Up front I want to say for the record that I am not a fan of buffets. I much prefer to sit and choose what I want to eat from a menu, and be served that food by a waiter instead of jostling elbows with others while waiting impatiently in a queue by the salads to get to the good stuff. I have visions of being on a cruise and seeing people piling their plates with an obscene amount of food, hoovering up that food, and going back again and again to repeat. Call it mental scarring, but those visions haunt me whenever someone suggests a buffet. There’s something about an all-you-can-eat scenario that can flip the brain switch from decorous to gluttonous and it ain’t pretty. Fortunately I didn’t see any evidence of uncivilised gorging on the day we went.
I do concede that buffets have their place, especially when dining out in a large group. It saves issues with billing at the end of the meal, and it means that everyone can eat at the same time. On this occasion it was a friend’s birthday lunch and 16 of us gathered to celebrate. It also happened to be Father’s Day so naturally Montereys became very busy by 12.30. A few of us cajoled our way into the restaurant before the opening time so we could take a few photos before the hordes arrived.
The selection at Montereys inside the Pan Pacific Hotel is relatively small, but most of it is agreeable and fresh fare. There were bowls of fresh tiger prawns, NZ mussels, and crabs. Crabs have to be one of the inappropriate choices for a buffet though – I mean, how do you chow down on these crustaceans with any decorum? The prawns were fresh and sweet, and there were several sauces to accompany them. Sadly, there were no oysters.
The usual potato and noodle salads were present, and an area where you could mix your own choice of ingredients together.
The roast meat area was the busiest and I couldn’t manage a photo of this for ages. Sadly there was no turkey which is one of only a few roast meats I enjoy.
There was beef curry with rice, and salmon in a creamy sauce, and white fish which I didn’t get a photo of. It was impossible to get photos of many of the main dishes because the throng of people around these never seemed to thin out.
Roast vegetables – the carrots were super sweet and delicious. I know; carrots sound ordinary but I’m a veggie lover and really enjoyed them. The cauliflower cheese however, was tasteless and not cheesy.
After the mains, it was a choice between the cheeses and the desserts and the desserts won out because I couldn’t fit both it. The cheeseboard was pedestrian anyway – the desserts looked much more enticing.
The wide range of desserts came in small portions which meant we could try several without feeling like pigs.
The dilemma was in deciding on just a few.
The peanut butter parfait (on the right below) was my favourite , but I should have resisted the red velvet cake at the back. It was dry and nothing special.
This dining experience was fine for the group, but I wouldn’t hurry back. Whilst all the food was fresh, it was a limited range and there was nothing special or creative, with the desserts being the most interesting. For $45 a head, I think it’s reasonably priced and no-one is under the illusion they are embarking on a five star dining experience.
I’ve found the best buffets to be in various Asian cities, and one of my primo experiences was at Mom Tri’s Boathouse in Phuket. I heartily recommend the insanely good breakfast buffet if you should ever go. You can check out my old blog for details of Mom Tri’s; a truly wonderful place to stay, far from the gritty streets of Patong.