A world of flavours at Cosmo, #Norwich [restaurant review]

What springs to mind when someone suggests going to an ‘eat all you want buffet’? If you’re like me (and I’m a bit of a food snob) you might shiver at the thought of a grimy cafeteria with hoards of tourists piling their plates high with cheap greasy food. At least that’s my nightmare memory of the buffet served at a budget motel I stayed in when visiting Las Vegas some 20 years ago.

So you can understand my hesitation when The Lively Crew invited me to a food writers evening at the new Cosmo Restaurant in Norwich. Thankfully the world of buffets has moved on a long way since the 1990s and Cosmo quickly dispelled all sense of trepidation. My first words, on entering the brightly lit restaurant, with its gleaming tiles, chrome and glass food stations and steel serving dishes, were: “Wow, this is smart.”

Cosmo food station Norwich - photo by Huw Sayer

The other thing I quickly noticed was that, despite being early on a Monday evening, the place was busy. Not packed but there was a definite buzz with cheerful families and groups of friends enjoying an amazing choice of food. By the time I left at 7:30 it was three-quarters full and there were 15 people in the lobby downstairs waiting to be seated.

Cosmo prawns on ice - photo by Huw Sayer

If popularity is any guide, Cosmo are definitely doing something (many things) right. As a result, they have expanded rapidly since launching in Eastbourne in 2003. The idea is simple to explain but is difficult to do well: You pay a flat fee for your meal (drinks are extra but reasonably priced) and then you choose whatever you want from somewhere between 60 and 80 freshly cooked main dishes.

Cosmo Mexican grill - photo by Huw Sayer

The food is inspired by cuisine from China, India, Japan, the Americas and Europe. You can return for more as often as you like – and you get a clean plate every time (which impressed me) so you don’t have to mix too many flavours. This is great place to take young people if you want to encourage them to be more adventurous in what they eat, without risking too much waste if they decide they don’t like something.

Cosmo roast beef - photo by Huw Sayer

It’s also ideal if you are going out with a large group of friends who all like different food and can never quite decide on where to eat. There is pretty much something for everyone, from simple roasts and fresh sea food and salads, to spicy curries and aromatic noodles. The food certainly seems as good as anything you’ll get at Pizza Express, Wagamamas, Giraffe, or Yo Sushi (to name just a few popular chains).

Salads at Cosmo - photo by Huw Sayer

Each chef specialises in their particular cuisine. You can even watch some of them (such as the Teppanyaki chef) doing live cooking demonstrations. All the food is cooked in small batches so it is always fresh – and the team works hard to keep all the counters and serving utensils spotless even when it gets busy.

Chinese food at Cosmo - photo by Huw Sayer

Over the course of the evening, I enjoyed sushi rolls, fresh prawns and seaweed complete with wasabi paste, soy sauce and thin slices of ginger – all fresh and delicious. I then had a small helping of Piri-Piri chicken and a selection of Mediterranean vegetables (grilled artichokes, peppers and aubergine with sun-blush tomatoes) on a bed of crisp, peppery rocket leaves. Finally I tucked into some spicy Hong Kong noodles and beef in black-bean sauce.

Cosmo corn - photo by Huw Sayer

Unfortunately I was driving so could only try a few sips of the house wine. But both the white and the red were definitely drinkable: the Pinot Grigio was crisp and refreshing and the Merlot was smooth and fruity. For those of you looking to round off your feast with something sweet, there’s a tantalising array of delicate desserts…

Cosmo puddings - photo by Huw Sayer

…and a spectacular chocolate fountainCosmo chocolate fountain - photo by Huw SayerOverall

Did I enjoy my meal? Yes (and, if I’d been paying, I would say it was good value for money).

Would I go back? Yes – although not for an intimate meal or for a light snack but certainly if I wanted a fun evening out and plenty of choice.

