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Restaurants & Bars

The Langham Auckland - Eight Buffet

polishjeweatswonderbread | Sep 24, 201606:15 AM

The Langham is a five-star hotel and has virtually unlimited resources.

Nevertheless, their buffet- their main restaurant - fails completely.

The discussion is posted on Dineout NZ. I would post just a link, but the site is shutting down soon (after running 17 years).

Note the dates.

REVIEW BY: CHARLES123 (24) ON 22ND OCTOBER 2014

Total 3.0
Food 3
Dessert 3
Presentation N/A
Service N/A
Environment N/A
Toilets N/A

Child Friendly Extremely
The rating is for an adult. If you are clever and have some experience at Eight you can make a decent if overpriced meal from what they offer, but a moderate success based on rejection which has to be learned is not good enough for The Langham. Then there is the value for money failure. See my review 19DEC12.
HOWEVER, and the reason for this post......
Good for lunch with a child 12 and under- half price- but only if the adult chaperone doesn’t eat . Don’t be shy. There is good reason to abstain. See my review 19DEC12.
The child does need a bit of guidance not to fill up on starch. But at least there aren’t serving dishes full of deep fried brown to fight about. Resist the lure of the chocolate fountain. It is disgustingly sweet.
It seems that they are busier on Friday and it is better to go when they are busier. I refuse to go on a weekend because of the surcharge even at half price for the child. Supper is priced out of the question because of the low standard.
I went recently three times with a child 12 and under causa kiddie. The first time, because I was stuck in the area with a child who needed lunch. The second and third time sought out as a birthday treat with little friends. The Langham accommodates kiddie food caprices, has wholesome and varied ingredients, is a special place for the child and a good place for photos. Too bad the doorman no longer is dressed up as a Ruritanian Field Marshall
Some of the egregious food incompetencies found previously have been remedied, but the more things change the more things stay the same. Like a kaleidoscope of failure and disappointment.
I don’t feel like wasting my time going through the stations one after the other as I did 19DEC12.
To summarize:there still doesn’t seem to be anyone with food sense in charge.
If you go with a child and feel obliged to eat, select what gets cooked the least. An excellent approach for a child in any event.

REVIEW BY: CHARLES123 (24) ON 19TH DECEMBER 2012

Total 1.0
Food 1
Dessert 1
Presentation N/A
Service N/A
Environment N/A
Toilets N/A

.......as submitted by The Langham.
COMMENTS
Eight takes diners on a culinary journey, with chefs in eight open kitchens creating food inspired by world flavours. Diners can create their own personal degustation as they choose from fresh, seasonal food cooked by our passionate chefs. Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

MY EXEGIS
My numerical rating depends on what is assessed.
- what it delivers compared to what it promises and charges- 1
This is the most important basis for assessment.
- what it delivers if you select wisely -7
- value received even if you select wisely- 3
- what you are likely to select if you haven't figured it out- 4
- my desire to return, taking all into consideration- 1
I gave "Food" and "Dessert" a 1 on the Dineout scale rather than "2" because I became increasingly angry as I typed this.
Everything else at The Langham except the food is great, but so what when it produces a dud.

We had gone often to The Langham but only to lunch. The current regular price is $50. Our last trip was on 19November. This was the first day of the Christmas season at Eight but only the cashier was in the Christmas spirit. The price for the season was raised to $60 but there was nothing special for Christmas on the buffet. There was no notification of the price increase at the restaurant. I picked it up when I looked at the receipt.
I pay with a credit card as do many of the tourist customers. The Langham exacts a 2% surcharge. This practice is sensible at a discount electronics store, but at The Langham it is tawdry and grasping.
We started going to The Langham buffet (SBF,as it was then) six years ago and went several times a year. It was the best buffet that I had ever gone to; superb if you chose well. The buffet was truly an attempt to please the customers and to show The Langham at its best; the offerings were generous and excellent- as if "Mr. Langham" were presenting a buffet to celebrate a Langham family member's special occasion. The problem was,there weren’t enough customers and there was too much choice and food. Some of the food didn’t do well sitting; and of course some customers aren’t versed in the art of buffet and made their own problems.
Then new executive management came and cut down on the offerings. This was OK. Then someone else, from a Germanic cooking culture, came and cut back further and put pork into everything possible. This wasn’t OK with me. Then oodles of money were spent to create this exciting new concept – eight kitchens(!)- for which the room is named.
Eight promises sumptuous dining in a buffet format but fails to deliver a good meal. It booms with pretence, squeaks of parsimony and cries from disappointment. It does deliver a decent albeit overpriced meal if you are disciplined enough to limit yourself to what gets cooked the least. This is not good enough for The Langham. Everything is supposed to be first class there. $50 for a buffet lunch should be enough, particularly because the buffet restaurant should primarily generate goodwill for the hotel rather than profit.
Let’s start.
“Eight kitchens”is a misnomer. They are only stations, not kitchens. What little cooking that gets done at the stations is rudimentary and screwed up.
The cooking station format is nor revolutionary. I saw it fifteen years ago in a dorm dining hall in a small college in South Dakota. There the kitchen worked within its ability and I got good grub that didn’t disappoint. At Eight I get theatre pretending at sumptuous dining. The offerings are inconsistent; the generosity obviously forced, begrudging and skimping. The whole thing suggests too much control by an offshore corporate office which has lost food sense in the pursuit of goals that are not gastronomic. One goal is cost control, of which Eight reeks.
Specifically. Too much of:
a) Obtuse selection of items
b)Talentless preparation both at the stations and in the real kitchen.
b) Other items as if prepared in Central Commissary far away and in a distant past, frozen and then thawed.
c) A schizophrenic economizing. Excellent(mostly)ingredients parsimoniously portioned and badly prepared by lots of staff but who seem to be beginners.
d) Flavours dumbed down as if not to offend the American M'lady.
e) Too few characteristically NZ dishes featured- an internationalizing - or really an Americanizing. NZ cooking is better and many of the customers are tourists!
f) Obsequious staff, all smiling effusively. With all these people at the stations, there should be enough staff to cook properly. Their presence was provocative because it emphasized the inadequacy of the cooking.
g) An attempt to eliminate the necessity of talent in the cooking - a McDonaldization of preparation - but the "system" fails because the items are badly conceived and executed on equipment that treats the ingredients badly.
h) Expensive ingredients ruined and opportunity wasted. Other things, such as the oysters, are a grade and in a quantity that doesn't match the hype.
I will go through the meals.

