Jack boldly goes (…not very far) to Oscar’s Brasserie in Croydon to see what happens when you install an all you can eat, self service buffet inside of a fancy restaurant. Actually, as buffets go, this may be Nirvana…
Captive, capable and captivated Croydon Park Hotel guests. The kind of person that hasn’t eaten any food all day. Time starved, extremely hungry people. Food roulette buffet brahs and ’cheat day gourmands’ with a budget to keep. Japanese businessmen who wish to get rapidly schooled in British food. The hungry version of me and my friend Jason.
In a Word
Who is Oscar and why does he cook such large portions?
Oscar’s Brasserie lives within the somewhat but not entirely fancy Croydon Park Hotel (4 stars and no less) sittings adjacent to a sister venue that shares its menu called the Whistler Bar.
Enter stage right from a hotel lobby full of nonspecific, reflective, elliptical sculpture and Japanese businessmen checking in – head towards the strong smell of boiling potatoes and the sound of a large family of excitable kids only partially blocking the restaurant entrance.
On reflection, the last time I visited this place was about 12 years back – and not much seems to have changed since then.
First thing you notice in front of Oscar’s Brasserie is a traffic light style warning system for breakfasts…and I spy with my hungry eye… a self service, all you can eat buffet. In a fancy restaurant? Rah. Well, I haven’t eaten today so this could be good.
The initial impression based on the slightly dated decor and food situated in the middle is that this is going to be one of those slightly grim buffet style hotel restaurants. This impression is corrected later – not to worry.
Stepping over to a table, my other initial impression is that Oscar’s clientele appears to consist mainly of hotel guests – who are mainly white middle aged white people. This is not true, I will later see some large East Asian families with kids, and some black couples that look like they’re celebrating an anniversary.
For a relatively fancy place, Oscar’s is not particularly pretentious, and the service isn’t at the level of attentive that makes lower middle class people like me feel awkward (which I suppose is either a blessing or curse, depending on how much you want to be looked after by smiling Eastern European folks)
Having just stayed in a particularly ghetto hotel in Santorini my head is full of ruthless comparisons – and, shitty London weather aside, this place has already made a better impression.
Music? The tone is set by what is mainly downtempo world music – ‘Buddha bar lounge mix #4983698368’ faire later evolving into what might be low key dance music and then that band of Gregorian monks who chant cover songs over Enya style backing tracks. I think they’re just called ‘Gregorian’…lol
And Jesus, it’s so ‘hotel’ here – they still do that thing with folded serviettes (serviette origami?), and again, more old school English hospitality in the form of a Polish woman asking if you want ’Brown or white bread’ before your meal. They even have the with the butter portioned out into 3” rectangles. I’m sitting here experiencing an influx of staycation related memories and I haven’t even cracked into the wine yet.
I suppose you could say that the décor is classically inspired – ‘quite fancy’ but not ‘super fancy’ (no faux gold lace or stuff that may or may not be ebony, etc). And it’s conveniently located about 3 minutes from East Croydon station.
We’re here at 7pm on a Friday night, and at about 1:3 occupancy — pretty quiet. I’m not sure how busy it is, and how the high/low seasons are divided in British hospitality – so this probably means nothing.
The buffet sits right in the centre of the room, like some supermassive black hole food holding all the tables in orbit with the gravitational force of calories. Or maybe the tables are black holes feeding off of the buffet which is actually a dying star made of stroganoff beef noodles curry? Fuck it, abandon metaphor!
Onto the food. If you and I are anything alike, you’ve probably experienced some bleak buffet bonanza extravaganzas in your time. Remember being 13 years old and trying to bankrupt your local Chinese buffet with friends? No matter how many noodles you managed to eat, they’d never accept you. Ahem…
Thankfully this is not the case here – Oscar’s extremely ample buffet is full of the kind of stuff that you’d find on an a la carte menu…not a takeaway menu. Think white tilapia in lemon, salmon gravlax, a whole salmon centrepiece, a wondrous variety of vegetables including tasty tasty baked sweet potato cubes – all that good stuff.
On a Fridays, this buffet will set you back £24.50 per head (note: this goes up in December!). Is this value for money you ask? As always, this depends on what you want out of the evening…
In terms of ordering food, there’s two options – you either ‘self serve’ from said buffet, or you order from the adjacent Whistler Bar’s a la carte menu. We’re told that they’re working on an a la carte menu for Oscar’s too, which is still a little while off.
The manager, Mustafa, informs you that the buffet is arranged into 5 courses. Like a normal, well adjusted human being, you are encouraged to eat them in that order. The reality is that, like most any buffet I’ve been to, what you end up with is a bunch of people who piledrive exciting new and combinations of food into pyramid shaped heaps – but not quite on the level of the Chinese buffet.
To be fair, you could actually assemble what many would call a ‘healthy meal’ here. This is what I begin to do – that is, before I notice the egg noodles and stroganoff. These I logically combo onto the top of my plate with a little beef curry in my new favourite way of getting heart disease. Ladies and gentlemen I give you ‘stroganoff beef noodles curry’.
How bout those drinks eh? On the main part a reasonably priced and somewhat varied wine menu – less exciting beers on cask apparently (not that you can find any references to anything asides from wine on the menu). A fair amount of stuff available by the glass, and a surprisingly varied selection of liqueuers. No self service on the wine here, which is probably for the best :3
The wine we pick out is called from Jackalberry and like many a South African Pinotage, is inherently very easy to drink – soft, fruit forward and suited to the sweet British palate.
Like the real swell guys we are, me and my dining companion Jay go for four haphazard and extremely protein heavy courses/heaps of tasty food. Actually, Jay goes one further, adding a 5th course consisting of 3 every type of dessert that they offer (and custard too, because he’s fucking savage)
Well, I haven’t eaten this much good food in a single monstrous serving in months. Depending on how hungry you are (i.e if you’re really hungry) this place could be very good value indeed. It’s also worth mentioning Oscar’s turkey bacon is one of the finest tasting meats I have ever experienced. I don’t know what the hell they’ve done to/with it.
That said, I can’t see many Londoners from north of the river making the trek down to Croydon just for this place. Still, if you’re in the area and you’re looking for an sit down restaurant alternative to Boxpark (and the very real guarantee that you will leave completely satisfied at the end of your meal…) – well, this could be it.
7 Altyre Road, Croydon, CR9 5AA
0208 253 1256