FOOD MONSTER: Wagamama in Brayford Wharf North, Lincoln
The murmur around the water cooler at work has all been about wagamama opening in Lincoln.
The chain of Japanese restaurants has been growing in recent years, with its arrival in our fair city feeling a bit of a coup.
It is a unique brand, one more associated with the hip and trendy life of London than the ancient cobbles and spires of Lincoln.
But it has arrived on the Brayford Waterfront in the city in a statement building that is floating on the old Roman waterway.
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Outside it is all dark wood, brooding reds and grey metal.
But inside it is a contrast, light open, airy and everything I love about wagamama.
I'll make it clear early on, I've always been a fan of the chain.
When I first walked into one in Nottingham I was taken aback by the simplicity and freshness of it all.
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The decor is simple, the rules are simple, the only thing that is confusing is the menu at times – can you pronounce Negima Yakitori?
No, neither can I, but not to worry, there is a little number next to it, ask for that.
But this is the thing, this is what I love about wagamama, for all the clean lines, simplicity of service – if it is ready, it's being served and be ready for your order to be scribbled on your place mat – it is the detail and intricacy of the food that gets me every time.
I look at the menu and aside from the easy to tackle favourites like Chicken Ramen noodles (chicken breast, seasoned greens, ramen nooddles in a broth) there are dishes which you just want to have a go and try for the 'what is that?' factor.
My friend, Richard, opted for a donbrui dish – that's a big bowl of rice with meat and vegetables according to the menu.
He decided to have the teriyaki chicken one which came with a side of spicy kimchee, yes, what is that?
Kimchee, the staff happily informed us, is a white cabbage in a chilli sauce. It did not knock you sideways, but it was certainly a warmer which worked with the rest of the flavours in the dish.
I went for the pork ramen, which was sweet without being sickly. It had a fresh tang to the soup and packed full of greens, noodles and a tea-dipped egg.
We both had a side each, sharing between us a negima yakitori – chicken skewers – and duck gyoza, five really tasty duck filled dumplings that have been deep fried.
We finished off with a dessert of chocolate cake and sweet ginger and apple gyoza dumplings, which were perfect hot or cold.
And we washed it down with a fresh juice and some nicely chilled saki.
It was bliss. The staff were brilliant and friendly, explaining everything, having a chat if you wanted, not imposing if you did not.
I was not disappointed and having already enjoyed several wagamamas across the country this experience ranks at the top.
I will be taking the Far Better Half down there soon and suggest if you want something different, something fresh, something new, then give it a go. And don't be afraid by the menu. Embrace it all and enjoy, especially with a bit of saki.
THE FOOD: hicken teriyaki donburi £9.05, pork ramen £8.50, duck gyoza £5.70, negima yakitori £5.70, chocolate fudge cake £5.10, apple and ginger gyoza £4.25, blueberry, apple and ginger juice £4.45, coke £2.25, small saki £5.70.
FINAL VERDICT: Brilliant. Fresh, interesting with a great variety of flavours that makes you want to keep coming back for more.
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