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 Beechwood Hotel, Norfolk – A Review

 

 

97203

The Beechwood Hotel is an attractive country house hotel located on the edge of the market town of North Walsham. The award-winning, fine-dining restaurant seats up to 60 people and offers breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner to residents and non-residents alike. The hotel has an interesting history: from the 1930s to the mid 1960s it was a private house owned by two doctors who were close friends of the crime writer Agatha Christie. Indeed, she spent a lot of time there and used to disappear off to the summerhouse in the garden where she spent time writing. There is various memorabilia and photographs in the hotel available for guests to look at. The crime-writing connection has inspired the owners to put on successful “murder mystery” evenings which offer a delicious three course evening meal while the intrepid diners try to work out “whodunit”.

 

Chef Steven Norgate is passionate about local Norfolk produce and sources most ingredients for his innovative modern British menu from within ten miles of the hotel, such as Morston mussels, Cromer crabs, Sheringham lobsters and outstanding 21 day aged beef that melts in the mouth.

 

The dinner menu could include a starter such as Tavern Tasty ham hock terrine, pea puree, tomato chutney, sourdough crisps, capers, rocket and a mustard dressing followed by Bunwell Estate venison and local, seasonal vegetables. And to round off an excellent meal, I highly recommend the sticky toffee pudding when available or the “trio of Belgian chocolate” dessert.

 

There is always a vegetarian option on the menu too, for example a rosti potato pancake filled with goat’s curd, wild mushrooms, cauliflower puree and onion marmalade served with apple and rocket salad.

 

Whether you go to the Beechwood Hotel for lunch, afternoon tea, dinner or a “special occasion” meal, you won’t be disappointed. With polite and attentive staff, elegant surroundings and food by one of the best chefs in the area, the Beechwood Hotel is most definitely one of the gems in Norfolk’s crown!

 

 

www.beechwood-hotel.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Review of The Hoste, Burnham Market, Norfolk

FullSizeRender - Copy (13)Monday 21st December 2015 was a significant date in my diary: it was our 30th wedding anniversary and as such needed to be celebrated in some way. As we’d only moved to Norfolk from London two weeks earlier, we hadn’t had a chance to book anywhere but luckily when I contacted ‘The Hoste’ in Burnham Market, they said they could fit us in. We decided to treat ourselves to lunch there having heard some excellent reviews. Another attraction was the fact that The Hoste is dog friendly, so Millie our well-behaved cocker spaniel came along too.

Although we’d been visiting Norfolk for more than 20 years, I’d never been to Burnham Market before and I was looking forward to browsing the 30+ independent shops and wandering around the green. Unfortunately, as soon as we got out of the car it started to rain heavily and was very windy so we didn’t really have the opportunity to explore “Norfolk’s loveliest village”. This prompted me to reflect that perhaps it wasn’t a brilliant idea to get married in December!

On the positive side, when we entered ‘The Hoste’, it was warm and inviting and the bar was very lively. We walked through to the restaurant and discovered there were two seating areas: one for people with dogs and one for humans on their own. Our waiter led us to a table and Millie curled up and went to sleep under it.

The lunch menu looked very tempting and considering that many people refer to Burnham Market as “Chelsea-on-Sea”, I thought that the prices weren’t unreasonable for what was, after all, a celebration meal.

 

For our first course, I chose roasted woodland mushrooms cooked with garlic, presented on a brioche slice with parmesan and dressed with an aged balsamic vinegar. The mushrooms were chunky, juicy and full of flavour and the parmesan added a delightful savoury tang.

FullSizeRender (4)

My husband had a locally smoked cod fishcake made with leeks, potatoes and mustard, which was dressed with a light sauce. He said the fishcake had a firm texture and he could clearly taste all the individual ingredients.

FullSizeRender (8) - Copy

A very minor criticism of the starters was that they were both topped with rather a large amount of rocket which concealed the dishes underneath it, as you can see from the photographs. With rocket as a garnish, less is definitely more in my opinion as I find its peppery bitterness somewhat overpowering.

For his main course, my husband chose the roasted Norfolk turkey with all the trimmings and I had seared calf’s liver. I don’t usually eat offal but in a good restaurant, calf’s liver can be outstanding so I had my fingers crossed that The Hoste’s chef would do it justice.

The turkey ‘trimmings’ were very good: my husband said the fondant potato melted in his mouth and the chestnut, apple and ginger stuffing made a change from the ubiquitous ‘sage and onion’ that proliferates at this time of year. As for the turkey itself, he said the breast was well cooked but he was a little disappointed by the brown meat (which he’s not fond of anyway) as it was chewy. He left some on the side of his plate and I have to say, it did look rather gristly. I don’t know if restaurants actually cook whole turkeys – as you would expect – or whether breasts and legs come separately but it was a shame that one small element of the bird wasn’t as good as the rest of the dish.

FullSizeRender - Copy (12)

The calf’s liver was very good and was served with a generous amount of Great Ryburgh bacon (I have heard that the butcher in the village of Great Ryburgh is excellent and that people travel miles for his meat). The creamed potato was smooth and delicious and the accompanying onion gravy and the buttered spinach I’d requested rounded off my main course very nicely.

