5 Reasons to visit the Centenary Restaurant in 2024


Opening in the summer of 2023 in the Centenary Building on Highfield Campus, the Centenary restaurant is one of Southampton’s most exciting new restaurants. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to have a behind the scenes look at the restaurant, sample the food, and interview co-owner, Feng. She was extremely hospitable, along with all of her staff, who guided me through the menu, how the restaurant operates, and how it came about.

The story of the Centenary restaurant began all the way back in 2018. The owners of the highly successful Garden Restaurant on High Road, Swaythling, were contacted by the University with the proposal of opening the University of Southampton’s first restaurant. The project has been in the works before the Centenary building was even constructed itself!

Here are the following reasons why I believe you should add it to your list of places to eat in 2024:


The buffet-style lunch

The restaurant opens at 10:30 with a buffet style lunch, in which you can select a range of dishes. The variety is extensive, there will almost definitely be something you like. From sweet to salty, seafood to chicken and beef, hot food to cold food, as well as a selection of vegetarian dishes, there is plenty of choice. Out of the food that I tried, my favourites were the steamed seabass with chilli and garlic, and the sweet and sour chicken.

Before you get too excited, it is not all you can eat… However, they cleverly price based off weight, at roughly £2.80 per 100g. This allows you to take as much food as you want, as well as be very selective over what you choose. The pricing is extremely reasonable, especially considering that expensive ingredients such as sea bass are priced at the same rate as cheaper dishes such as the stir-fried broccoli.

On top of this, every day the food is served with complimentary rice and soup. A real grudge of mine when going out to eat is when restaurants charge extortionate amounts for rice given how cheap it is to source, so it was quite refreshing to see a restaurant providing this for free.

Try Authentic Chinese Cuisine

Feng mentioned that very few of their customers were not Chinese, and wondered why this is. Being born and raised in Britain, it is no secret that us Brits love a Chinese takeaway. In fact for some, it is even a weekly staple. However, many Chinese takeaways are catered to the British palette, and aren’t representative of authentic Chinese cookery.

Contrastingly, this is not adopted by the centenary restaurant, who make use of traditional ingredients and recipes. Many of the dishes I had never even heard of, let alone tried. It was an eye-opening experience to try many of them. Although it may seem daunting to try new things which are quite alien to people who have not been exposed to traditional Chinese cuisine, given the buffet-style lunch service, it is easy to sample small amounts of dishes for a cheap price.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Jelly Noodles (Liangfen), which despite being an acquired texture, were delicious. However, there were dishes that were perhaps a bit too adventurous for me, such as the braised beef tendon, a Chinese delicacy. Despite being rich in collagen, which supports healthy skin and hair (it could perhaps do wonders on my receding hairline), it wasn’t for me.

However, the possibility to effectively and affordably sample these authentic Chinese dishes, means it doesn’t matter if you don’t like something. Furthermore, the Centenary restaurant has a range of more anglicised dishes, which are much more accessible for people who are not familiar with Chinese cuisine, such as spring rolls, spicy chicken nuggets, and noodles.

The Dinner Service

Dinner at the centenary restaurant is different to the lunch-time offering, involving table service and menus. There are two beautifully displayed menus, one with the authentic Chinese dishes, and the other with more accessible dishes.

It is often daunting ordering from a Chinese restaurant if you are not familiar with the dishes, but the menu has many photos and is excellently laid out. Yet again, there is a broad range of options, and you will be spoilt for choice! The Centenary restaurant is a beautiful space; it is large and open, and the owners have done an excellent job at decorating it.

Robot Waiters

Yes, you heard me, robot waiters. During the dinner service, there are several robots which distribute the food around the restaurant. If this seems like a step to far into the future, don’t worry, the Centenary Restaurant take a hybrid approach to front of house, and there is still plenty of human interaction. The job of these robots is mostly to efficiently deliver the food to the tables, where a waiter will then pass around the food, and be able to attend to any concerns/questions from the diners. Not only do the robots help ensure a smooth service, and certainly prevent some dropped plates, they’re great fun. As far as I am aware, this is the only restaurant to have adopted them in Southampton.


Feng has told me how much she has loved opening on campus, meeting many students and staff. I’m sure you’ve walked past it and on your way to a lecture and been lured towards the door by the smells coming from inside. I certainly have, and I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t tempted me to forget my lecture and have a Chinese lunch. The buffet makes for a speedy lunch option, and if you find yourself with a spare few hours on campus, I’d highly recommend giving it a go and trying some authentic Chinese food (I most certainly will be back).


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