Wagamama Norwich – A Review

Wagamama first opened its doors in Bloomsbury, London, in 1992 and in the 25 years since then has grown into a chain of over 120 restaurants in the UK with more than 20 overseas.

Wagamama in Norwich has recently undergone a “shiny new” refurbishment and I was lucky enough to be invited along last week with other food bloggers and writers for the official re-opening. I was accompanied by my friend Cathy – an avid foodie like me – and between us we tasted (and tested) a variety of dishes. We met one of Wagamama’s top executive chefs who talked about Wagamama’s food and history. I was particularly interested to see the new vegan menu which offers some delicious meat and dairy free dishes.

Before the refurbishment, the restaurant had a slightly clinical feel: bright white walls, a lime green feature wall and plenty of stainless steel. The new décor is a complete contrast: while there is still a white and green theme (but no lime!), it’s been softened by the addition of exposed brickwork on pillars, wood panelling and a marble bar counter. Copper coloured pendant light fittings cast a warm glow throughout the restaurant and the large wall mirrors – with a hint of copper on the glass add a sense of space. The bench seating has remained and adds a sociable feel to the dining experience. In my opinion, the new colour scheme and feature lighting are very stylish and make the Wagamama experience more relaxing and intimate.

The waiting staff whetted our appetites with a selection of side dishes, which were placed in the centre of the long table so that we could all dig in. The pork ribs in a Korean barbecue sauce were very popular as was the chilli squid.

We tried two prawn sides: ebi katsu (crispy fried prawns in panko breadcrumbs served with a spicy chilli and garlic sauce) and lollipop prawn kushiyaki (prawn skewers marinated in lemongrass, lime and chilli). For me, the star of the side dishes was beef tataki: lightly seared marinated steak, thinly sliced and served chilled, dressed with citrus ponzu and Japanese mayonnaise.

We chose our own main dishes and each of us ordered something different. I chose the chicken and prawn pad thai (rice noodles in an amai sauce with egg, beansprouts, leeks, chilli and red onion, garnished with fried shallots, peanuts, mint, coriander and fresh lime) while Cathy plumped for the chilli ramen with chicken (a spicy chicken broth topped with red and spring onions, beansprouts, chilli, coriander and fresh lime). I noticed that there was an awful lot of red chilli in Cathy’s bowl but she coped with it admirably!

Someone else on our table had selected the Wagamama ramen which was a substantial bowl of food containing chicken, seasoned pork, prawns and mussels in a rich chicken broth with dashi and miso. Another diner had the steak bulgogi which consisted of marinated sirloin steak and miso-fried aubergine served on soba noodles, dressed in a sesame and bulgogi sauce and finished with spring onions, kimchee and half a tea-stained egg.

The portions of food were very generous and well presented. The chefs had clearly taken time to ensure that the dishes had visual appeal as well as great flavour.

Some desserts then miraculously appeared on our table including a white chocolate and ginger cheesecake that was drizzled with a chilli toffee and ginger sauce, yuzu and lemon tart and a wonderfully moreish cake comprising layers of chocolate sponge, dark chocolate parfait and hazelnut cream with a sleek chocolate mirror glaze. By this time I think we were all quite full but for the purposes of research we valiantly clutched our forks and sampled each of the puds. Well, it would have been rude not to!

I should mention at this point that we could have chosen dishes from the vegetarian and vegan menu. Meat-free at Wagamama doesn’t mean taste-free: side dishes included bang bang cauliflower; mixed aubergine and panko aubergine hirata steamed bun and yasai gyoza with a dipping sauce. For lovers of katsu curry, the vegetarian version consisted of sweet potato, aubergine and butternut squash coated in crispy panko breadcrumbs, covered in an aromatic curry sauce and served with white rice and a side salad. Vegan main courses included yasai pad thai, kare burosu ramen and yasai samla curry. The vegan dessert options were limited to two different flavoured fruit sorbets but I would hope that the Wagamama chefs will soon add more puds to the menu.

The drinks selection was varied with a choice of teas, coffee, wines (bottles or by the glass), beer, soft drinks and fresh juices – there was definitely something available to suit everyone.