FullSizeRender (6) - Copy

Our plates were cleared and as we were debating whether to have a dessert, our waiter appeared with an unexpected plate of petits fours – see the photograph. I think I mentioned it was our wedding anniversary when I booked so it was a lovely gesture that we really appreciated.

FullSizeRender - Copy (14)

We finally decided we’d share a dessert and we ordered the chocolate fondant with honeycomb and a blood orange sorbet plus two spoons. The dark fondant had a perfectly melted centre which oozed onto the plate when I cut into it. The blood orange sorbet was divine with a sweet sharpness that cut through the richness of the chocolate. This dish elevated the classic chocolate and orange combination to a very high level indeed and served as an excellent finish to our meal.

FullSizeRender (7) - Copy

The service at The Hoste was excellent – attentive but not intrusive – and we were genuinely touched that someone thought of marking our anniversary in a small way with the presentation of the petits fours. The meal including service came to just under £75, which we felt was acceptable for a special (and filling) anniversary lunch without alcohol.

I’d recommend The Hoste at Burnham Market and would rate it 9/10 for food and ambience and 10/10 for service. It also gets plus points for being dog friendly.

 

www.thehoste.com

 

 

 

Disclaimer: This review reflects my honest opinion of the food my husband and I were served (and paid for) at The Hoste on 21st December 2015. I was not asked to write the review nor did I receive any incentives for doing so.

 

 

With The Girlies At Galu

OK so I’ve used a bit of artistic licence with the title of this post as no way could we three friends realistically be classed as ‘girlies’. None of us will see 40 again although my friends are nearer to it than I am. Anyway, let’s move on……..

My friend K was abroad for her birthday in August and so on Friday 4th September 2015 we went with another friend J for a belated birthday meal at Galu, a restaurant in Banstead, Surrey. Galu is a ‘Mediterranean bar and grill’ with a bespoke open flame charcoal grill located in the heart of the open view kitchen. As you enter the premises, the stylish bar is to the left and the restaurant to the right.

pic1_r3_c3

We were seated immediately and I was struck by the spacious feel of the restaurant despite the fact that it was busy. It also is light and airy due in part to the floor to ceiling windows along one side of the building. The lighting was a little subdued but not so much that you couldn’t read the menus or see each other. I have a real issue with lighting that’s ‘barely there’. If you’re having a romantic meal (which K, J and I weren’t), dimmed lights might be quite conducive but generally I like to be able to see the people I’m dining with and not hazard a guess at what’s on the menu!

pic1_r3_c2

We were presented with the a la carte menu as well as details of the day’s ‘specials’. There was a wide choice of dishes available so there really should be something to suit everyone. For starters, J and I had the seared king scallops wrapped in pancetta and served with a pea puree while K had warm goat’s cheese served on aubergine with rocket. If scallops are on a menu I always tend to choose them as I’m not allowed to cook anything vaguely ‘fishy’ or ‘sea foody’ at home as my husband believes that the whole house smells of fish for days afterwards. The scallops we had were outstanding: tender, juicy and more importantly not overcooked. A rubbery scallop does not a happy diner make!

For the main course I chose calves liver with bacon, buttered spinach and creamy mash. I don’t ever cook or eat liver at home due to my husband’s queasiness about offal so this was a real treat for me. K had a dish from the ‘specials’ list: herb crusted rump of lamb with roasted new potatoes and creamed spinach while J couldn’t resist a juicy sirloin steak with peppercorn sauce. Judging by the ‘mmmms’ and ‘ooohs’ I heard coming from their direction, their meals were equally delicious.

To accompany our meal, we had two bottles of wine, one of which was a pink Prosecco (yes, PINK!) – both bottles went down rather well, I must say.

We were so satisfied by our two courses and our wine that we couldn’t manage any puds even though the dessert menu was rather tempting.

We did, however, manage to squeeze in a complementary drink at the bar after dinner thanks to Vas (who owns the restaurant with his father John). J had a rather spectacular fruity based cocktail which she found to be a little livelier taste wise than she first thought while K and I settled for the simpler options of wine (her) and Irish cream (me). While we were in the bar, I was quite taken with the mixology skills of the barman and just had to take a photo of him in action. Apologies for the poor quality of the picture – my flash was playing up. Note to self: buy a decent camera for blog purposes!

image1 - Copy (16)

One other very important point: the ladies’ loos were spotless. I can’t comment on the gents (a review too far I’d say) but I’m sure they were equally gleaming. I’ve been in so many restaurants where there is a lack of lavatorial attention so Galu got extra brownie points for that.

I couldn’t fault the food, service or atmosphere at Galu and my friends and I had a great time. I will definitely go back again and I’d recommend that anyone who lives within a reasonable distance of Banstead also gives it a try. You won’t be disappointed but if you go on a Friday or Saturday night you’d be sensible to make a reservation as it’s a very popular place.

Disclaimer: We paid for our meal but accepted complementary drinks from the restaurant owner. I was not paid for or asked to write this review.