This was my second visit to Butlin’s in the space of 12 months and like last time, we (me, husband, four year old daughter) opted for the Dinearound plan. My husband isn’t keen on buffets, which ruled out hotel dining; we like the flexibility and variety of eating in the different restaurants on site and crucially, without the Dinearound plan you can’t book a table – and we had a packed itinerary.
To be fair on our first Just for Tots break service was usually so slow that we either skipped the dessert that we had paid for or risked missing the start of the shows – it was better this time but we did still have to abandon dessert and leave once.
As I’m still seeing questions nearly every week on the Butlin’s Facebook group I’m in about the various meal plans and how they work, I will give a quick recap here.
How do the Butlin’s meal plans work?
Dinearound: You pre-pay for meals, you get breakfast and either lunch or dinner (your choice and you can switch each day). It allows you to eat in the Fish and Chip restaurant, Firehouse Grill, Beachcomber, Papa John’s and the Diner. You will likely only be given two of those options for breakfast and you can’t choose the same restaurant for lunch or dinner during your stay.
Is the Dinearound plan worth the cost? Depends how much you think you will eat. It’s value for money compared to the price of ordering everything individually as you get a starter or a dessert, a main, a side dish and a drink. Often we wouldn’t have wanted to eat that much so it would have been cheaper without the plan but you can’t book a table without the plan, which was a big selling point for us. Also, it means you don’t have to worry about the bill at the end of the meal, which is nice.
Someone is only joining us for part of our break, can I just pay for dining on the days they are here? Unfortunately no – if you choose any meal plan, it has to be for all members of your party for the entire duration of your break.
How do you book a table in the restaurants at Butlin’s? If you have Dinearound, you will be able to book a table two weeks before your break, in the Plan My Day section of the website – at the same time that your activity booking window goes live.
What is the difference between hotel dining, food court and premium? These are all buffet restaurants, where you don’t need to book a slot and can go at any time during the opening hours. If you are staying in the Shoreline or Ocean hotels, which have their own restaurants, it’s hotel dining (you can’t have food court or premium – from the sample menus hotel dining looks somewhere in between the two). If you are in the Wave hotel or self catering/ silver room/ gold room etc, you can choose between food court and premium dining, which are both buffets, the latter presumably better than the former.
You don’t need a dining plan at all and can self cater or pay as you go, but without a plan you will have to wait for a table and could have to wait a while if they are busy. There are other places to eat on site that aren’t included in the dining plans so anyone can eat there and pay as they go – Burger King, two Costa cafes (actually I think three, but I’ve never seen the third) and there is an on-site Co-op supermarket, though it is quite small.
I reviewed several restaurants after my visit in 2021; here are the ones we ate at in 2022.
Fish and Chip Restaurant
This was one of my favourite restaurants on our last visit, for the food at least- in September 2021 it took over an hour for our food to come and we ended up having to leave before the dessert we had paid for or we would have missed our evening show. This time service was a lot better (read- faster) and I decided to have a starter rather than dessert this time anyway.
On our last visit my father-in-law had the most amazing prawn cocktail starter; a huge portion of succulent prawns on a bed of lettuce, which he said was really good, so I was excitedly anticipating the same. When it arrived, it was about half the size of the fish he had been served, and the prawns were the most tasteless I have ever had. They didn’t even taste watery, as cheap frozen prawns sometimes do – they tasted of nothing. Very disappointing!
For my main course I had scampi and chips, which was much better – as you might expect from a fish and chip restaurant!
Last time on the Dinearound plan we were only offered two options for breakfast – the Beachcomber and Papa John’s. This time around we also only had two options – the Diner and Beachcomber, so we had breakfast in each of them twice.
I had the same breakfast both times at the Diner, as it was really good – the sausage and egg muffin, without the egg. You get two sausage patties and an egg in a bun, which was like a better version of a McDonald’s breakfast and really tasty.
My husband tried the breakfast burger with sausage, bacon, fried egg, cheese and tater tots on the side and our daughter had pancakes with chocolate sauce and strawberries which she loved – we really enjoyed our breakfasts though the fact that calories are now printed on the menu and showed that mine and my husband’s breakfasts weighed in at over 1,000 calories each was a little scary!
We also had dinner at the Diner and I was hoping it would be better than last time where the food – especially the burgers – was very dry, but unfortunately it was the same again. The American diner style menu is very tempting but the food doesn’t quite live up to expectations. On the plus side, service was good and we actually managed to eat dessert for once before leaving to go to a show! It’s worth knowing that not quite everything is included on the Dinearound plan, such as milkshakes, which you have to pay extra for.
There are two Costa cafés on site with some additional options like jacket potatoes and paninis and they also do a children’s lunchbox, where you get a sandwich, crisps, drink etc in a nice cardboard Butlin’s box. One café is right in the middle of the Skyline pavilion next to the stage and really handy – we ate here twice on our four day break at lunchtime, both times grabbing a table in time to be able to eat lunch while watching a show on the stage. The paninis were nice and my daughter enjoyed hers, though there isn’t a huge amount of choice, and on our first day I ordered jacket potatoes only be told they weren’t doing them that day because it was a handover day. Still, this is one of the best options for lunch if you don’t want a big meal, and you want to watch a show like the Skyline Gang, which was on at 12.30 most days.
The other café is in the swimming pool building and we ate here one day after not getting out of the pool until nearly 1pm. There was plenty of seating and it was nice not to have to walk all the way over to the centre of the site where the other restaurants are – this café is good if you also just want a snack after swimming or if you want a drink while you are watching other people swim.
The other easy option for lunch is a Burger King branch next to the soft play and near the stage in the Skyline pavilion – we had a quick lunch here one day. There is also an onsite shop where you can buy sandwiches or picnic food or ingredients to make your own lunch if you are self catering.
Pizza is the mainstay of Papa John’s but they also have pasta and other dishes on the menu. We ate here on our last break and enjoyed it; this time I decided to go for the buffet option which meant I could help myself to the salad bar and go back as many times for pizza as I wanted. There were five different pizzas on offer so plenty of choice to take a slice of whatever you fancy. Sophie had the ice cream factory dessert which wasn’t working the last time we were here; you dispense a portion of soft scoop vanilla ice cream into a small cup and then add sprinkles, mini marshmallows etc yourself.
We weren’t especially impressed with the evening meals here on our last break (fairly uninspiring pub food) so we didn’t book it for dinner this time. However it was one of the only two options for breakfast that we were given on our four-night break, so we had breakfast twice at the Diner and twice at the Beachcomber. Unlike our last visit the Beachcomber was now a buffet breakfast where you queue and serve yourself; the queue was never very long and we thought there was a fairly good choice from cereals to cooked breakfasts to pancakes and chocolate sauce.
This was the only restaurant we hadn’t eaten at on our previous break and I actually wish we had, as dinner here was the best meal of this holiday! I’ve seen this restaurant as being described as like Nando’s, which is probably fair, though I haven’t been in a Nando’s for years. I ordered chicken tenders with barbecue sauce which lived up to their name – so moist and tender, they were delicious. The service was very slow however, and we ended up having to leave to see a show before we had gotten dessert, which is a shame as we had paid for dessert already as part of the Dinearound plan. When we were able to get the attention of a server they had offered to get our dessert and wrap it up to go but after waiting as long as we could, with no sign of them coming back, we ended up having to leave, and buying some candyfloss to eat during the show!
I’m going back to Butlin’s in August for a weekend break with my sister and we haven’t booked a meal plan at all so it will be interesting to see what happens if we want to eat at any of these restaurants, as you can only book a table if you have Dinearound – and how long we have to queue!