When Harbour City describes itself as a "floating Oriental restaurant" it's not a fantastical boast.
One of our party described feeling like they were on holiday as we stepped across the walkway over the water, through the entrance and into the bar area of the Burton Waters eatery – a perfect way to express our first impressions.
We were Ladies Who Do Dinner as we headed to the restaurant to try their Eat All You Like Menu, and as we sipped our rosé wine spritzers and pinot grigios a waiter explained how the premise of the menu works. We could order a platter for a starter or two starters each, and could then order one main at a time. As long as we finished it, we could order another … and another. And so on.
Once we had chosen starters, a waiter collected up our drinks on a tray and escorted us to our table – a nice touch we all thought.
We agreed to make our own choices but also share in a 'team effort' approach to the 'eat all you like' concept.
In the meantime we'd all become completely charmed and enchanted by the little fish swimming around narrow tanks between each table – although there was a rumble of concern about some of the more lonely looking specimens.
The starters, which appeared within minutes, were a delight – a selection between us included duck spring rolls, sesame honey chicken wings, barbecue spare ribs and chicken wings, diced chicken with vegetable in lettuce wrap and prawn toast. Very tasty and just the right size for an appetizer. More importantly, there was no 'bun fight' over the last piece of sesame toast so we all got ready to order our first round of mains.
The idea of the menu is that you can enjoy a buffet style set up but know all your courses are freshly made. I guess the compromise is, as opposed to a buffet where you can have a little bit of everything, we were probably being a little ambitious believing we could simply eat our way through one main after another.
In fact, we were all pretty stuffed after round one which saw our table laden with sides of egg fried rice, chips and soft fried noodles with spring onion.
The mains included beef chow mein, Cantonese sweet and sour chicken, chicken satay, stir fried chilli beef,
It was time to take a breather before carefully considering if any of us could actually manage any more food, during which time a little sucker fish in the tank behind us decided to gate crash our party, attaching itself mouth-first to the glass, much to the delight of everyone. We named him Bob.
But back to the important business of whether to order more mains. The food being so delicious, – it was no contest – our tastebuds won the battle over our bulging waistlines.
So, two more delicious dishes were soon freshly dispatched in the form of salt and chilli aubergine and chicken kung po, neither of which we would have picked were it not for the all-you-can-eat offer.
And what a shame it would have been to miss those dishes.
The aubergine was a particular treat, crispy, salty and more-ish – not to be missed.
After that, we were definitely beat.
There were just a few tiny things, almost nit-picking to be fair, which made the entire experience fall short of perfection.
Small touches such as removing the cutlery and chop sticks whilst clearing away one course and not bringing any more with the next, the extra glass of wine on the bill and the soya sauce requested by one of the group which never materialised.
Otherwise, it was a delightful experience we would all want to enjoy again and would highly recommend to others.
If you're a fan of filling-your-boots from the buffet table, you will be blown away by this more sophisticated version.
Also, if you visit the restaurant's website you are able to sign up for text alerts that will inform you when they are running special offers.
I am thinking of popping back for the lunchtime menu for just £7.50!
THE DAMAGE: Four buffet meals £55.80, three glasses of house rose £12.30, two glasses of house white £8.20, two cokes £4, one non-alcoholic cocktail £3.50.
FINAL VERDICT: Elegant restaurant with lovely views across the marina. Friendly and attentive staff, serving an excellent standard of food, with the bonus of being a set price all-you can-eat buffet.