmo that was here before was your standard all-you-can-eat buffet; pay your money, grab a plate, and pile it high enough to hit the break-even point on your investment. A gross, gauche indulgence in overconsumption which ignores the joy food’s able to provide, in favour of treating it simply as a means to becoming not-hungry. A petrol-station for filling-up humans. Good riddance to it.
No, this is Cosmo Luxe, a restaurant that “caters for food lovers who wish to embrace flavours from across the globe in a single, buzzing atmosphere”, and “brings an exclusive twist to the city’s burgeoning restaurant scene by combining exceptional food with the vivid theatre of live cooking.”
That theatre comes courtesy of chef stationed at a teppanyaki-style grill, ours juggles eggs and throws 6ft flames and flicks omelette into the mouths of passing staff members all while cooking a stir fry. Their determination to entertain makes the live-cooking a stand out as highlight of the Cosmo Luxe experience; just like the string concerto’s determination to keep playing was probably the best part about drowning with the Titanic.
The live cooking station is the closest thing here to fresh-cooked food, because tear off that Luxe fake-moustache disguise and this is the same old Cosmo all-you-can-eat buffet.
Head through the ground-floor bar into the basement and you’re met with enough stone surfaces and gold decor that you half expect DJ Khaled to welcome you to his crib. On one side of the room is an island full of stainless steel catering trays containing foods that coexist in as much harmony as the islanders in Lord of the Flies; sushi next to piccalilli and hummus served with (admittedly quite good) shards of fried flour-tortilla; a cauldron of soup next to a bowl of cheese slices submerged in oil. The desserts - defrost-to-serve gateaux and icing-coated profiteroles - sits right in the middle of the circuit, naturally
Next to that, an arrangement of twice-air-dried meats (once when curing, and again when left on plates on the side for who knows how long) sits on greaseproof paper with gingham tablecloth-print, a deli meat slicer suggests that they were sliced in-house rather than taken from a vacuum pack. The only bit of promotional literature about this place that isn’t total bullshit is a “Caution” sign next to vats of shepherd's pie and coq au vin.
“Guests will be taken on a culinary journey by COSMO Luxe’s expert chefs” apparently; who will “talk them through the story behind each plate, from the ingredients and cooking techniques, to the food’s cultural history.”. What we actually get are flat-screen TVs on the staircase that display blurbs about the specials (of which 3 out of 7 are actually available) and labels saying what’s in each serving dish. Sometimes they’re correct, sometimes the anchovies will be labelled as capers and vice versa. Rather than talking us through the story behind each plate, I hear one member of staff explaining to another that “people don’t care if the food is good, they just want a lot of it” - a succinct cultural history of the all-you-can-eat buffet.
The chef behind it is Mark Sweeney - full name Award Winning Chef Mark Sweeney, if the Cosmo Luxe website is anything to go by. It regales stories of when a young Award Winning Chef Mark Sweeney would “forage for berries at his mother’s behest”, and talks us through Award’s (we’re on first-name terms) love affair with Greek food, culminating in a dish of pig’s cheek and mustard mash. Because when you think Greece, you think of balmy evenings on a terrace in Santorini, eating spoon after spoon of mashed potato. Much like the website, Sweeney comes well-versed statements that hit all the key points but ultimately mean nothing, like “As a Yorkshireman, I love our proud heritage of eating well, with tradition.” and “I’m thrilled at the prospect of serving the flavours and dishes that I love most, in an environment that celebrates the joy of food”
It’s a perfect metaphor for the food here: an ebullient offering which exploits the cognitive bias that makes things look good on aggregate but crumble under the slightest examination. It’s pure fluff, filler, and only useful as ballast.
This supposedly Luxe experience will set you back £17-£24 (plus drinks and service), you can get a good buffet for that; Fazenda costs £18.50 for lunch, and their version of all-you-can-eat comes with grilled meat served at your table, a salad bar with fresh, premium ingredients, and genuine remorse when you’ve had all you can physically eat. There’s no such joy here.
If the sound of a full teppanyaki experience appeals to you, go to Teppanyaki on Cross Belgrave street. If you want charcuterie, The Reliance and Friends of Ham do it especially well. If you want comfort-food defrost-and-serve desserts, nip to Iceland on your way home and get a gateaux to demolish while watching Bake-Off. There’s hundreds of ways food can be enjoyed, this isn’t one of them.
Quiet when we visited, potential for a bloodbath when there’s competition for the food
Good teppanyaki chefs and table service.