Eating fast needn’t mean eating badly with this line of Japanese-inspired food establishments which make it possible to enjoy tasty, fresh ingredients prepared at low-range prices.
Another addition to this large chain of noodle restaurants dotted around the city, this Wagamama branch provides quickly prepared, wholesome cuisine in a high street dominated by the more downmarket variety of fast food chains. The long tables and backless seats make it an ideal stop off for casual social groups; this type of canteen-style dining encourages some interaction among diners with bottles of soy sauce and other condiments being passed along the tables. The light and very open plan setting gives a sense that here, everything served is very fresh; the chefs in the kitchen at the side of the restaurant are on full view, tossing about ingredients and rustling up each meal to order.
Always a busy stop off during lunch hours and in the evenings, here you’ll find office workers noodle slurping alongside yummy mummies and their babies as well as those taking respite. The kitchen noise is all part of the atmosphere so this isn’t a good choice if you’re after a sedate, romantic setting. Service could be improved; the waiters may know the menu well but don’t seem prepared to take some time talking through the many dishes listed. Once you’re busily eating the routine question posed by the waiting staff is whether or not everything is ok, and not much attention is paid to the answer that is given. Expect then to spend some time with your eyes darting among the crowd trying to attract the attention of a waiter so that one of them will come to help you.
Those on a budget shouldn’t find it too difficult to grab a quick bite for around a tenner. There are no starters as such but a host of side dishes which can work as a starter or else act as a suitable compliment to your main meal. The ebi katsu dish is an offering of black tiger prawns, coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried in oil with a not too spicy red chilli and garlic sauce. The negima yakitori are meaty chicken breasts arranged on a bamboo skewer and basted with a blend of mirin, sake and soy sauce. Of course if you fancy something a little lighter then a bowl of miso soup is up for the taking and all of the starters, bar one, are priced under £5.
The large bowls of ramen soups are what we can imagine are being ingested by the person who features in Wagamama’s advertising, holding the bowl to their face. The chicken ramen is a joyful feast of noodles in a seasoned pork and chicken stock with grilled chicken, seasonal greens and a smattering of spring onions. For lovers of coconut milk, you might like to try this in the form of chicken kare lomen (£8.50) - a soup made up of lots of strong flavours – ginger, shrimp paste, coriander with the mandatory sprinkling of fresh bean sprouts and a wedge of lime. If it’s noodles you’re after, the amai udon (£7.15) is a very good choice; similar to a Pad Thai in many ways with soft, fried udon noodles mingling with egg, leeks, red onions and bean sprouts and glazed in a lovely sweet tamarind sauce.
A lot of the dishes are either quite meaty or else are seafood-based but there are a few choices that are meat-free should you prefer this. Servings are a good size so a main meal alone should fill you well but if you do add a side dish at least you won’t feel like you’ve had to relinquish a lot of cash to get it. A bit over £10 is what you might spend and, with most of the ingredients being very green and freshly prepared you shouldn’t feel too guilty afterwards either. If you do push the boat out, however, and opt for desert, the chocolate fudge cake slice with vanilla ice cream and wasabi sauce comes highly recommended.
A bottle of Asahi beer (£3.20 or £4.45 for a large bottle) washes down well with most of the dishes and there are a few wine choices as well. If you decide on one of their juices (£2.85), you’ll find it comes fresh from the juicer – pure, clear liquid with a frothy covering. The fruit juice is a delicious mixture of apple, orange and passion fruit or the carrot juice with a hint of fresh ginger gives a refreshing zing. For afters, try a complimentary cup of green tea which makes a lighter choice instead of the more usual coffee option.
The Last Word
Good healthy, Japanese cuisine with a Western twist that comes fast and freshly prepared.