More years ago than I care to admit, I used to live in central London whilst attending university.
My college was very cosmopolitan, with a high proportion of Hong Kong, Singaporean and Malaysian Chinese. With Soho on my doorstep I became acquainted, at one point, with virtually all the Chinese restaurants that area had to offer; and almost invariably was accompanied by an expert guide, ie a native Chinese. Ditto to Japanese restaurants in London with Japanese students, although at a lesser frequency due to the cost of the food and my impecunious status as an undergrad student.
As a result of the learning experience I became pretty adept at both identifying Chinese and Japanese food in their various forms, knowing what I liked and knowing what did and didn’t go to making a good quality Chinese and Japanese meal.
The popularity of Wagamama has always, and continues to, puzzle me. It is, ostensibly, based on a Japanese style ramen bar, but I suspect that few Japanese would be seen dead in there.
I’ve never managed to “get” this place; couldn’t figure out why the British would go for such a bland and unenticing pastiche of Japanese fast food.
Due, I can only assume, to a temporary lapse of sanity I visited again tonight.
Nothing’s changed. The place was still busy as hell; bustling with young ‘uns either finding a place on a bench, or leaving after their meals. And alive with chatter, people eating, and another Wagamama franchise coining it in.
I don’t object to their success; simply can’t understand it. Their quality of food reminds me of my incipient cooking attempts as a 19 year old student in a hall of residence occupied mainly by Chinese who made it clear what they thought of my cooking. The food in Wagamama is crafted with as much artlessness, and is bland enough to extinguish any appetite I had when entering.
I really must stop going there.