There is not a sharp enough pencil to describe the horror that will greet you if you are brave enough to venture into Cosmo, the new pan-Asian, all-you-dare-to-eat buffet on the Triangle. The place is a study in how badly one can get a restaurant wrong, a lesson in crashing mediocrity, vile cynicism, and loveless cooking; an experiment in just how low people will stoop in order to save a few pennies. You are not a customer in Cosmo, you are a commodity, someone to be pillaged for money and then cast back into the street.
For one thing, you are press-ganged into paying on arrival – whether this is because they don’t trust people to pay the bill or because they are aware that, after a meal so abhorrent, few sober people will be willing to part with their money, who can say? Either way, this charmless, industrial service made one very uneasy. Having had your money practically fleeced from you at gunpoint, you are then led, not to a table in the light window – which may well have been what attracted you to this place originally – but down, down, down, past the buffets and into the nuclear bunker at the back. It is like eating in a submarine – airless, dark, claustrophobic, and unsettling. Waiters seem more like minions, all geared up with headsets, at the other end of which was presumably either the Samaritans helpline or the restaurant manager/commander barking orders at them. When at one point a waitress dropped a plate, we half-expected her to fall to the floor, gunned down by some invisible sniper.
It seems almost redundant to mention the food, as you know by now that it is going to be nothing short of apocalyptic, but it seems churlish to write a restaurant review without bringing it up (which, incidentally, I almost did on several occasions). For a place that apparently prides itself on fresh, healthy cooking, the starters were either a postscript of this notion, or somebody had accidentally dropped most of them into a deep fat fryer on their way to the buffet. The rather disconcertingly named ‘dragon’s balls’ were wan and sludgy and lacking in any discernible provenance, and the spring rolls were about as palatable as a jockstrap. The spare ribs were just about edible, and while the satay tasted OK, the chicken (and this went for every chicken dish) was alarmingly soft, not in a perfectly cooked kinda way but in a what-the-fuck-is-this kinda way. Question upon question begs itself. Has the prawn toast ever actually encountered a prawn? What really is the chef’s special? Did my dragon’s ball just move?
Out of the frying pan of the starters and into the fire of the mains. What have we here at our authentic Asian buffet? It’s sausage and chips! Can you bloody believe it? Perhaps they were the best sausage and chips in town, perhaps they would have rescued this car crash of a lunch, it doesn’t really matter – we were there for Asian food, for better or for worse, and that’s what we ate. The beef in green peppers with black bean sauce was like eating an oily shoe, only, somehow, even worse. Let’s try some of the ‘chef’s special balls’ (seriously, what is this testicular obsession? It’s like a 14-year-old wrote the menu). Nope, they’re disgusting too. Lamb stir-fried ‘Mongolian style’ (almost sounds like a threat) certainly helped to explain why Genghis Kahn was such a belligerent little bugger – if I had to eat this kind of swill on a daily basis I’d be waging some pretty serious wars myself. It was monstrous. Ditto duck pancakes, chicken madras, and Thai green curry – all just dire.
In an attempt to wrestle some sort of positive from what, until now, had been an abject disaster, we bravely had a sniff around the pudding station, which yielded nothing but further disappointment. Jelly that more bounced than wobbled, cakes that looked about as appetizing as a dog’s arse, and strawberry ice cream that we doubted had ever been near a cow or a strawberry, all put the final nail in Cosmo’s coffin. Minutes from a serious panic attack we left the bunker gratefully, vowing to never return.
Surely this is a joke? Somewhere in the Midlands there must be a fat man in a loud suit having a ruddy good laugh at our expense. Because no restaurateur could open a place like Cosmo with a straight face, genuinely believing they were offering an authentic Asian experience to their diners. Sausage and chips? Pull the other one.
If anyone else has been to the Bristol Cosmo, or any of the other ones, for that matter, let me know your thoughts.