I left Wagamama in Norwich feeling pleasantly full and I will return as soon as I can to try some other things on the menu. It will take several visits to try everything but I don’t think that’ll be an onerous task! The waiting staff were courteous and attentive and we appreciated the Executive Chef taking time to talk to us about the food, the flavours and the Wagamama ethos.

 

 

I was invited to Wagamama for a complementary meal in order to review the restaurant following its recent refurbishment. The above reflects my honest opinion of my November 2017 visit. The photographs of the food items are taken from Wagamama’s website.

 

 

Advertisements

The Sitting Room – Retro Charm in Sheringham, Norfolk

Situated just off Sheringham High Street, The Sitting Room is a café serving coffee, tea, breakfasts, lunches and afternoon teas to local residents and tourists alike. The cafe shares its premises with the Westcliffe Art Gallery and browsing is actively encouraged.

Breakfast at The Sitting Room is a delightfully robust continental breakfast comprising a choice of pastries or toast with an impressive selection of marmalades, curds and jams, fresh fruit, continental cured meats and cheese. Each table has its own toaster so you can toast your bread exactly how you like it.

For people who prefer a light lunch, there is a choice of original house salads which may include the “Super Salad” with avocado and pomegranate or the “Italian”, with Parma ham, rocket and olives or you can create your own from an impressive array of ingredients. Those who like a heartier lunch can choose items including locally made quiches, savoury muffins, soups, hot sausage rolls, sandwiches and rolls.

The afternoon tea served on delicate mismatched vintage china is done exceptionally well: delicious cakes – including gluten-free choices – and patisserie such as millefeuilles, raspberry and white chocolate tart or macarons. You have to pre-book afternoon tea but this allows you to request a personalised experience according to taste.

There are various drinks to choose from including coffee, teas from the Nelson & Norfolk Tea Company, hot chocolate made with real – not powdered – milk, dark or plain chocolate.

On Friday evenings, The Sitting Room is open until 9pm where alongside the standard menu, customers can enjoy cheese or Mediterranean cured meat boards, dips, olives and artisan bread washed down with a glass or two of wine.

The owners Paul and Kristian and their staff are attentive without being intrusive, the food is of a high standard and the little touches and ambience at The Sitting Room will make you want to return very soon.

 

 

Address:       4 Augusta Street, Sheringham, Norfolk, NR26 8LA

Telephone:   01263 821 344

Facebook:     http://www.facebook.com/thesittingroomsheringham

 

A Review – Henry’s Coffee & Tea Store, Cromer

Henrys Coffee Shop image

 

With a solid background in the hospitality industry where they designed and set up coffee shops, restaurants and hotels for other people, when Philip and Caroline Search opened Henry’s Coffee and Tea Store in Cromer in March 2016 it was bound to be a success.

Henry’s is open from 8am to 8pm seven days a week so you can call in for breakfast, a light lunch or an evening snack. Where possible, the food items are made in-house e.g. scones (the cheese ones are divine!),  cakes, pasties, quiches, sandwiches soups and stews (including many glute-free options) but at Henry’s you can also find local produce such as Brays Pork Pies, Candi’s Chutney, Gnaw chocolate and Ronaldo’s ice cream.

Customers enjoy “Henry’s Blend” coffee, created by Philip himself to taste really smooth with or without milk. Coming soon is “Henry’s Black” for people who appreciate a darker and richer blend. There is of course a choice of decaffeinated coffee, cappuccinos, lattes, macchiatos and flat whites so the most dedicated coffee lover will always find something to appreciate.

Tea drinkers are also very well catered for with a range of 34 different hand-crafted teas from local producer the “Nelson & Norfolk Tea Company”. Customers can sample the light and fragrant “Trafalgar Blend” which is enhanced with subtle hints of citrus and smokiness, “Norfolk Earl Grey” and “Chai Spiced Tea” to name but three. When your pot of tea arrives, it’s accompanied by a little timer so it infuses for 3 minutes to ensure the best flavour possible.

In May 2017, Henry’s won Cromer’s “Best Crab Sandwich” award at the annual Crab and Lobster Festival. I couldn’t possibly reveal the “secret” ingredients but will say that if you are visiting Cromer, don’t leave without trying one!

