It’s a Wednesday evening so of course the High Cross Wagamama restaurant is chock-full, obviously, right? Its liveliness isn’t too surprising though – we’ve been here before and the minimalist yet warm, welcoming environment is an establishment now renowned with us for exceptionally tasty, stylish food.
The well-known Wagamama bustling hum of chitter-chatter radiating from the metal-wood-combo tables is comforting and the noisier the restaurant is, the more private it feels even with other diners close by. It’s easy to get lost in conversation over some daring dishes and a free green tea.
We’re here to try the new summer menu but whilst we’re excited to be adventurous with some new courses, we couldn’t resist ordering a few old favourites too. You simply must try the wok fried greens, which believe it or not, will have even veg-avoiders reaching for more of the tender broccoli and bok choi that have been stir fried in a garlic soy sauce. Diners have even been known to guard their plates from waiters so they can save the sauce to pour over their mains! The raw salad starter has been deliciously ‘refreshed’ with lots of healthy ingredients including seaweed, pickled mooli and crispy fried shallots – but it’s the Wagamama house dressing that makes this salad unique – a tremendously tasty choice. The salted, steamed edamame beans are a moreish, satisfying and slightly addictive starter too! We are also in love with the main dish of Wagamama ramen. With grilled chicken, barbecued pork, shell-on prawns, mussels, pea shoots and a tea-stained egg with noodles in a light miso soup, it’s a real conversation piece.
This year though, Wagamama’s have been experimenting in the kitchen and have come up with these beautiful new recipes.
The beef tataki is a new starter. It’s a lightly seared, marinated stake, thinly sliced and served chilled. We implore you to be brave for this one as it truly is something special and you really shouldn’t miss out. It’s not particularly what we’re used to in the west with it being mostly rare, but with soy-based, citrus Ponzu, orange and lime, pickled shredded beetroot and Japanese mayo to balance it all out, the beef tataki is a mouth-watering side.
For the main event we sample five new items on the summer menu. The samla curry made with fluffy tofu, which can be replaced with chicken, was thoughtfully created with more of a mild kick compared to other dishes. It’s joyfully fragrant with spicy lemongrass, coconut, chilli and coriander, and the peppers, shiitake mushrooms and juicy baby plum tomatoes make for oodles of texture and a swarm of intriguing flavours. Despite being packed with flavour, the samla curry has little to no allergens involved, so is perfect for those with dietary requirements. With its oranges, red and greens, it’s also one of Wagamama’s most attractive creations.
The effortlessly presented grilled bream donburi sets fillets of spicy-vinegared sea bream on a bed of (impeccable) sticky white rice and teriyaki sauce, carrots, pea shoots, spring onions and coriander. The fresh, sweet fish is light in texture and released sincere aromas of high quality sushi grade bream that lingered. It’s quickly became a favourite among us.
The packed-with-goodness seared nuoc cham tuna, also sushi grade, is expertly tier cooked leaving a thick meaty texture concealing the rare, pink, moist and tender middle. Its mild flavouring is refreshing against the invigorating bed of quinoa, stir-fried kale, sweet potato cubes, edamame beans, red onions and peppers. As Wagamama have said themselves… if summer was a dish, this would be it – we completely agree.
Finally, the pad Thai salad fuses chicken and prawns with mangetout, revitalising baby plum tomatoes, energising shredded pickled beetroot, carrot and red onion in an uplifting cocktail of healthy fresh ingredients.
Overall, our experience of this summer menu had taught us that to be adventurous pays off. Dishes we thought wouldn’t have tickled our fancy turned out to be favourites. For those who are unsure, Wagamama chefs are trained so in-depth that they can answer any question you may have, will customise your dishes for you, and whip up sauces for you to try before you order. As well, our waiting staff (educational menu tour guides and Waga-experts) Alice and Mavik, were outstanding.
And about the desserts…as a group obsessed with starters over desserts, it’s remarkable that the first taste of the Wagamama treats were eye-opening to say the least. We’ve been back two times just for dessert (within a week).
Dessert top picks
Chocolate Layer Cake. Watch your dessert fork fall gracefully with surprising ease through the layers of light chocolate sponge, dark chocolate parfait and hazelnut cream. Served with the most flavoursome, thick vanilla ice cream.
Yuzu and Lemon Tarte. The super lemony tarte is guaranteed to make your mouth water and the rich raspberry compote adds a delicious tang that you’ll want to savour.
Pink Guava and Passion Fruit Sorbet. This popular choice is a delightful palette cleanser after such intense flavoursome food.
Golden oolong. Similar to green tea but with a caramel-flavoured twist.
Lychee. A balanced tea that satisfies all the palates. Slightly sweet with a rosy fragrance.
Red berries and hibiscus. Floral infused with strong essence of a mixture of berry flavours.
Jasmine flowering tea. Beautiful to watch. Very light and aromatic green tea.
Blueberry spice juice. A scrumptious smoothie with blueberry, apple and carrot with a taste of ginger.
Lucky Buddha. Chinese beer in an exceptionally cool bottle.