We went twice in May (hereinafter “M.”). Not good, but hope springs eternal, and we had had many good meals in Eight's prior incarnation as SBF. So we went twice in November(hereinafter N.)

1. Bread. Bread offerings now greatly reduced. I don’t know if the bread is now house baked. The breads did not seem to be fresh and they had lost their bouquet. I don’t know how they were stored or for how long. But certainly not bread like at the old SBF.

2. Soup- A salmon chowder both times in M. Salmon pieces thrown into something. Easily the worst soup that I have had in NZ. Palatable, but it was a chore. The first time the potato base was grey and tasted as if from a mix. The second time it was creamy white from a lot of dairy in the same mix. The dairy dominated the base. I felt sorry for the salmon, lonely from a lack of flavour and texture companions.
Soup had always been terrific at SBF.
N. Problem solved. No soup.

3. Sushi. M. Quite good if ordinary, but I am no authority on Japanese cooking. I did think that there was not much that was expensive in it. An ordinarily good miso soup.
N. Sushi all tricked up, interesting and tasty. However the rice was not as good and I questioned the freshness of the fish. Also noticed the absence of expensive ingredients, but this is fine if the item tastes good and is interesting. The miso soup was very nice with lots of slivered ginger.

4. Salads. No ambition nor imagination. But in May, well executed. An excellent Caesar, a good if ordinary potato salad, and a vegetable salad.
N. A screwed up Caesar. Coarse lettuce leaves, watery dressing, no balance. Inadequate potato salad, third salad unappealing, forgettable and forgotten.

5. Meat. Expensive cuts but small thin pieces cooked on an oily griddle. The fried meat slices do not work. Pieces this thin are hard to cook to a state other than grey and they were. I asked for mine medium -rare and it came to me fried oily, grey and boringly plain. But I did succeed in preventing a salt dump. Good for the English working class.
Intrinsic to the failure is the griddle. It may fit into the design scheme for "the concept" and it is good for bacon and eggs, but I venture that but you can't cook steak and the like properly on this. The attendants (I can’t call them any kind of cook) had no idea of what they were doing other than to turn over pieces of meat after they were on the griddle for a while. I passed on the meat after the first time.

The meat (and fish) are examples of a generosity which is begrudging and a dish which is ultimately stingy. And because of the stinginess, the item doesn’t work and the whole thing is a waste and an irritation.
Try the sausages, they should be good as sausages go. It is a far, far better thing to do to eat sausages at $50 than to eat messed up fillet.

6. The scalloped potato, risotto and mac and cheese sides. For the calories overindulged, I wanted pleasure and instead got disappointment and regret. M. The potato dish was under-cooked, the others overcooked and sodden. Couldn't get past texture to assess taste properly. My bet is that the dishes had been cooked in a large batch, stored and resurrected, all by staff who don't understand how to accommodate the dish to the process - assuming that this can be done.
A similar story in November. Only the pasta was nicely done, and only once in the two trips.