Whether you are meeting friends, working on your laptop or simply watching the world go by, Henry’s provides a comfortable, relaxing environment with outstanding food and drink options.

 

Address: 2 Church Street, Cromer, Norfolk, NR27 9ER

Facebook: www.facebook.com/HenrysCoffeeandTeaStore

Twitter: @Henrys4Coffee

Oodles of Healthy Noodles

One of the great things about writing a food blog is having the opportunity to review new products, kitchen equipment or food. I was recently asked to try “Mr Lee’s Noodles” which are marketed as “Gourmet Oriental Noodles in a Cup”. They are gluten-free, and contain freeze-dried ingredients which retain flavours better once reconstituted  – as opposed to dehydrated – with “absolutely no nasties”. And there’s more – they’re low in salt, low in sugar, low in saturated fats and low in calories. All well and good but would they also be low in taste?

I was keen to put them to the test as I’m always on the lookout for healthy options for food on the go but first I thought I’d better see what the competition was like so I trotted along to the supermarket to see what I could find. It seemed that a popular and not too expensive variety was “Pot Noodle” and there are apparently at least a dozen different flavours to choose from. I selected the Chicken & Mushroom – here it is:

image

And here’s the nutritional information on the back of the pot:

image

It’s disappointing for someone who’s trying to eat more healthily to see palm fat and monosodium glutamate in a list of ingredients and what exactly do things like potassium carbonate and disodium inosinate add to these noodles? If I don’t know what it is, I’m certainly not going to eat it.

So onto the noodles provided by the team at Mr Lee’s.

image

I spent a week trying out the six available flavours (noodles almost every day!) and you can see below what I thought of them. It’s worth bearing in mind that I’ve never tasted any other brand of instant cup noodle (I only photographed the chicken and mushroom Pot Noodle – it then went back on the supermarket shelf because the ingredients really put me off) so I couldn’t do a direct taste comparison with other noodles on the market. I took photos of the nutritional information panels of each Mr Lee’s flavour and there are indeed no “nasties” such as monosodium glutamate or palm fat. I’ve also calculated – for any Slimming World members who may be reading this review – the amount of Syns per pot and Mr Lee’s Noodles are reassuringly low Syn.

As I’m a bit of a chilli wimp, I thought I’d start with a flavour that was classed as ‘mild’ ( one chilli rating) – Hong Kong Street Beef. Mr Lee’s consist of rice noodles which I find are a lighter option than wheat noodles.

Here’s the nutritional panel:

image

Here’s what they looked like when I’d made them up:

image

You can see the decent sized pieces of beef (which actually tasted of beef and not some indeterminate meaty substance) , broccoli and red pepper and the noodles softened very well but weren’t soggy. There was more than a subtle hint of chilli – I’d say 5/10 in the heat stakes – and the flavours of ginger and five spice were evident in the light, savoury sauce. The sauce had a clean, fresh taste and wasn’t over salty. Slimming World Syn value – 2 Syns per pot

Next I tried the Shaolin Monk Vegetable noodles.

image

This flavour is suitable for vegetarians but not vegans as it contains honey. This flavour has no chilli rating. It had a good selection of vegetable pieces with cauliflower, green beans, red pepper and sweetcorn being particularly evident.

image

Although five spice, garlic granules and yeast extract were listed as ingredients, they didn’t come through that well. Overall, this pot was quite bland and while not unpleasant, it was a little disappointing as I thought the variety of vegetables – including usually more robust porcini mushrooms – would add more flavour. Perhaps a little chilli would have livened it up. Slimming World Syn value – 1 ½ per pot

Next came the Warrior Fighting Shrimp flavour.

image

Now this flavour was rated “3 chillis” so I was prepared for quite a whack of heat.

image

What came through very strongly at first was the five spice and the fish sauce and the hit from the chilli came soon after and numbed my taste buds somewhat – so much so that I couldn’t really distinguish any other flavours. The prawns were quite plump and you could see spring onion and seaweed flakes but for me, the chilli overwhelmed them. I think a “medium / two chilli rating” would have allowed the other elements to shine a little more. I found the chilli levels in this pot a little too challenging – perhaps a 9/10 heat factor – and would recommend having a large glass of water nearby. Due to the amount of chilli in this and the very fishy taste (as opposed to a more delicate seafood flavour), this was my least favourite of the noodles I tried and I didn’t finish the pot. Slimming World Syn value – 1 ½ per pot

