IT’S a familiar problem – you’re craving a curry, your other half is hankering for Chinese and the kids are pleading for pizza.

In theory, buffet-style restaurant Panda Mami offers a solution as all three and more are available under one roof, with fans of sushi, Thai food and carveries also catered for too.

The chain opened their first restaurant in Chester during November 2016 and added York to their so-far two-strong portfolio last year, although there are plans to eventually expand to 30 venues across the country.

Here, Panda Mami swiftly took over the Bridge Street premises vacated by similar self-service specialists Cosmo after four years in the city.

Having visited the site in its last incarnation, it has to be pointed out that there is little discernible difference between the lay-out and food variety so, if you enjoyed Cosmo, you’ll feel the same about Panda Mami.

If you didn’t, then it’s probably best you avoid returning to the building that once rather appropriately housed Argos – another company dedicated to providing a one-stop shop suited to all tastes.

There are undoubted plus points.

Primarily, it’s great for families.

Prices for dinner (from 5pm) are £14.99 (Monday to Thursday), £15.99 (Friday) and £16.99 (Saturday).

For lunch (from 12 noon) the cost is £8.99 (Monday to Friday) and £14.99 (Saturday), whilst on Sunday and bank holidays the price is £14.99 all day from 12noon to 10pm.

Children under 1.5m in height, meanwhile, are charged half-price, which means you could pay as little as £4.50 (£1.71 more than a McDonald’s Happy Meal) for each little one and never more than £7.50.

Furthermore, with refillable soft drinks also available at £2.99, Panda Mami does offer that rare comfort of walking into a York restaurant knowing pretty much exactly what you’re going to spend.

The value for money cannot be knocked and the kids love it – to quote my nine-year-old daughter: “You have to give this place at least three stars, because it’s got a chocolate fountain!”

All the food is also hot, suggesting regular replenishment, while the service is good.

Despite the venue being three-quarters full during our visit, finished plates were cleared impressively promptly to avoid them stacking up in between visits to the buffet, while the décor is modern, smart and airy with a handful of tables available that overlook the Ouse.

Included in the 150 dishes, meanwhile, were plenty of vegetarian options whilst, aside from the bottomless drink station option, pitchers of beer, along with deals for five and ten bottles, were available, as were six cocktails, five mocktails, Guinness, cider, bitter, wine and spirits.

On the down side, I picked up a dirty plate twice and a spoon once, so a little more care might be needed during the demanding washing-up process, but at least you can just grab another, rather than the offending cutlery being served to your table.

The food, meanwhile, can be described as safe and not too adventurous.

It is understandable that there has to be a “Greatest Hits” approach to appeal to as many diners as possible, but it would be nice if some more interesting fare was on the menu too.

The standard is generally OK and, in parts, good.

If you ordered any of the dishes at an individual restaurant, you might be a little underwhelmed, but it’s definitely not unpleasant and the ability to control your own portion size and sample multiple food types compensates somewhat for that lack of excitement.

From the choices we made, the crispy aromatic duck was tasty and, arguably, worth the price of the meal alone.

We also visited the live cooking stations and the Teppanyaki steak, grilled to preference in butter, garlic and soy sauce, was a highlight, although the Churrasco Grill kebabs, which were limited to two at a time, were a little meagre.

The skewered prawn and lamb I ordered were good though.

With the steak, I added potatoes that were labelled and looked like they were roasted but tasted like they were boiled.

The lamb rogan josh was surprisingly well spiced, meanwhile, with big tender chunks of meat, and the sweet-and-sour chicken was tasty, although we felt there might have been a greater choice of Chinese dishes.

For dessert, the mini vanilla slices were nice, and the Eton mess was a favourite.

A collection of freshly cooked Eastern-European biscuits was also a refreshingly original alternative, although the crème brulee tasted more like a burnt custard tart – still palatable, but not quite what it should have been.

And, of course, last but not least, that chocolate fountain, which attracted little and big diners alike in similar numbers.

It’s sometimes difficult to argue with the logic of youth and, judging by the number of visitors to the fountain, few people will indeed leave Panda Mami rating it less than three stars!

Panda Mami, 19 Bridge Street, York, YO1 6DA

Tel: 01904 633800


Food: Adequate 3/5

Service: Attentive 4/5

Ambience: Relaxed 3/5

Value: Impressive 4.5/5