7. Fish. In small fragments of uneven thickness and fried on the griddle. As with the meat, but much more so. The attendants don’t know what they are doing and are given a bad method of doing it. In May, the fish tasted low- mostly of brown from the frying. I left half the fish on my plate.
Except for a couple pieces, the fish was overcooked; it was dry, hard and far too oily. The browning from the frying was particularly unpleasant because the pieces were so small and so oily. (I was told that olive oil is used; it might as well be canola the way the fish was cooked.) Furthermore the griddle was too infrequently cleaned and then not cleaned properly adding to the brown .
Any other method of preparation of the fish pieces would be better than the griddle frying.
I asked both times to have the fish cooked less and with minimal oil. No luck, and I wonder what would have happened had I not asked.
The only topping or sauce that appealed ( that would not have clobbered the fish) was a salsa and it was perfunctory. (I have a general dissatisfaction with the "extras" offered. So eg the pickled ginger with the sushi was unpleasantly sweet, the pickled onions were emasculated, etc.)
Oh yeah, too much salt was dumped on the fish twice(in M. and
N.), notwithstanding that I had tried to curtail it.
In N. I was able to control the cooking of the fish a bit better because that I knew I had to tell the attendant when to take the fish off the griddle. But I had bad luck with the stir fry. I lost my fight with the attendant to cut down on the oil– far, far too much oil. The attendant was Chinese and I am sure thought that she was doing a good job. In some Chinese cooking styles ample oil is desirable because it shows generosity. Also, as she said, the oil keeps the ingredients from sticking. It does, but there was far too much of it for me and you can use other fluids and much less.
Salty, oily overcooked dry fish sided with oily stir fry. Stick with the oysters and prawns!; insist that they replenish. I couldn’t because I am allergic to shellfish. As for the quality, a companion said that it was good. At The Langham the prawns should have been larger and the oysters plumper. Valentine's Pakuranga offered a similar grade when Doug Woods was running it (until five years ago).
Oh how I miss the smoked salmon, both cold and hot smoked, from SBF!

8. Indian. I can't appreciate Indian cooking and can't handle heat so I generally refrain. But bread I like and the naan was good. I had the fish pieces once and they were overcooked and hard. I tempered the spice with raita. It had far too much salt in it. The English working class does Indian.

9. Dessert. A huge derogation from the past and getting worse. At SBF there were many desserts and it was unusual to find something that wasn't excellent. Now selection is greatly reduced and it is hard to find something good. The individually portioned desserts are photography desserts- they have no palate flair and give no satisfaction. Some are out and out bad - eg the so called crumble(too sweet mush, that includes the topping) and creme brulee (rubbery).
Sticky date pudding at SBF had always been a great success with customers and a highlight for us seems not to be offered anymore. Instead, a not bad toffee pudding. The bread pudding has been continued but is now made with pastry and is effete. It was palatable only after I put ice cream with it. (For a really good bread pudding, go to the RSA in Whakatane.) I can’t guess why the sticky date pudding was scrapped- the pudding was almost always finished in the course of the lunch buffet.
The ice cream selections were bizarre. The two the first time in M. were goat cheese and macadamia nut; the second time tiramisu and some sort of nut caramel.
The ice cream was Kapiti I think and Kapiti is an excellent brand. But not all their varieties work, and some work a lot better than others. The ones that Eight chose were weak ones that sound better than they eat. Even what was offered was obviously problematic. The flavours were too close, if not by description, they were in the eating because Kapititi is elegantly refined.- eg the second visit with the caramel and tiramisu. And they look alike.
It is not sensible in this day of nut allergies for a buffet to have as an alternative to macadamia nut--- goat cheese- and have both choices white.
It is unreasonable to offer such selections for the one dessert that almost everyone likes – young or old. Ice cream bar offers many flavours but the reality is that most people choose from strawberry, vanilla and chocolate, at least in North America. In NZ there are some different, really good and popular flavours – hokey pokey, feijoa, passionfruit- but they weren't offered. Instead, goat cheese!
Next. Here there can be no difference of opinion. The ice cream looked like yuck and was off-putting. The goopy scrapings from the prior containers were put on top of the new ones which replaced them. And at The Langham!
In N. the ice cream supplier had been changed and Movenpick brand substituted. There was a sorbet which was thawing and grainy both times and another flavour. Movenpick (the franchisor is based in Switzerland)is good, but it is not Kapiti. Furthermore many of of Kapiti’s flavours are very Kiwi and the ice cream could have been special and memorable for a tourist guest. Movenpick’s flavours are “international” which means they have been enjoyed everywhere and all the time; as special as international style architecture.
Why switch suppliers? It may be because Movenpick is significantly cheaper for The Langham.
NZ ice cream is generally excellent, Kapiti is superb, the guests are mostly tourists- and Eight has managed to screw up ice cream. And no cooking is required. Everything looks(a figure of speech) perfect but nothing works. Par for the course at Eight. So for example instead of goop in icecream, salt and oil in expensive fish.
The May failures in the desserts were resolved by eliminating a lot them. What is left other then the puddings and ice cream is pannacotta, prepared to a rubbery firmness, better described as milk jello.

10. Children running amok. During our first visit in May, three small children went to the desserts together. They were accompanied by an adult who stood aside watching. They played in the chocolate fountain; they ran their hands through it and then put their hands in the fruit and otherwise made a mess on the table and the floor. The adult attending subsequently took them to a washroom where they made another mess with their chocolate hands.
The staff at the chocolate fountain felt powerless to intervene and just stood and watched. They were wrong. The children went past the constraints imposed by respect for and tolerance of guests. I thought, what if one of the children had pulled down his pants and shit on the floor in front of the desserts?

11. The regular coffee is hit and miss. Never great, sometimes OK, but sometimes weak and bitter.

Then come the $10 and 2% surcharges.

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