I was lucky enough to be chosen to review the new branch of Wagamama in Maidstone. The same Maidstone that just happens to have a Hobbycraft store that I’ve visited before with my Auntie Mandy.
There she is. Up there. Pointing at the restaurant. I don’t know why. We thought it was a good idea at the time and we were both a bit giddy with excitement at being out on our own!
I can’t get to Maidstone by myself without a car so we occasionally have a joint trip in the school holidays to spend far too much money on pretty crafty things. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to repay my aunt with a slap-up lunch!
I’ve never been to a Wagamama restaurant before but somehow I already knew lots about it, purely because Matt Lucas always seems to be spotted eating ramen noodles in various London branches (Heat magazine tells me so!). Asian food is right up my street so I was really looking forward to trying some of the new season’s dishes in a brand sparkly new venue.
I must admit parking was a bit awkward here. It was a busy Friday lunchtime in half term and Hallowe’en too. There was no parking directly by the restaurant so we had to queue to get into the multistorey that was a few hundred yards down the hill.
We were greeted immediately on entering by a chap heading outside with a tray of samples, and seated straight away by a young bearded man in shorts called Pete. He was really rather lovely, with his mohican and all. My Grandma would definitely have wanted to fondle his facial hair. As our waiter, he was very relaxed and chatty but not in that hollow “fishing for tips” sort of way. I suppose he may well have been after a tip but it didn’t show. He knew the menu very well and made some suggestions about portion sizes and how hot certain dishes would be.
We ordered some freshly squeezed juices. Mine was the Super Green Juice:
Yes, I know it looks like swamp water but it was ruddy marvellous. Apple, mint, celery and lime. Zingy and refreshing. I don’t even like apple juice but I ended up having two, it was so delicious!
We ordered a main meal each and two side dishes. Pete explained that all dishes are cooked to order and brought to the table immediately so they’re as fresh as can be. This meant our food might not come at the same time, which seemed a bit weird but actually meant that we could properly take in each dish as it arrived and have a little taste of everything.
I went for the new teriyaki beef brisket donburi and sticky rice, which came with a salad of peashoots and grated carrot. This is one of several new options on the menu for this season (in addition to Surendra’s curry and a warm chilli tofu salad). The beef was sweet and warming and very soft.
I felt a bit overwhelmed by the huge portion of rice. It seemed as though there should’ve been more beef as the star of the dish. I eventually mixed it all together in the bowl, which made the proportions balance a bit better. And I still happily scoffed the lot.
My auntie had the seafood broth (the photo is a bit blurry – sorry!). A big hearty bowl packed with perfectly cooked plump prawns, chunks of salmon, squid, a couple of small scallops, and two enormous mussels.
The broth was tasty with a gentle warmth from the ginger and chilli. My auntie said she wouldn’t usually order soup when eating out but this dish changed her mind!
Our side dishes were steamed and salted edamame beans and pork gyoza. The beans were surprisingly scrummy – another one that I’d tried once before in a different eatery and didn’t like. These were ever so moreish. I could easily have grazed on them all afternoon.
We felt we should force down a dessert. You know, for … erm … research purposes. Mandy had gorgeous banana katsu with ice cream (another new menu option). Absolutely scrumptious, particularly the crunchy panko coating. So scrumptious that I didn’t actually manage to get a photo of it before we face-planted the plate.
I chose mixed mochi ice cream. This was unlike anything I’ve ever eaten before. Little balls of sorbet and ice cream, coated in a layer of … sort of … sticky pressed rice. That sounds gross, I know. But let me show you…
Aren’t they pretty? Left to right is raspberry, black sesame, and coconut. And presented perfectly for sharing. The outer layer was … odd. Not unpleasant. Just different to anything I’d ever experienced. The texture was a bit like chewy turkish delight. It took some getting used to. The raspberry was ok. Very light. A good palate cleanser. The black sesame was interesting. Sort of savoury and sweet at the same time. I don’t think the chocolate sauce underneath really helped. But the coconut was fabulous. Really delicious. The ball had been rolled in dessicated coconut and the inside was sweet and creamy. You can order the flavours separately and I’d definitely order the coconut mochi again.
All in all, we had a lovely time at Wagamama Maidstone. The ambience was busy and bustling. I noticed they didn’t have any music playing, which made a nice change. We could concentrate on the conversation and the atmosphere. Our waiter was charming and attentive (and didn’t seem to mind us speculating that he’d look good in a kilt). The food was tasty and filling but felt really fresh and healthy too – nourishing fare, with lots of greenery and packed full of flavour. It felt as though we’d had something special.
We have another branch of Wagamama closer to us at Bluewater. I don’t know how it took me so long to cotton on to it. I’d eat there again for sure. Matt Lucas is definitely onto something!
I was not paid for this post. I was sent some vouchers towards a meal for two in exchange for an honest review.