Review: Cosmo, Reading

Just to let you know, this post was written before I started the paleo diet to help ease my psoriasis. Nowadays I eat a more allergy-friendly diet, but leave these older, non-paleo posts up in case they are useful to readers, as I know not everyone eats the same as I do. Thanks for your understanding. 

If you know your way around Reading, you'll find Cosmo - a new(ish) all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant - on Friar Street, more or less opposite to WHSmith. For those that don't know Reading so well, get onto Friar Street and just look for the queue of people snaking out onto the pavement at about 11.55am. They'll be queuing outside Cosmo.

My first advice if you plan to eat at Cosmo is to book first. You can then glide right past the queues and into the restaurant before everyone else comes pouring in. Our server said that although it's busy at lunchtimes (and it was), in the evening you really do need to book a table. 

Cosmo Reading
black pepper chicken/sweet and sour chicken at Cosmo

Once seated, you order your drinks and are then given full-reign of the 150-or-so dishes on offer within the restaurant. You can choose Thai, Chinese, Mexican, English, Italian, Japanese, and Indian (don't miss this - it's round the corner at the back of the restaurant) - and you can go up as many times as you want. Although we were told that the full range of dishes isn't out at lunchtimes, there was really plenty to choose from. I opted for Chinese noodles (lovely - dark, thin and full of flavour), along with some sweet and sour chicken and also some black pepper chicken. The chicken was moist and tender. My husband opted for some mini spring rolls and crispy prawns with his noodles, although these had the shell on underneath the batter so required a bit of DIY-peeling, but nothing too major. 

Cosmo Reading
noodles, spring rolls and crispy prawns at Cosmo, Reading
The dishes are mostly served in lidded containers, which I presumed were heated, but we found the food just the right side of warm, and we were there for when they opened. I reckon this probably got worse as people forgot to replace the lids after filling their plates, but if there was some way of keeping the food hotter I think it would be a good thing.

Cosmo Reading

I don't usually go for the buffet-style 'all you can eat' restaurants - but I found benefits with it here. Firstly, you can eat there on special diets. Gluten free? Then choose rice instead of bread. Low-carb? Fill your plate with meat and veggies. No one's going to look or question you, and you don't need to go through the whole thing of modifying the set menu with your server.  So that was a good thing. Secondly, you don't have to wait. Take your seat, order your drink and GO. We were in and out of there in about 40 minutes, and we filled our plates twice and had pudding too. 

As for the environment, I'd say it's great if you just want a quick lunch or if you're having a party. But it wouldn't be my choice for a quiet or more intimate meal. Everyone hurriedly milled about with heaped plates and as soon as they'd finished, they were up again for more. It was quite loud, and where we were seated we were fairly close to the couples either side of us. But as I said, there are occasions where you'd want a busy, vibrant atmosphere like that - quick lunches, parties and something for the kids.

The staff were great. They were attentive, and as soon as they see you're on to pudding they politely ask if you'd like a coffee. You leave your used plates on the table and they take them away while you're going up for more. Kids love it at Cosmo, because they get to eat noodles, sausage and chips, curry and spring rolls - all on the same plate. 

Cosmo Restaurants - puddings

At a lunchtime rate of £7.99 each for as much as you can eat (there's an allocated time slot otherwise people would stay there all day) it's cheap. And I can see why it's so popular. The food was OK - if they could find a way of keeping it hotter that would be better - but it was fine. You can eat quickly, you don't have to wait, and you eat exactly what and how much you want. The staff are attentive and do a good job of keeping everything running smoothly - there's always someone hovering around if you need them. Kids love it, too. Would I go again? Probably I would, with the children. They'd find it really fun. But for a more intimate meal, it wouldn't be my first choice.   

Price: 9/10
Service: 9/10
Food: 7/10
Atmosphere: 6/10

Cosmo is at 35-38 Friar Street, Reading RG1 1DX. For more information on the menu, prices and opening hours check out the Cosmo Restaurants website

We dined at Cosmo as their guests.