Where we ate:
Wagamama, Lexington Street, Soho
Every year as a family, we head up to London around Christmas to go to the theatre. This year we were heading to the Criterion theatre in Piccadilly and after much discussion, chose to go to Wagamama. This was partly my decision as I’d been craving Ramen for as long as I can remember. Needless to say, I did actually opt for something different onced I looked at the menu. With so many restaurants in close proximity it was initially a difficult decision though, but we needed something fairly quick with the show starting at 8pm. I love ethnic cuisine, so personally, it was a simple choice to make, despite having China Town nearby. I became addicted to Wagamama after visiting a Spanish branch – Wagabu – in Madrid.
The restaurant itself was down a side road, with Lexington Street off a busy-looking main road, where a lot more seemed to be happening. The road towards the restaurant wasn’t very well lit and was a lot quieter, so it was a little bit ominous at first, but as soon as the doors to the restaurant were opened, we were met by bright lights and the natural colour scheme of the walls and floor. The kitchen itself is positioned on the same level as you walk in, and there’s instantly a strong aroma of food cooking, with the staff hard at work. The seating is downstairs and as you’d expect from Wagamama, it’s rows and rows of benches: each place laid out with paper mats and wooden chopsticks. It is informal, but it adds to the whole ambience of the restaurant. Luckily with seating for 172, you don’t find yourself sat right next to another couple, so you can enjoy the company of those dining with you.
The team at Wagamama were really friendly and our server Kitti was easy to talk to and helpful with any questions we had. She also recommended a number of dishes. I imagine when it’s busier, you wouldn’t get served as quickly, but it was 6pm on a Friday night so there weren’t that many other people eating at the same time as us.
What we drank:
Mum – pinot grigio | sentito
Dad – pinot grigio | sentito
Robert – large peach iced tea
Me – large peach iced tea
With so many soft drinks on offer, I opted for the peach iced tea, although there are a number of juices on offer which sounded tempting. The menus are the same at every branch but since my last visit, there was a new addition: a blueberry, apple and ginger juice. Of course, there are your usual coca-colas, sprites and still and sparkling waters on offer as well. Whilst there are only three Asian beers on the menu, there is sake and a number of wines. My parents shared a bottle of pinot grigio which was a little on the pricy side (£17.95 with the most expensive bottle of white coming in at £21.60). Red wine was cheaper with bottles ranging from £14.70 to £19.95 and rosé a little dearer. For those that can’t manage a whole bottle to themselves or with another diner, wine could also be purchased by the glass (175ml or 250ml) or a carafe (500ml).
What we ate:
Sides – chilli squid (deep-fried squid seasoned with salt and shichimi. Served with a chilli and coriander dipping sauce)
Mum – teriyaki chicken donburi (grilled chicken glazed with teriyaki sauce, sticky white rice, thinly sliced carrots, pea shoots and spring onions with yakitori sauce and sesame seeds. Served with a side of spicy kimchee) followed by taster (latte with chocolate fudge cake)
“The teriyaki chicken as you’d expect was sweet and sticky, which complemented the rice well. The peashoots were enjoyable as it added another texture to the meal, and it was something I wouldn’t have often. I had never had kimchee before so didn’t know what to expect but it was almost like a palette cleanser but a little on the sharp side. It was vinegary. Choosing from the taster menu allowed me to have a coffee and dessert as I knew I’d not be able to manage a whole piece of cake.”
Dad – chicken and prawn pad-thai (rice noodles in a sweet tamarind sauce with chicken and prawns or fried tofu, egg, beansprouts, leek, red and spring onions, chinese chives, garlic, ginger, mint and chillies. garnished with coriander cress, fried shallots, peanuts and lime)
“Pad thai is a particular favourite of mine so the dish had a lot to live up to. I found the noodles well-cooked and the spice blend delicate and not too overpowering; the garnish of coriander, shallots, peanuts and lime, too, added a delicate taste accent rather than swamping the mixture of chicken and stir-fried vegetables. I could have made space for a larger portion size and certainly more prawns but overall the dish compared favourably with pad thais I’d sampled previously in ethnic restaurants.”
Robert – beef teriyaki soba (grilled teriyaki beef a bed of teppan fried soba noodles with curry oil, mangetout, chillies, red and spring onions, beansprouts and bok choi, with yakitori and teriyaki sauce. garnished with coriander and sesame seeds) followed by green tea
Me – beef teriyaki soba followed by sweet ginger and apple gyoza (five warm sweet ginger and apple dumplings, dusted with cinnamon sugar and served with a vanilla custard sauce)
“Every time I’ve been to Wagamama, I’ve always gone for the ramen with the seafood variety being my favourite. Since my last visit, this had been replaced by a grilled fish one and although it sounded pretty similar I didn’t think it would match up to my previous expectations. I was immediately drawn to the beef teriyaki soba and wasn’t disappointed. The beef was thinly sliced and marinated beautifully in teriyaki marinade – it was to die for! The mixture of the noodles and beanspouts with other accompanying vegetables made for a perfect dish, which was fresh, not too spicy and just enough. I chose the gyoza for dessert after a recommendation from the waitress and it was even better than I was expecting. Five dumplings was a bit much after such a big main course, but it was a nice thing to share. The contrast of the sweet apple with the ginger and cinnamon spices made it.”
My Waga fix has definitely been sorted for a couple of months, but I can’t wait for the next time I’m in London to go back.