Any tips? Yes – book if you are going as a large group, particularly if you don’t want a long wait for a table at the weekend (including Friday night).

Thank you to Valerie and Mike from The Lively Crew for inviting me – and to Johnathan Wong (Cosmo’s Training and Auditing Officer) for being our host for the evening.

PS: All the pictures above are ones I took on the night as I went round (they weren’t staged and are not stock shots). 

@HuwSayer / @Business_Write

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I am at my best when I help others and at my worst when I help myself

I recently read a short blog post called “My brain is exploding” by Rachel Brushfield that prompted me to reflect on why I stopped using FB and twitter at the end of 2010 – and why I started using twitter again in March 2011. The following is an edited/longer (slightly self-indulgent?) version of my response on Rachel’s blog.

Just before Christmas 2011, I (like Rachel) felt that my brain was exploding with social media overload. I had only been on twitter and FB for nine months – in which time I had had great fun supporting the bid by Norwich to become the UK’s first city of culture (a bid that, sadly, failed). However, by the end of the year I felt jaded – and tweeting seemed to serve no purpose.

So I closed my FB account – stopped tweeting for over two months (and un-followed some 70% of my twitter contacts – which on reflection was probably a bit rude – sorry if you were among those culled – I’ve probably re-followed you since then) – and focused on work (which thankfully got very busy about then).

Focusing on my purpose

This break gave me time to clear my head, calm down – and think. I decided that the reason I had started using twitter (to promote culture in Norwich and Norfolk) should be the reason I continued using twitter. I realised that I am at my best when I help others and at my worst when I help myself (at the risk of sounding like a new age guru). Helping others also makes me feel happy (all altruism is probably tinged with some self-interest).

So that is what I do – most of the time (I sometimes get sidetracked – not least by real work). I try to have interesting conversations with interesting people on a range of subjects – and I sometimes succeed.

I don’t automatically follow people back (I have about 300 on my follow list – but over 700 followers) – and I don’t expect people to follow me back either (I don’t check up on who is or isn’t) – as I explained in my previous post. <<Note: This post was originally published in May 2011 – as of November 2014 I follow over 3000 people and have nearly 5000 followers.>>

Supporting others in our community

I probably RT too much – but I like to share stuff that I find interesting, beautiful or useful – and I don’t always modify tweets (MT) by adding a comment, partly because I don’t always have time or anything useful to say. More importantly, I prefer to use auto RT because the originator’s name continues to show first. I sometimes feel that by adding a comment I am hijacking the original tweet – dissipating their influence (if that makes sense).

To expand on that last point a bit: I am convinced that RTs are almost as important as @replies. They are a way showing support for someone else’s view – and promoting that person ahead of yourself (unlike an MT which effectively promotes the modifier first).

When you look at other people’s auto RTs you often see one tweet with upwards of 100 RTs – that tweet is commanding a lot of attention – and that in turn means influence – but if you use MT you break the link to that shared experience (and social media is all about shared experiences). That’s why, if I want to make a comment I often (not always – I’m not perfect) auto-RT first and the MT second.

Now, back to the exploding brain idea: by not trying to do too much on twitter, I have re-established some sense of control. I no longer feel swamped by information – nor do I feel compelled to read and respond to every tweet (unless they are directed at me).

I hope these thoughts help you prevent your brain from exploding. So tell me, how do you manage your social media activity? What are you hoping to achieve when you use twitter?

The reason I killed my facebook account.

I eventually killed my facebook account completely in late 2011 after the advertising and other rubbish became too intrusive. Glad I did.

For more on this subject, please see my other posts about encouraging tourism, NaNTwiNk, and #NFDF2014.

Final point – from 2014 – the introduction of conversation link lines makes redundant my point about RTing first and then modifying the tweet to comment – now I simply RT and add a reply. People who follow me see both in their stream neatly linked (thank you twitter).

PS: I now offer personalised or small group twitter training – if you want to know more, please contact me.

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