The first of two chicken varieties I tried was the Tail Chi Chicken.

image

Once made up, this pot had quite a strong smell of chicken (not artificial) and the pieces of meat were clearly visible along with sweetcorn and green beans.

image

There was a noticeable hint of ginger which balanced the overall flavour and it reminded me – in a good way – of chicken and sweetcorn soup that I used to eat in Chinese restaurants, back in the day. This had no chilli in it but there was a gentle warmth from the ginger and plenty of flavour without it. Slimming World Syn value – 2 per pot

Next I chose the Dragon Fire Mushroom pot.

image

This had a rating of three chillis like the Warrior Fighting Shrimps and so I prepared myself with a glass of water and an electric fan – just in case. (Actually, I’m joking about the fan!) Reassuringly there were a lot of mushrooms in this pot along with red pepper pieces.

image

When made up, the vegetables looked very substantial and the mushrooms weren’t slimy once reconstituted. The liquid was very well absorbed so it was less “soupy” than the other varieties I tried. This pot had a mild savoury taste with a hint of wild garlic and surprisingly, given the three chilli rating, wasn’t as hot as I’d anticipated. I’d say it had an 8/10 chilli factor and as a result I managed to finish all of it. Slimming World Syn value – 1 ½ per pot.

The final pot of Mr Lee’s Noodles was Penang Chicken Curry Laksa which had a two chilli rating so I expected a manageable medium heat.

image

When prepared, this pot had a good mix of chicken pieces, cauliflower and red pepper.

image

The ingredients included coconut cream but I couldn’t really taste is as the predominant flavour was curry powder – which was fine but I’d hoped the coconut would have had more of a presence. I’d give the heat from the chilli a 6/10 rating. I felt this pot had a good ‘clean’ flavour and the curry taste didn’t linger on my tongue afterwards. Slimming World Syn value – 2 per pot

 

Having sampled all six varieties of Mr Lee’s Noodles, I would recommend them for occasions when you have to grab lunch on the go. Of course, I’ve given my honest opinion on each of the flavours based on what I like and the fact that I can’t eat food with too much chilli.

Mr Lee’s Noodles would be a good cupboard standby for times when you can’t always cook from scratch e.g. when you’re at work as all you need is a kettle. All varieties are gluten-free and some flavours are suitable for vegetarians.

Slimming World members – Mr Lee’s Noodles are only 1 ½ or 2 Syns per pot whereas standard pot noodles (any brand) are at least 5 Syns – and may contain several unhealthy ingredients and fillers too. As far as ‘fast food’ goes, Mr Lee’s Noodles are a healthy option that you can easily incorporate into the food optimising lifestyle.

 

Mr Lee’s Noodles (and there is a real Mr Lee behind them) are not currently available in supermarkets but you can buy them online at: www.mrleesnoodles.com.

 

 

Disclaimer: I was sent a box of Mr Lee’s Noodles in return for an honest review. The above reflects my genuine opinion of the product.

 

‘Japanese Food Made Easy’ – A Review

My kitchen cupboards contain an array of sauces and condiments including soy sauce, mirin, rice vinegar, toasted sesame oil, ketcap manis and even a small bottle of sake. When I make any food classed as ‘Asian’, I tend to randomly throw in some or all of these things in varying quantities until I’m happy with the taste. So for 2016, one of the things on my ‘to-do’ list was buy a book on Japanese cooking and learn how to make some authentic dishes. After a quick Google search and a look on Amazon, I found “Japanese Food Made Easy” by Fiona Uyema.

Japanese Food book cover

Fiona explains in the introduction that she was born in Ireland, studied Japanese at College and lived in Japan for three years, where she met her husband. After the birth of her first child, Fiona started writing a Japanese cooking blog and also taught cookery classes, and demonstrated at food festivals and events in Ireland and then had the opportunity to write a cook book.

