Buffet breakfast at the Sheraton Hotel

Last Sunday, Jac and I went out for a slightly belated birthday breakfast. She left the choice of where we went up to me, and I chose the Sheraton Hotel, where they serve a full breakfast buffet. I'd chosen the Sheraton because 1) I love hotel buffet breakfasts (especially at a 5-star hotel!) and 2) Jac had recently attended a course for work at the Sheraton and had been really impressed with the lunch buffet.

We had every intention of getting up bright and early so we'd get there at the height of breakfast buffet time, but we'd both had a big week and really needed the sleep! By the time we got there it was around 10AM - one hour left to eat. My stomach was ready and growling.

We paid our AU$35 per head and were shown to a sunny table by the window. The waiter asked if we would like orange juice, coffee or tea. I said yes to a glass of OJ, but Jac asked if there was any cranberry juice available (Trivia- that's Jac's favourite juice. Unfortunately, not many restaurants in Perth serve it). The waiter advised her to check out the range of juices on offer at the buffet. No problem. I asked if we could have English breakfast tea with soy milk. The waiter said, "I can get you a pot of tea for two. There is soy milk at the buffet." Jac went to the buffet in search of soy milk and cranberry juice. She came back with a glass of tomato juice - the juices available were orange, apple, pineapple and tomato - and a glass of soy milk - not the best for pouring, but there were no jugs at the buffet. Not a big deal, but little things like that do make a difference to one's experience - at our recent buffet breakfast at the Hilton, the waiter had brought us a pot of tea with a jug of soy milk, no fuss whatsoever.

Here's my plate. Looks pretty good, right? All the standard components were present, however, their quality left a lot to be desired. The scrambled eggs were watery and bland. The tomato needed a little more cooking. The little cup held a baked egg. I've seen Nigella Lawson making herself a baked egg snack on one of her TV shows - I don't remember exactly what was in it, apart from egg and cream - and I was really looking forward to trying this one.

In with the egg were pieces of chopped tomato, bacon or ham, and herbs. I eagerly dug my spoon into the egg. It seriously needed seasoning. Just a little salt and pepper would've done wonders. It was somewhat dry and overcooked, the yolk hard and powdery. I guess coming in at 10AM for buffet meant the tray of baked eggs had been sitting there a while. Personally, I wouldn't bake so many in one hit and then leave them sitting there. I'd bake them in a few rounds to maximise freshness. And despite it being the final hour of buffet, there was a steady flow of people arriving - a fresh(er) batch of baked eggs would've been appreciated, I'm sure. This bland, dry baked egg didn't do the Sheraton any favours - they would've been better off not offering the baked eggs at all.

An interesting inclusion was a bamboo steamer full of mini char siu (Chinese barbecue pork) pao (steamed buns). The filling was quite sweet and tasty, though not particularly meaty. I've had better pao, but of course, I wouldn't go to the Sheraton if I felt like a good pao.

Jac thought the chipolatas were too garlicky - I quite liked them but could see why someone else might think the garlic overpowering. The mushrooms were quite nice, the bacon quite lean. The plectrum-shaped hash brown was crispy though perhaps a little overseasoned - very salty, saltier than the bacon!

When we entered the restaurant, I noticed a chef at the buffet, cooking pancakes and waffles to order. I was quite excited at the thought of having a freshly cooked waffle. As Jac went to load her plate up with hot items, I joined the waffle/pancake line. It soon became apparent however, that the chef on duty was really uncomfortable with customer interaction. He did not make eye contact with customers. He kept his head down and waited for the pancakes on the hotplate to cook. He could've looked up at us, smiled and asked if anyone would like him to cook them a waffle, since the waffle iron was just sitting there unused while the pancakes cooked. The pancakes also seemed to take a very long time to cook - I don't think the hotplate was getting hot enough. In the end it was just too frustrating watching the people ahead of me in the line trying to get his attention to place their orders, and at the rate he was going, I'd be standing in line for ages, getting more and more frustrated. I was too hungry, and by this time, too grumpy to stand there waiting. I left the line, loaded up my plate and joined Jac back at our table.

I guess Jac could see I was annoyed and disappointed, and since it was my birthday breakfast, after she'd finished her food she offered to go get me a waffle. Isn't she sweet? All I wanted was a waffle with maple syrup - no ice cream, cream or fruit or anything else. When she got back with my waffle, she told me she'd had to practically shout at the chef to get him to look up at her so she could ask him to cook her a waffle - a simple "Excuse me" at the normal volume didn't get his attention. He just wouldn't look at customers, he wasn't listening out for their requests - it looked like he seriously did not want to be there. Not a people person, perhaps? Too bad for us customers, apparently. If you want your buffet to feature a chef cooking pancakes and waffles to order, you really should use a chef with interpersonal skills. He or she doesn't need to be over the top schmoozy, but seriously, someone who can make eye contact with customers and appear to give a damn about serving them is essential for that role.

It doesn't look all that good really, does it? I suspect a dirty waffle iron was a contributing factor. It was more chewy than crispy - I have a feeling the waffle iron suffered from the same lack of heating power as the pancake hotplate. Compare this unattractive example with this waffle from a family breakfast last year. Even if you imagine my Sheraton waffle with fruit next to it, it's still pretty ugly! Still, Jac had filled the squares with maple syrup, and I always enjoy eating batter. But I won't be rushing back to the Sheraton for waffles again (or pancakes, for that matter).

It could've been because we were there at the last hour of the buffet, but the fruit selection wasn't particularly impressive. It was mostly melons - honeydew melon (green), rockmelon (orange) or watermelon. Jac grabbed herself a slice of grapefruit as well. I was disappointed with the watermelon, which was floury and NOT seedless. Seriously, why would anyone eat seeded watermelon anymore, now that we have seedless? (Hmmm, because seeded watermelon is cheaper than seedless?)

We thought the buffet breakfast we had recently at the Hilton was far superior than the Sheraton, both in the quality and the range of food. I hate writing negative reviews, but I just couldn't recommend the buffet breakfast at the Sheraton. It wasn't terrible, but for AU$35 a head, you could get much better elsewhere. All the elements were there, but the Sheraton missed the mark in service and execution.