on January 16, 2013
Finding ourselves in WestQuay shopping centre, Southampton, at midday on a Saturday, we decided to have some lunch. The choice for us, not being fans of burgers, was between Pizza Express, Café Rouge Express, Yo! Sushi and Wagamama. I narrowed it down to Café Rouge Express or Wagamama, and we picked Wagamama because Café Rouge Express only seemed to do sandwiches and snacks.Wagamama is at the highest level of the shopping centre, and we were able to go by escalator as far as the penultimate level and by stairs for the final section. I presume that the lifts do go all the way up, however. We stood at a barrier just outside the restaurant, and there was one group of people in front of us. A waiter very soon approached and handed us menus to look at while we were waiting. It was just before noon and the place was not yet full, so we didn’t have to wait long before being shown to a table.Having previously visited Wagamama in both Bristol and Portsmouth, we knew to expect long tables with bench-style seating, which I always find to be more comfortable than it looks. Since there were three of us, we had a spare place on one side to put one or two bags and a coat. When our waitress came over, she asked us if we knew that at Wagamama food is freshly cooked and served immediately, which means that the members of a group do not necessarily get served at the same time. Once again, we were familiar with this system and don’t find it creates a problem.The fresh juices at Wagamama are not cheap but are extremely good. There was a new addition to the range in the form of blueberry, apple and ginger; my son ordered this in the large size and I asked for a regular one. My son’s partner chose his usual favourite, apple, mint, celery and lime juice (large size). Mains at Wagamama are mainly rice and noodle based dishes, including noodles in soup and several curries, but there are also salads and sushi. My son decided to try a new addition to the menu, the chu chee curry, which is chicken with vegetables in a curry sauce with sticky rice. His partner picked ginger chicken udon (thick) noodles, and I ordered teriyaki chicken donburi, which I had had before and enjoyed. All our mains were chicken dishes, but there are also beef, duck and salmon mains as well as a number of vegetarian options. Each of our main dishes was around the £10 mark. Side dishes and extras are both featured on the menu, but we were content with a main dish each. Chopsticks are put out on the tables, but you are also offered a spoon and fork. Normally we like to use chopsticks, but my son needed a spoon this time for the rice and curry sauce. Condiments provided on the tables include soya sauce.All the items on the menu are numbered, and as you order the waiting staff scribble your numbers onto the large paper place mat in front of you so that they know exactly who has ordered what. Drinks were soon brought over; there is always a thick layer of fruit pulp at the top of the fresh juices, so it is easiest to drink them with the straw provided. The new blueberry, apple and ginger version was delicious, and it would definitely be my choice if I visited Wagamama again. The chu chee curry was the first of the mains to be served, but the other two followed soon after. My teriyaki chicken donburi was exactly as I remembered it, with small pieces of chicken glazed with teriyaki sauce, grated carrot, pea shoots, spring onions and watercress on a bed of white rice in a bowl. A tiny side dish of spicy kimchee, a kind of pickled cabbage, accompanied my main, and I did eat a little of it. I enjoyed the donburi dish as much as I expected to, but I couldn’t possibly have eaten all the rice. The udon noodle dish, with beansprouts, onions, mangetout, egg and chilli as well as chicken, was definitely appreciated, and the chu chee curry was declared to be a good addition to the menu. We were three happy customers.I have never had dessert at Wagamama’s but they do offer cheesecake, apple dumplings, frozen yoghurt and ice lollies. The children’s menu offers a number of dishes from the main menu in smaller portions. They are licensed to sell alcohol, and their list of drinks unsurprisingly includes sake. There are several kinds of tea and coffee to choose from as well as hot chocolate.We didn’t have a lot of time to spare that day, so we asked for the bill. This came to just under £45, and we added a tip as service had been polite, friendly and efficient without being too intrusive.I visited the ladies’ toilet before leaving; there is just one cubicle for ladies, one for men and a third for baby changing, but there are of course other toilets in WestQuay. There was plenty of toilet tissue and soap as well as a powerful hand dryer, and everything was clean.Most of the time we were there the benches and table to the side of us were unoccupied, but a family with children did settle themselves there eventually. By the time we left, quite a queue had formed outside so we were glad we had come early. I believe there are some outdoor tables, but this was January and the rain was torrential that particular day, so al fresco dining was out of the question.I am not a great fan of huge shopping malls, and I appreciated the relatively small, enclosed space at Wagamama, although I am sure in fine weather it would be pleasant to sit outside. For us it was the best choice of restaurant at WestQuay, as we wanted a main meal and wouldn’t have enjoyed burgers, for example. The food may not be authentic Japanese cuisine, but it was healthy and freshly cooked. For WestQuay shoppers who enjoy oriental food, I would definitely recommend Wagamama, but at busy times you may have to queue for a while. The restaurant opens at 11.30am every day, and closes at 7pm on weekdays, at 6pm on Saturdays and at 4pm on Sundays.
©Travelocity.com LP 2000-2009