Following the demise of the Jade Fountain the options available to fans of Chinese food in Barrow are somewhat limited.

And as the Diamond doesn't offer a buffet - which, let's be honest, is the best way to eat Chinese, there is now only one venue in Barrow where you can truly tuck into all your favourite curries, soups and starters in one sitting.

And so I took my four-year-old Abigail to the only Chinese buffet in town - at the Panda Garden in Duke Street.

My choice of dining partner allows me to illustrate one of the best things about a buffet. Do you have a child who's a bit fussy? Would you be anxious about choosing a dish for them at a typical restaurant?

Well that's where the beauty of buffets comes in.

Not only can your kids walk round and take a look at the food on offer before sampling; they can also just take a small amount to try, and the Panda Garden offers plenty of milder dishes and child-friendly food like chips, rice, prawn crackers, vegetables and prawn toast. It's like entertainment and nourishment rolled into one.

The Panda Garden's sweet and sour soup is something I always head to first; although the chunks of chicken and pork are a little on the small side, it's spot on and I often drizzle some of it on chips and rice.

Abigail always enjoys the chicken satay, possibly because being served on sticks makes it look tantalizingly like a lollipop.

It's not a favourite dish of mine but you can't question how succulent the meat is and there's no doubt about its freshness.

Alongside the starters (prawn toast, salt and pepper chicken wings, spring rolls) there's also onion rings which I challenge any young child to dislike.

During the early bird session (5pm-6.30pm for £9.90 for adults and £5.90 for under 10s) the Panda Garden can somewhat resemble an Oriental take on Little Subs but that just highlights how popular it is with families.

The decor might be a tad outdated but don't let that put you off. And let's face it, who would want to feel they have to get dressed up for a Chinese buffet?

There are at least seven or eight main course dishes including the popular crispy chilli beef, sweet and sour chicken, beef in black bean sauce and pork in ginger and chilli.

Side dishes include fried rice, boiled rice, chips, salt and pepper chips, two types of noodles and stir-fried vegetables.

I've always thought desserts at a Chinese buffet are a bit pointless but the puddings at the Panda Garden are much more tempting than those I've seen elsewhere. The ice creams are displayed in a freezer, already dished up, another plus point for young diners.

Abigail calls the Panda Garden "the buffet cafe with noodles". I call it one of the best dining experiences in Barrow for families and Chinese food fans alike.

Food 5

Value 5

Service 4

Atmosphere 3


Unbelievable value

Food regularly refreshed

Ideal for families


Interior is outdated

Toilets are upstairs