Last Tuesday night was my birthday, and to mark the occasion we shuffled and coughed our way through the freezing cold to the Novotel Ambassador Hotel on Haeundae Beach. The hotel does a legendary buffet, and having eaten there the week before in the company of our Director and Manager, we were determined to make this visit a little less restrained.
Straddling the seafront like a Neptunian colossus, the Ambassador does a fine trade as Haeundae’s premier Hotel complex and rocking up in my donkey jacket and trainers, I couldn’t help but feel the ominous onset of the Bums Rush. If being a foreigner in Korea means anything however, it’s your innate inapproachability - I probably could have set fire to the curtains and got away with nothing more than a tight grin and a bow. Luckily though, I was here to eat, and for 49 chun a pop (roughly 25 quid) including wine you can really get your moneys worth.
Meaty king crab legs, mussels, prawns, crayfish and a considerable array of raw fish and sushi made for an excellent appetiser, followed soon after by an attack on the mains counter. A number of home favorites were represented here, including beef stew, baked fish, and cauliflower cheese. Needless to say each item had a welcome place at my table and as if there wasn’t enough on our plates, we had a few lamb chops, steaks, and Bay Lobsters cooked to order.
The shellfish was excellent. Served cold (with the exception of the Bay Lobster) it was plain, fresh and delicious. The mains displayed a similar degree of competence, and although the cauliflower was a little overdone and some of the dishes could have been a degree or two warmer, they made for an outstanding midpoint nonetheless. It was in the cooked-to-order selection, however, that the chef’s skill was most obvious. The Bay Lobsters were plump and sweet, giving up a surprising amount of flesh from their squat tails. The lamb and steak meanwhile, were cooked with the kind of care and precision deserving of a quality piece of meat; slightly charred on the outside, yielding to a medium rare pink in the middle.
The only problem we experienced was with timing. We only managed to get a table at 8pm, two hours before closing, and while a more relaxed meal might have involved more of an eat – rest – eat regime, time constraints meant that a quicker pace was required and i unfortunately didn't manage dessert, preferring instead to go for another pass at the savories.
Korean food is great, but when you need an injection of western flavour, you can do a lot worse than the Ambassador.