Bamboo Garden

Tel: +44 (0)1524 849984
Address: New Street, Lancaster, LA1
Cuisine Type: Chinese

Filling an enormous gap in Lancaster city centre’s cuisine scene, the spacious new Chinese restaurant known as Bamboo Garden had been in business for just shy of a fortnight when we visited, intent on something, anything, as long as it came with rice.

It was a weeknight and our table, reserved, was the only available space – we weren’t the only ones curious to sample the cooking behind the smart frosted glass facade and white tablecloths. Once seated we were given a la carte menus, but we’d noticed immediately that almost everyone in the restaurant was to-ing and fro-ing between tables and the steaming buffet in one corner of the room.

Our waiter explained that the all-you-can-eat buffet is £10 per person. A cursory glance at the a la carte menu (with the additional option of set meals for a minimum of two people – £12.90 for vegetarians, £14.90 or £16.90 for carnivores) revealed that any meal-rice combination would cost around £8-9 anyway. Add the soups or starters and the decision to go for a buffet each was a no-brainer.

Of course, choice is necessarily limited to what can fit in the vats, but the buffet was proving so popular that everything was freshly cooked – no sooner were servers putting new vats in place than hungry Lancastrians were descending on the piping-hot chicken, pork and beef dishes. A selection of rice or noodles, spring rolls and two soups (chicken and sweetcorn and vegetable hot and sour) adorned one end of the selection. Old favourites beef black bean, chicken sweet and sour and Cantonese style pork were typical, if edible, mains. The sauces were tasty for all three rather than overpowering, and the vegetables were crispy and tasted fresh.

So busy was the restaurant that the buffet vats were at times momentarily empty as the staff struggled to cope with demand. A lack of forks in each table’s cutlery cup was scarcely surprising in such circumstances, but suggested that serving processes have yet to bed in.

The wine list contained a variety of well-priced choices up to the £25 mark, but the house offerings at £8.95 were recommended and plumped for. The white table wine had a pinot grigio lightness to it, although the bottle’s label failed to inform of its grape type. Drinkable, anyway.

The buffet had served its purpose of filling us up, so we opted out of puddings, which included apple, banana or pineapple fritters or toffee apples for £2.50.

But as we patted our rounded tummies at the end of the meal and prepared to pay, another teething problem evidenced itself – the bill was overcharged by some £22. An honest mistake and immediately corrected – but one that indicated again the feel of a restaurant busier than its management had expected and than its staff could cope with. But once the creases are ironed out, Bamboo Garden should prove to be a popular destination with staying power.