I keep meaning to cancel my Groupon subscription. I mean, I have no real interest in getting a fish pedicure or a his and hers beauty spa treatment (Seriously?!). However, I do see occasional offers for restaurants which pique my interest and it’s probably a good way to force me to go out and try different restaurants that I possibly wouldn’t normally go to. So, when the gorgeous NE text me to ask if I’d seen the Groupon offer of a Caribbean buffet for 2 people (for £10.50 instead of the usual £12.99 per head), we quickly made plans assemble a group of us together and meet up.
The restaurant in question was Cuizene Caribbean restaurant in the heart of the Chinese Quarter in Birmingham, so it was a very central location I.E. easy for us all to get to after work. The website listed all the classics – Jerk Chicken, Curried Mutton (as it was on the website), stewed Oxtail, ackee and saltfish, fried hake, rice and peas, hard food, fried plantain, fried dumplings.. A quick skim of reviews suggested that the food was quite good so we all looked forward to it. Still, you couldn’t really complain at £5 a head..
Getting into restaurant itself, we’re shown to our table and handed a drinks menu, it was explained to us that drinks and desserts weren’t included in the menu and we could go up to the buffet and help ourselves whenever we were ready. Surprisingly, there wasn’t any ginger beer on the menu but there was Guinness Punch and Pineapple Punch (Sexy Juice) and that’s exactly what the drinks menu said. HJ and BT were intrigued by this and ordered one each, RH and G went for lager and I opted for Carrot juice… Except they didn’t have any. Undeterred, I chose whatever first caught my eye whilst quickly skimming over the menu. The drinks arrive quite promptly but we’re all so hungry that we pile into the buffet area to get some food.
The small print on the offer stated that we were only allowed 2 plates of food and rather more intriguingly, also said that the management reserved the right to refuse service to anyone whose plates were “unreasonable”.. However, we (and the restaurant) needn’t have worried about any potential food wastage from our party as they *insisted* on serving us, thus controlling what goes out and reducing the possibility of anyone taking the piss. Now, forgive me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the point of a buffet that you serve yourself? I understand the restaurant wanting to ensure that there isn’t any wastage but what happened here was that we had a ridiculous situation where you asked for an item and got barely a third of a serving spoonful from them, which prompted awkwardness and the occasional filthy look when you had the audacity to actually ask for more than the pittance they gave you. What’s more, you’re actually paying for this privilege.. Come to think about it, the only items we *were* allowed to self-serve was the salad bar, presumably as it was cheap enough for them not to worry. Otherwise, I would have even more issues with an establishment who limits the amount of iceberg lettuce you’re allowed to have.. Some others in my party suggested that only we were being given this treatment – possibly because we used the Groupon offer? However, I can’t say for certain but I’m pretty sure I saw other diners serving themselves – The serving spoons were facing us rather than the servers whenever we approached the buffet, anyway.
But did the food redeem the whole experience? The answer is not really. The food certainly wasn’t bad, but neither was it the most tasty Caribbean food I’ve ever eaten; The jerk chicken was tender and nicely spiced as was the curried mutton (or goat, as the server insisted it was.. Despite what the website said), but some of the food suffered from being a buffet so the fried hake was dry, as were the rice and peas.
The drinks weren’t that much better: The boys commented that the lager tasted “sweaty” and RH barely drunk a quarter of his pint as a result. Even worse was the Pineapple Punch (aka Sexy Juice) which BT and HJ ordered – It smelled like a combination of Crusha Pineapple Milkshake cordial with condensed milk and possibly some pineapple juice. It also left a rather sinister looking sediment on the glass and we all began to worry why exactly it was called Sexy Juice – And it was far from the explanation I was once told that drinking it “made you feel sexy.” Both BT and HJ couldn’t actually drink theirs but at least they didn’t order the large size. Absolutely not to anyone’s tastes in my party so we’re not in a hurry to order that again..
Then there is the tricky issue of service – What little table service we got was so bad and inconsistent that it was almost comical; RH had his plate cleared from the table pretty much from under his nose, when he had barely put his cutlery down (And, as NE pointed out, the knife and fork were either side of the plate and half on the plate which would indicate that RH hadn’t actually finished eating). NE herself paid for sitting at the end of the table but having all the plates scraped down in front of her, thus being covered by any bits of people’s scraps which were sent flying as the plates were scraped down. When we asked for the bill, some food dropped onto the table and we asked if we could get a cloth or a serviette to wipe it away and we got a bit of a look as if to say “Whadya want a CLOTH for?!” Suffice to say, the bill arrived.. without any cloth or serviette. As a result, we barely left a tip – Are you seriously wanting us to tip for the service we’d received?! We didn’t want to leave any tip but couldn’t be bothered to split £1 between 8 of us. NE commented during the meal that she had read some reports online that the service there was terrible and sadly, I can confirm that it’s true.
It’s a bit of a shame, really because the potential for it to be better was there, but we all left thinking that it was OK for £5.00 – I’m inclined to say that it wasn’t even worth £5 but it certainly wasn’t worth anything more than that and I’d be more scathing in this post if I had to pay full price for what we got. For now though, if I have to pay for some decent Caribbean food, I’ll go to my regular takeaway.
Photos, if you want, can be viewed on Flickr