I have always been a fan of tiny menus. As Gordon Ramsay is frequently at pains to bellow to some hapless restaurateur, it’s impossible to do everything well when your menu extends to the length of the Declaration of Independence.

But there are always exceptions to the rule – and perhaps the most glorious of them lies underground beneath busy Magdalen Street.

Entered through a fairly unassuming doorway close to the Odeon cinema, Cosmo is an establishment for which size matters. The fact it has an escalator to carry customers down is a clue to its philosophy that big, and busy, is definitely beautiful.

Cosmo Authentic World Kitchen, to use its full name, is an all you can eat buffet restaurant of the type you might find on a cruise ship or a big international hotel – but bigger, much bigger.

The idea is, you help yourself to food from around the world, loading up your plate with as much or little as you wish – as frequently as you want... or are able to.

The Oxford Times:

The place is absolutely huge – with more than half of the floor space given over to serving areas dispensing treats divided up, roughly, into Chinese/South East Asian, sushi, European food, a carvery, wraps, curries and burgers. There’s also a teppanyaki Japanese-style grill for steak and seafood, a ramen noodle station and a dessert counter that stretches, it would appear, to infinity – with cakes, fruit, various puddings and, more importantly a chocolate fountain and ice cream dispenser which allows you to channel your inner Mr Whippy and create your own cones–toppings and all.

Oh, and there’s a bar and fizzy drink station, but you’d be a fool to fill up on liquids.

The sceptical, of which I admit I was one, will no doubt dismiss the suggestion that a place juggling such a mind boggling array of combinations can ever be good. The surprising fact is, it actually is. Yes, really.

Okay, presentation is basic and the ingredients and cooking are never going to be anywhere near haute cuisine, or even what you’d get in a specialist independent Thai, Japanese, South Asian or Chinese restaurant – but who would expect that for £8.99 a head for lunch (£11.99 on Saturday), or £16.50 for dinner (£17.50 Friday and Saturday, £16.50 all day Sunday)?

And it’s not just me saying that. So popular is Cosmo’s contribution to oriental cuisine, it this year scooped a coveted Golden Chopstick Award – beating the likes of Itsu and Wagamama. The company won Best Restaurant Chain Award, following a public vote.

The Oxford Times:

Manager Antonios Saliaras who, on the evidence of my visit, is the busiest restaurant boss in the business, is proud of the award and lays the praise squarely at the door of his staff – who seem a most cheerful bunch; a miracle, considering the quantity of food they have to magic up.

As for my dinner, well, I’m ashamed to say it was a three plate affair with, cough, a bowl of noodles and a further two plates for pudding. I resisted the temptation to mix it up too much, but admit there was a healthy element of fusion going on. The best was a Malaysian seafood curry which I could have happily chowed down on all night. Also great were a stack of self-assembled crispy duck pancakes, complete with spring onion, cucumber and Hoisin sauce (which are surely worth the cover price alone?) and teppanyaki scallop, prawns and squid.

The Oxford Times:

A lamb madras was as fine a curry as I’ve had at most Indian restaurants and the Singapore noodles were perfect.

The kids played fast and loose, mixing sweet and savoury, chicken nuggets, popcorn chicken, mountains of chips, roast beef and an array of little puds – before monopolising the chocolate fountain.

Antonios would be the first to concede that Cosmo isn’t expecting a Michelin Star any time soon, but for high quality cooking which covers most corners of the world, and with plenty of ‘comfort food’ choices for fussy mates – and children – this really is a fantastic option. And that’s especially true if you are coming with a big posse. You could bring an army and there’d still be space... and plenty left to eat.

  • Cosmo Authentic World Kitchen is at 8 Magdalen Street, Oxford
  • Book at 01865 297575.
  • More details at cosmo-restaurants.co.uk/restaurants/oxford.
  • Parking: Take your chance on St Giles or use the Westgate, Better still, leave the car at home and enjoy a beer.
  • Tip: Forgo the carbs, and certainly the fizzy drinks, and hit the high-value protein. The prawns and other seafood is fabulous and the teppanyaki is fun and delicious. Best are the crispy duck pancakes. Just don’t overdo it; believe me, you’ll regret it after if you do.