Restaurant name: Wagamama
Location: Mansion House, London
Description: Casual Japanese-style dining. You sit on long benches - often sharing tables with strangers - and have a paper placemat on which the waiter scribbles the number of your order. Dishes range from huge bowls of soup and noodles to salads and bento boxes; there's also a nice range of fresh juices to drink.
Reason for visit: Lunch with work colleagues when our manager came over from America - he likes this kind of food and it was a chain he had never been to before. It's also quite cheap and quick.
I ate: Chicken katsu curry - chicken goujons in breadcrumbs with a spicy curry sauce and a mound of rice, £9.50. I had a very nice fresh juice with it from the seasonal menu that was printed on my paper placemat.
My companions ate: Kare lomen - ramen noodles with chicken - £10.25 and wagamama pad thai with chicken and prawns, £9.75.
The food was: Very good; Wagamama is a successful and popular chain and with good reason. The portions are large and filling but this never seems like 'heavy' food. My only complaint is that I find it impossible to eat any of the soup-based noodle dishes (which are full of broth) without sloshing it all down myself, which is why I often tend to stick to things like the chicken katsu curry!
The atmosphere/service was: Very low key and casual, and the service is fast. They let you know that they will bring dishes when they are ready - so you have side dishes rather than starters - but it meant that most of our group had finished their main courses before one of our friends received hers. We pointed that out to the waiter who apologised, but there was no reason given for the delay to her meal, which was the same kind of food that everyone else was eating. I also noticed when we left that there was quite a queue outside, but a lot of empty seats inside, which I didn't understand.
Price range/value for money: It seemed a little more expensive than I remember, but I hadn't been to a Wagamama for years and I expect prices are lower outside of central London. Even so, the portions are large and the prices are good value. Green tea is free of charge which makes a nice change from water and can keep the cost of a meal very low.
Would I recommend it? Yes, it's a good place for lunch or a quick dinner, with plenty of healthy options and it's not very expensive.