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.

 

 

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The Foraging Fox Beetroot Ketchup – A Review

As I’ve recently lost a lot of weight and have adopted a much healthier way of eating, I started to reminisce about what I ate as a child. I am of an age where I can remember when “Findus Crispy Pancakes” were the latest in convenience food, not to mention Vesta Chow Mein, fish fingers and Fray Bentos pies that came in a tin!

I do recall that the one constant thing in my 1970s diet was tomato ketchup. I had it with everything and my mother reminds me (too often!) that I once embarrassed her in a restaurant when I was about 8 or 9 years old by asking the waiter for some. But then, was that so bad when you consider that my parents were probably drinking a bottle of “Blue Nun” at the time?

Anyway, since those stodgy days of my youth my tastes – thank goodness – have changed for the better. When you’re on a diet, you have to do away with rich, creamy or buttery sauces so instead I like to use a variety of condiments and sauces to accompany meals but they mustn’t be too boring and they have to taste exceptional. These days, I find that tomato ketchup can taste a little sickly and over sweet, even the ones that have a reduced sugar content. It was therefore rather timely that the producers of “The Foraging Fox” range of beetroot ketchups asked me to try their brand and write a review.

As a company, “The Foraging Fox” was launched at the Speciality and Fine Foods Fair in 2014 and the range currently consists of three flavours of beetroot ketchup: Original; Hot and Smoked. On the bottles, it confidently states, “good with everything” and so I was keen to put that claim to the test.

Before I try anything, I like to check the ingredients as I’ve become more conscious of too much sugar or salt in food products. Reassuringly, all three beetroot ketchups are 100% natural and there are no artificial colours, sweeteners or flavourings. The ketchups are sweetened with apple juice and the gloriously vibrant pinky purple colour comes, of course, from the beetroot itself.

I kicked off with the “original” beetroot ketchup so I knew what I was dealing with. I tasted it on a teaspoon first so I could really get a feel for the texture and taste. I was expecting the ketchup to be quite grainy, as beetroot has such an earthy flavour but in fact it was pretty smooth and flowed well out of the bottle. (I didn’t have to whack it on the base to get any out!)

I put a large dollop of the “Original” beetroot ketchup in a ramekin to accompany my light lunch of cheese on toast. These days I eat reduced fat cheese which can sometimes be a little bland but the ketchup gave it a real boot up the backside. My taste buds joyously welcomed a flavoursome combination of beetroot and apple plus a subtle hint of acidity from the red grape vinegar. The ketchup is not excessively sweet and paired well with the salty tang of the cheddar. You don’t see many people of my age dipping toasted cheese fingers in a little pot of bright pink sauce but I highly recommend it.

Next I tried the “hot” beetroot ketchup. This combines chilli-infused beetroot with horseradish and my initial teaspoon taster was a little deceptive. At first I thought there was a little hint of horseradish, not too peppery, and so I put some on my plate when we had steak for dinner. Well, after a couple of mouthfuls, I could definitely feel some heat and the horseradish flavour became more pronounced. However, it wasn’t too strong and really complemented the steak.

I find horseradish sauce on its own can be rather overpowering although I love the flavour so the “hot” beetroot ketchup is an excellent choice if you can’t take too much heat in your horseradish! My husband has Polish heritage and he has a “thing” about beetroot – he absolutely loves it. He’s not usually a sauce man (ooh Matron!) but he tried this and gave it a two thumbs up verdict.

Finally, I opened the “smoked” beetroot ketchup. Back in the day when my deprived taste buds existed largely on the wrong sort of food, I never thought I’d like smoked sauces. The idea seemed odd to me – why would you want to add a smokey taste to something that was perfectly good already? But….. once I’d discovered smoked paprika I was hooked and it seemed like a perfectly reasonable thing to do after all.

In my opinion, the “smoked” beetroot ketchup has the balance of flavours spot on. It’s a subtle taste due to the beetroot being smoked rather than a liquid smoke being added to the product. This smoked beetroot ketchup would go well with barbecued food in the summer but as I was testing this on a dull day in March, I made chicken and vegetable skewers and stuck them under my grill. I thought I’d be a bit creative and as well as some ketchup in a little ramekin, I also made a dip by adding some of the ketchup to some Greek yoghurt and mixing it together with a sprinkle of dill. Oh yum! This was really delicious and again received my husband’s approval

I’d highly recommend all three of the beetroot ketchups made by “The Foraging Fox”. They go well with a variety of foods e.g. meat, cheese, eggs, vegetables and can be used with other ingredients to make dips and dressings. I have to say, I do like a food product that can be used in different ways – you feel you’re getting more bang for your buck!

All of the beetroot ketchups are gluten free and suitable for vegans and vegetarians (they have been approved by the Vegetarian Society).

Here are the nutritional panels so you can see that there are no nastiest in these ketchup:

 

 

 

Finally, I always like to highlight how any foodie products I review can be incorporated into the Slimming World eating plan, so here are the amounts of – reassuringly low – Syns in each flavour:

Original            – 1 level tablespoon                 1 Syn

Smoked           – 1 level tablespoon                 1 Syn

Hot                  – 1 level tablespoon                 ½ Syn

 

For more information or to order on line, go to www.foragingfox.com

Twitter: @theforagingfox

 

Disclaimer: the above represents my honest opinion of the beetroot ketchups made by “The Foraging Fox”, who kindly sent me samples to try. From time to time I am sent products to review and the fact they are free does not influence my reviews in any way. My reviews are always fair, unbiased and genuine and I have not been paid to write them.