I have visited Wagamama in Richmond a few times now and it does still tick those casual eating boxes for me. The word wagamama is Japanese for “naughty child” but don’t expect walls covered in crayon drawings – although Wagamama is indeed child-friendly.
It was 1992 when they opened the first Wagamama in London’s Bloomsbury. Its inspiration was Japanese ramen bars, which serve tempting bowls of steaming noodles to those in a hurry. There are plenty of other dishes on the menu and all are served in a timely fashion, reflecting the original philosophy.
Wagamama is the brainchild of Alan Yau. Today the chain includes over 190 restaurants, with most being in the UK. The company was acquired by The Restaurant Group, owner of Frankie & Benny’s, Garfunkel’s, and other casual dining chains, in October 2018.
The Richmond branch of Wagamama has an almost anonymous door to a small lobby with stairs and a lift to the 1st floor restaurant. It has 108 covers; bench seating and communal tables furnish the room, although there are a few tables for two. Its décor is minimalist, but the warm wood prevents the space from feeling cold and too Zen. This might not be the spot for an intimate romantic dinner, as your bench table could hold strangers while you hold hands.
And talking of hands – Wagamama has a delicious selection of foods that can be enjoyed without chopsticks. That might be a bonus if those aforementioned youngsters are with you. And Japanese food isn’t over-spiced, although the table condiments can be added for those wanting a heating kick.
Chicken Yakitori is an iconic izakaya (Japanese bar) dish. It’s marinated chicken skewers in a spicy teriyaki sauce with shichimi, which is a popular Japanese spice mix of seven ingredients. It’s archetypal hand food, although some Japanese will remove the meat from the skewers with chopsticks before eating.
Vegetable tempura is colourful crispy fried tenderstem broccoli, red pepper, sweet potato and asparagus, topped with wakame, which is a type of seaweed and often found in Japanese soups and salads. This light and flavourful tempura comes with a sweet and sour dipping sauce.
We enjoyed Korean barbecue beef and red onion hirata steamed buns to continue our hand-held-food theme. Two small, fluffy buns contain well spiced meat, with coriander and mayonnaise as a garnish. Vegans can also enjoy buns at Wagamama, as they offer mixed mushrooms and panko aubergine hirata steamed buns, served with vegan sriracha mayonnaise and coriander.
Prawn Kushiyaki skewers were succulent. Kushiyaki basically means anything skewered. Prawns grilled and served with a caramelised lime was a rather stylish presentation.
Wagamama is informal with well-priced dishes. The menu, although inspired by Japanese classics, offers something for everybody. Don’t miss the opportunity to try a little sake or Japanese beer with your meal. I have promised myself many happy returns.
3 Hill Street
Phone: 020 8948 2224
Monday to Saturday: 12noon – 11pm
Sun: 12noon – 10pm