Wagamama is one of those restaurant chains that seem to have family-friendliness built into their DNA. The long wooden benches, open kitchens and bustling, cheery staff give a casual feel to their eateries. You always know that, however unruly your children, they’re not going to ruin the seats, or sound too noisy above the clatter of dishes.
Diners eat using chopsticks at Wagamama, but there’s a kiddie version, with two halves that slot together, making the chopsticks more like pincers.
Wagamama’s traditional Asian menu is fused with more eclectic ingredients. You can order a very decent ramen (hot broth with noodles) or yaki soba (stir-fired noodles with chicken and prawn). But their new summer menu includes mouth-watering, modern dishes dishes like seared nuoc cham tuna steak on a bed of quinoa with stir-fried kale.
Wagamama invited us to dine at their new Bedford Street restaurant, in Covent Garden, London. We decided to meet D from work, and have an early family tea.
Our arrival time of 5.30pm (17.30) was well-timed. The restaurant was quiet, so we could have our pick of the seats. By the time we left, at about 18.45 (Wagamama’s great if you need your dining experience to be swift), the tables were filling up with the post-work crowd, who were mainly child-free.
Wagamama have developed a new ‘ko club’ to help make family visits even more enjoyable. When we arrived, a smiling waiter on the door gave our children (aged 5 and 7) a couple of table-mat sized pieces of paper. On one was the children’s menu, with a large scene for colouring-in on the other side. The second sheet of paper was covered in a range of activities, to keep the children amused during dinner.
Plenty of child-friendly restaurants now offer crayons, and sheets to colour in. What made the ko club better than most was the variety of activities, and their suitability for different ages. Little linguists could learn the Japanese word for vegetable, carrot, or child (‘ko’ – hence the name of the club). There was a wordsearch, and a chance to create your own ramen by drawing the ingredients. An easy-to-make origami creature kept both children busy for a while, and my daughter treated us to a mini puppet show after putting hers on top of chopsticks.
Wagamama’s menu is wide, with dishes to suit most palates, including a range of gluten-free items. D opted for the flavoursome vegetarian yasai samla curry. My Wagamama ramen (extra hot) was delicious, as were the spicy bang bang cauliflower, and the mixed mushrooms and panko aubergine hirata steamed buns.
The children chose mini chicken yaki soba, with ice cream for dessert. Both of them can be picky at times (and my daughter generally refuses to let soy sauce anywhere near her), so the yaki soba was a surprise hit. They ate their meals with relish.
Wagamama is good value. They gave us vouchers to cover the cost of our meal, which came to just over £50. The children’s menu in particular was very reasonably priced, and there was no charge for their cococcino drinks. D and I adored our own drinks: a ‘super clean green’, with apple, mint, celery and lime; and a ‘blueberry spice’, with a hint of ginger.
Heading into town to meet Daddy from work at Wagamama felt like a nice treat, but something that was pretty stress-free, and not likely to break the bank. We may well be making a habit of it.
This is a collaborative post with Wagamama. All views are my own.