Wagamama, the noodle bar popular in London, shopping centres and airports up and down the country open their latest and inevitable restaurant on Goodramgate tonight. Two ‘preview evenings’ have taken place on Saturday and Sunday, and I went down with a friend to see what the fuss was all about.
As we entered the old Newitts building, shrouded in renovation for almost the last twelve months, we were greeted by a smiley Australian girl, who was affable and friendly, and asked us to wait whilst a table became available. A short while later, we were welcomed and escorted by a different girl to our seats, on a table we shared with another couple, and were swiftly handed menus. Another wait after that, we were once again greeted by a lovely server called Matt, who was agreeable and accommodating.
We chose the teriyaki beef soba, chicken raisukuree, and duck and also ebi gyoza as sides. All were full of flavour, hot when they needed to be, and fragrant as advertised. The beef was cooked medium rare to perfection, and the chicken melted in the mouth. The dumplings were soft in the middle and crispy at the edges, exactly as they should be, and the Tiger beer and cabernet sauvignon matched our meals excellently.
However, our two meals, plus sides, and drinks amounted to over sixty quid in total. In what is essentially a sit down takeaway. (In fact, a Wagamama staff member thrusted a take-out menu into our hands as we left, only thirty-five minutes after we walked in.) Sixty pounds is a lot of money for some noodles and a Thai green curry, and, to be completely honest, if I had actually been paying I’d have had a few more choice words to say.
We are spoiled for choice in York for food. Meltons Too, The Blue Bicycle, Evil Eye, Loch Fyne, to name but a few. All these restaurants offer quality food, quality service, and, amazingly, the chance to actually sit down and enjoy the rest of your glass of wine after your meal without being stared at to leave. I concede that it is only their second night, and there are obviously wrinkles to iron out, but my experience at Wagamama York felt rushed and uncomfortable. There were verbal skirmishes between staff and management next to our table, two couples next to us had to complain about food being left for up to five minutes before being brought to the table from the open plan kitchen area, and, unfortunately, we found a very small hair in one of our meals.
That said, the food did taste very authentic, and we did feel welcomed in the restaurant, but, ultimately, Wagamama do not offer any more than your favourite Oriental takeaway, and they do it for a hell of a lot cheaper.