The renowned chain Wagamama has gone from strength to strength since its first restaurant in Bloomsbury was opened in 1992, and now there are 30 restaurants located in London alone. 21 years later and the group have opened a brand new branch, located within the hustle and bustle of the busy streets of Holborn. The location is prime, and the Japanese inspired food makes for the kind of dining that has made this chain so popular.
This branch can be accessed without difficulty and is a matter of seconds away from Holborn tube. Like many other Wagamama branches, Holborn follows suit with its spacious and open feel. The benches and communal, long wooden tables make the restaurant have echoes of a modern-day canteen. The restaurant's green backdrop is perhaps a nod to the vibrant and colourful dishes on the menu. The layout is simple; a large rectangular shaped room which stretches far back, pleasantly taking minds away from city life beyond the world of katsu curry and green tea. One notable absence is the open kitchen, usually typical of a Wagamama; this is more than likely down to space issues in this particularly energetic area of commerce.
With a seating capacity of 136 you would perhaps expect to be drowned out and find an atmosphere reminiscent of the busy world outside. However the benches give off a close-knit feel and this (as well as all that chilli and spice) is warming. Typical of Wagamama, table service is quick and easy, and staff are upbeat and happy to help with pretty much anything. This style of service may not be to everyone’s liking, but in a busy restaurant like this it helps to get things moving in a swift manner. At lunchtimes you'll find local workers aplenty taking advantage of both the venue's speed and position in central London.
The Wagamama menu is full of delightfully rich flavours and spices. It's a mix of noodles, rice dishes, curry dishes, ramens and light salads with a Japanese twist or two. Those who are Wagamama fans will know that the chicken katsu curry (£9.40) always delivers. Fried or grilled chicken is given a crispy breadcrumb coating and drenched in that flavoursome Japanese curry sauce, and served alongside Wagamama’s reliably sticky white rice.
The raisukaree (£10.25-£11.20) also stands out, featuring a sweet coconut, lime and coriander sauce, jazzed up by mangetout, peppers, red onions, spring onions and fresh ginger. The pork ramen (£8.50), meanwhile, is a delicious winter warmer. Ramen noodles sit in a large broth of ginger, miso and chicken soup. The dish is completed by perfectly grilled slivers of pork.
The side dishes are well worth grabbing. Notable options include lollipop prawn kushiyaki (£6.15) where prawns are spiked onto skewers and glazed with sweet and sour and hot sauce - childish fun ensues. The chilli squid (£5.70) is another piece of seafood to savour. Deep fried chewy squid is coupled with a very decent chilli and coriander dipping sauce.
Desserts are worth saving room for, if you can. The sweet ginger and apple gyoza (£4.25) is a delight. Wonderfully dusted with cinnamon sugar, it's accompanied by a cooling custard dipping sauce.
As you will have gathered by now the rich and flavoursome nature of this restaurant requires a suitable thirst quencher, and Wagamama dutifully obliges. The complimentary green tea adds to the Japanese authenticity, as does the inclusion of the popular Asahi (£3.95) and Kirin Ichiban £5.60), two great Japanese beers. The fresh juices available are very popular as slightly more refreshing options, but if you're setting in for a little longer, there is of course a decent wine selection. The Malavasia Saltori (£14.70) is especially picked to complement the food, which it does with aplomb.
The Last Word
The Wagamama recipe for success has been pretty much perfected over the years and this new branch is very tasty proof, whether it’s a quick lunchtime bite or something a little lazier.