The book guides the reader through the basics of Japanese cooking and gives some of Fiona’s favourite traditional recipes (some with a modern twist). I was pleased to see that almost every recipe was accompanied by a full-page photograph. Fiona has also included chapters about Japanese food culture and dining etiquette and a comprehensive list of basic Japanese ingredients. Suggested suppliers and stockists are listed – with website addresses – although these are based in Ireland. There are of course similar suppliers in the UK and elsewhere.

The recipe sections are divided as follows:

Rice

Soups & Salads

Chicken

Beef, Pork & Lamb

Fish & Seafood

Vegetarian

Noodles

Sushi & Sashimi

Desserts & Drinks

Bento Planner.

This book contains a lot of the items I’d eat if I went to a Japanese restaurant e.g. gyoza (dumplings), chicken katsu curry (a Wagamama restaurant staple thaqt’s very popular), tempura, a variety of noodle dishes (I’m really into noodles at the moment) and of course sushi. Fiona shows you how to make a variety of dips, stocks and sauces and as these are the real ‘flavour carriers’ for the dishes, it’s useful to know how to whip these up to keep stored in the fridge.

I’m in temporary accommodation at the moment (we’re in the process of buying a house having relocated from south London to North Norfolk) with only a very small, poorly-equipped kitchen, but I’ve made a few of the sauces e.g. teriyaki, tonkatsu and okonomiyaki and used them to liven up the limited range of food I can currently make.

Here’s my ‘teriyaki rice’ dish using Fiona’s recipe for the sauce:

 

Teriyaki rice

 

And here’s my very substantial ‘miso soup’ using Fiona’s recipe for the stock. I added edamame beans (I buy them fresh in Tesco), rice noodles, mushrooms and spinach.

 

Miso soup

 

I can’t wait to move into our new house and have a fully functioning kitchen again so I can make more of Fiona’s recipes. I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in Japanese food particularly if they have felt a bit daunted by the thought of trying it at home. I have three or four other Japanese cook books written by Japanese authors which are also worth a look but they assume that the reader is more experienced in Asian cookery. Fiona’s book stands out because it takes the fear away!

 

Disclaimer: I purchased the book ‘Japanese Food Made Easy’ and was not asked to write a review for any rewards or incentives. This review represents my honest opinion about Fiona Uyema’s book.

 

Warming & Fragrant Autumn Squash Soup

image1 - Copy (24)

I’ve been feeling a bit sorry for myself this week having had minor surgery (on an ingrowing toenail if you must know) and a rotten cold so I was in desperate need of cheering up. Whenever I’m ill – which fortunately isn’t too often – my thoughts turn to comfort food. I definitely crave soup when I’m under the weather and this recipe has become my favourite. It doesn’t take too long to prepare and the kitchen smells wonderful when it’s bubbling away.

So instead of wallowing in self pity – which was not impressing the husband or the dog – I made soup which is actually so robust that it makes an excellent lunch served with a chunk of crusty bread to mop up the bowl with at the end.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons coconut oil

I medium white onion, peeled & finely diced

I large clove of garlic, peeled & crushed

½ teaspoon dried red chilli flakes

4 kaffir lime leaves, crushed into very small pieces

1 heaped tablespoon unsweetened desiccated coconut

1 small to medium butternut squash (or 1 small pumpkin), peeled, seeds removed & chopped into 2cm cubes

1 x 400ml tin coconut milk

800mls water

1 vegetable stock cube (I used Knorr vegetable stock pot)

2 big handfuls of fresh spinach, washed and drained

Salt & pepper to taste

Method

  1. Over a medium heat, melt the coconut oil in a solid bottomed pan and add the chopped onion and crushed garlic. Allow to cook, occasionally stirring, until the onion is soft and translucent but not browned.
  2. Add the dried red chilli flakes, the crushed kaffir lime leaves and the desiccated coconut and stir to combine. Add the chopped butternut squash or pumpkin cubes and stir everything for one minute.
  3. Add the tin of coconut milk and the water plus the stock cube and stir. Allow the soup to bubble gently uncovered for 12 – 15 minutes until the squash is just tender when pricked with a knife.
  4. Add the washed spinach to the pan and stir for about a minute until it has wilted.
  5. Ladle the soup into bowls, eat and enjoy. Add salt and pepper to taste.