I absolutely love going to eat at Wagamama, but I’m one of those people that always opts for the same thing (chilli squid, followed by seafood ramen or beef teriyaki soba and the mix-it-up mochi for dessert). When I was invited to try some of the new dishes on the menu at the Intu Lakeside branch, I jumped at the chance – and ensured I didn’t eat much at work during the day!
Situated on the boardwalk, the restaurant is easily found and once inside, is so spacious. We met manager, George upon arrival and he and Megan looked after us throughout the evening – ensuring we ate and drank enough, talked us through the menu and answered any questions we had. Before I start talking about the lovely dishes, I have exciting news – Wagamama are branching out to Colchester and Chelmsford very soon... fingers crossed Brentwood is next on their radar!
While we were waiting for Chelsey to join us, Emily, Amber and I began with a couple of sides of the chilli squid – honestly, my favourite evey dish – and then came the main event, the new offerings. And boy, were they good!
Street food is pretty big everywhere at the moment and we were lucky enough to sample two of the hirata buns that are on the ‘sides’ section of the menu. I think there are about four or five different varieties and I’m sure I’ll work my way through them all very soon – they’re a great little starter to share. The Tori Kara Age bun was my preferred filling: crispy chicken thigh, marinated in sake, soy and herbs, topped with fresh tomato, spicy sriracha sauce and Japanese mayo. In case you’re wondering, Japanese mayo is richer and creamier than the kind we’re used to. The chicken was flavoursome, while the buns were so soft. The vegetarian option was a mixed mushroom and panko-coated aubergine slice in the hirata bun and this one was topped with Japanese mayo and coriander. Panko breadcrumbs are pretty big in Japanese cuisine and are making their way into our cooking more and more – I love the coarse texture and find it much lighter than a standard batter. I don’t particularly like mushrooms, but I found the bun enjoyable.
We then tried one of the Donburi bowls. This was another vegetable-packed dish, consisting of mushroom and broccoli omelette, served on top of a bowl of brown rice, carrots and spring onions. Topped with fresh red chilli, this wasn’t as spicy as I was expecting, but was a very hearty and comforting meal. The portion sizes are huge and we were lucky enough to have three bowls between the four of us. I’d never tried Donburi before, but I’d definitely be inclined to order one in the future – it’s certainly a meal in itself.
I think we were all in agreement that the side dish of Bang Bang Cauliflower was the highlight. I’d never think to order a vegetable side dish and don’t eat much cauliflower – but it was beautiful. One of the girls wasn’t keen on spice but even she found it thoroughly enjoyable... it certainly isn’t as spicy as the squid, anyway. Florets of crispy cauliflower in Wagamama’s famous firecracker sauce, with red and spring onions – it was packed full of flavour and a perfect accompaniment.
Feeling suitably full, there was one last surprise for us: a Wagamama recipe book in a sturdy canvas bag. I’m honestly so excited to try and replicate some of my favourite dishes at home. Thank you to Megan, George and the rest of the team at Wagamama, Intu Lakeside for hosting a fabulous evening.
Will you be trying out any of the new dishes?
Love, Lucy xx
*I was invited to eat at Wagamama, Intu Lakeside FOC, but opinions and images are my own