on November 22, 2009
A friend from the US came to visit us in London a few months ago and a friend had recommended he eat at Wagamama during his trip. I was impressed that this chain of noodle restaurants had a following abroad but then I went to their website and learnt that as well as their 65 UK restaurants, they also have 37 chains internationally. Zagat readers voted them ‘most popular London restaurant’ in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 so it’s no wonder they have a good reputation at home and abroad.Walking along the South Bank on a Sunday afternoon we were in need of a very late lunch. The row of new restaurants under the Royal Festival Hall (which also includes Giraffe, Eat, Strada) seem to be permanently busy and Wagamama was no exception. We managed to score an outdoor seat by the arches of the Hungerford Bridge. Tables and benches are long and you’re expected to share with other people but it all adds to the canteen-style atmosphere. Your order is chalked up in the middle of the table and there’s a constant buzz about the place, with efficient servers running between the till, the table and the kitchen. It’s definitely not a place you would come to relax. I went for the Wagamama Ramen and my husband ordered the Chicken Katsu Curry and a large bottle of Asahi beer. I asked for green tea, which is complimentary with meals. Our waitress told us our meals would not be served at the same time but as it was, they arrived within about a minute of each other. The Chicken Katsu Curry is slices of chicken breast deep-fried in panko breadcrumbs served with a neat mound of sticky white rice covered in bright curry sauce. My Ramen noodles came in a vegetable broth with slices of grilled chicken, seaweed and watercress, chunks of fried tofu and a single piece of dory, one prawn and one mushroom. To be fair it does only say "prawn", "mushroom" and "dory" in the singular on their menu so they weren’t lying. Although the food is served quickly, it’s a nice change from the usual sandwich and burger selection at many chain restaurants and you do feel like you’re getting a healthy, substantial meal for a fairly reasonable price. My Ramen was £7.80 and the curry was £8.25. With the free tea and one beer, it’s about £20 for two people, including tip, which is something of an achievement when eating out in central London. It’s also an good way to introduce children to pan-Asian cuisine. I saw a few families eating here and saw a six year old happily eating his way through a plate of salad and dumplings. I’m not sure if they had ordered a side dish but they do also have a kids menu with some ‘mini’ food options alongside a ‘noodle doodle’ fun page to keep them preoccupied. Despite not being a fan of chain restaurants, I can see myself going to a Wagamama again. The food was good, substantial and interesting, which is a lot more than can be said for many other chain eateries.
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