Shop 22/23 Runcorn Plaza, 254 Warrigal Rd, Runcorn
Mention 'hotpot', 'charcoal barbeque' and 'all-you-can-eat' in one sentence and you're bound to spark my interest. Even though I'm an advocate for clean eating and trying to stay healthy rarara, there is an undeniable appeal to being able to pile your plate with food from a vast selection, gob it down and then, get up and do it all again.
As soon as I heard about Little Lamb, I started baiting friends to go. Unfortunately, my immediate clique is unenthusiastic about travelling beyond the Brisbane CBD and Zone 1 suburbs and the thought of anything Sunnybank and beyond seems almost other-worldly. The circumstances under which I went to Little Lamb would sound strange to anyone who isn't aware of just how crazy I am about food/restauranting. Last night, Byron and I decided to catch up over dinner and we ended up driving down to Brisbane and back over the span of 5 hours (with a 1:4 ratio of eating to travelling time).
We managed to find the place without too much hassle. It was just coming onto 9pm and I was worried the restaurant would be closed. Turns out, it was not only open but bustling. We were given a "we close at 10:30pm" warning though. With one and a half hours to go, we figured that would be plenty of time.
The guy at the counter asked if we'd been before. I admitted "no" but then we got no explanation about how the place worked... or even where our table was. We were told to go to Table 17 and had to take a few blind steps without any sense of direction before a waitstaff took pity on us and showed us where to sit.
Even though no one told us how the restaurant worked, it wasn't too difficult to figure out. Each table had a built in induction cooktop, and a charcoal grill trough. As soon as you're seated, someone brings out a pot of soup for the cooktop, and a box of hot coals for the grill. You then head over to the buffet section and start picking out food items to cook.
The buffet comprises of a few sections. There are vegetables for the hotpot, fish balls and cakes and things for the hotpot, a variety of skewers for the grill, thinly sliced meat for the hotpot, some ready-to-eat food and a saucing station. Other areas include the soft drink dispenser, the ice-cream fridge, fruit juice dispenser and fresh fruit.
Assortment of skewers (uncooked)
All up, that was a lot to take in for a first time visitor. I grabbed a few skewers mindlessly and headed back to the table.
The skewers were mounded on the metal trough and I was amused to see that they turned automatically. It was like a mini skewer rotisserie. Very cute! I picked up lamb, beef, chicken and bean, and chicken heart skewers to start with.
I realized the meat would take some time to cook and I was starving, so I went back and tried some ready to eat gyoza and spicy fried chicken. They were a bit too greasy and cold for my liking.
Hot pot bases and empty charcoal pit
With the hotpot, you get to choose 2 soup bases. We went for 1/2 normal and 1/2 spicy. I threw in some vegetables to start with and then scouted around for meat.
Thinly sliced lamb
I didn't see any meat on my first trip but then I noticed a waitstaff bringing out freshly sliced plates so I honed in. I only noticed sliced lamb so I'm not sure if they offer anything else.
Everything in action
The lamb in the hotpot was beautifully tender. I had a soy and chili oil dipping sauce ready but I found they were already nicely flavored after cooking in the broth. I stuck to the 'normal' broth the whole night whilst Byron exclusively used the spicy one. What can I say, my chili-tolerance has taken a dive over this year.
The skewers took a bit longer to cook but when they were ready, they were so delicious! The meat was again very tender, nicely flavored and had a smokey, charred quality. I liked all of them so it's difficult to pick a favorite. The chicken and capsicum was really good. All the chicken skewers were supremely juicy but what was surprisingy was how nice the capsicum tasted.
Vegetables before taking a dip in the hotpot
I finished my meal with some hotpot soup and veggies. I loved the enoki mushrooms. They were silky and soft and really soaked up the flavor.
We had our soup topped off a couple of times and I was glad to see they used broth, rather than water, so that the hotpot retained flavor.
The service at Little Lamb was fairly dismissive but the atmosphere was bustling and full of people happily munching away. I thought there was a good variety of food and that the buffet was comprehensive because it included fruit, dessert (if you count ice-cream) and food that didn't require cooking. This is a good place to go to if you don't want to comit to just hotpot or charcoal BBQ alone. Why not have both? For $30 I thought it was good value, especially because there was plenty of meat available, and soft drinks were included too.