Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Why Wagamama's Works for us

I'm surrounded by boxes. I think I've mentioned that we're moving soon. Part of me is hugely excited - we're moving from an out-grown flat, to a house and garden. Part of me feels daunted. 

Where, I am at the moment, I feel safe in my own environment - I know where the best shops are for sourcing my various dietary necessities and luxuries. A move means having to source those all over again. That includes places to eat, when we're out. Some of the chains with which we've become familiar and with whom we feel reasonably safe, aren't represented as well in our new area. One such is Wagamamas. 

In case you never been to Wagamama's, it's basically, a South East Asian restaurant chain. The interior is minimalist and noisy. The staff are efficient and busy as bees but friendly and helpful, for all that. I'd never been inside one, until a few years ago when I came up to London with The Hub. I think he wondered where I'd been all my life!

Dairy Free
We first discovered Wagamama's potential to cater for us some time ago, not too long after I first became dairy free. The immediate attraction was that many South East Asian dishes are, by nature, dairy free.

Online Menu 
Even better, The Hub discovered that we could find out which dishes were safe, by looking at their menu online - and that includes dietary requirements although, oddly enough dairy free dishes are listed as 'lactose intolerant.' Strictly speaking, of course, 'dairy free' and 'lactose free' are not the same thing, but if you follow their instructions to ask your server about dishes, then there should not be any problem.

By perusing their online menu, The Hub soon found that I could have their Chu Chee Chicken Curry. It was so yummy, that I did not feel that I was missing out on anything, by being dairy free. 

Chicken and Prawn Cha Han
Gluten Free
Despite the fact that a lot of dishes are cooked with gluten containing ingredients, they do seem to have some dishes that are suitable for me, now that I'm avoiding wheat/gluten. However, I'm merely intolerant, not coeliac, and I know that I have wondered how really gluten free the food is - especially since soy sauce is present in a lot of South East Asian cooking and everything is cooked in woks. 

If, like me, you're avoiding wheat/gluten as well dairy, then it's the same old story, there's only one suitable main - in this case, Chicken and Prawn Cha Han. It's basically an egg-fried rice dish, with a small side of pickles and soup. If you don't like this, then you're stuffed!

Important Update: The allergy listings have been changed and this dish is no longer listed as cereal (and therefore gluten) free.

To be quite honest, It's not my favourite dish in the whole wide world - it's nowhere near as moreish as the Chu Chee Chicken Curry, that I used to enjoy. The problem was that the Chu Chee Chicken Curry wasn't listed as wheat/gluten free anyway, and when we 'need' to eat out, it's become quite nice to know that I have any option at all!

Little Ones
Wagamama's provide great high chairs. We loved their Phil and Ted high chairs (that suspend from the tables) so much that we went out and bought one! They also provide the pretty much obligatory  restaurant colouring sheets and crayons, to keep little fingers busy, but we have found it far more useful to have short videos on The Hub's smartphone - to keep Baby amused whilst the food is prepared.

Mini Ramen
The children's menu has expanded a little since we first started visiting Wagamama's. There's a few options Baby can have. We used to order the cod cubes (sauce comes as aside, so no worries if your little one doesn't like the sauce) but currently her 'usual' is a 'Mini Ramen' - basically a noodle soup, with huge chnks of chicken. 

It's really a bit too big for a child her size, and we tend to cut up the chicken and noodles, to make them more manageable for her, but we're not too fussed if she doesn't finish it, as long as she's had enough.

The noodle spoon is ridiculously large for a little one and their children's chopsticks look cool, but Baby has not yet developed enough dexterity to use these, so we usually just ask for an extra spoon.

My 'usual'.
Healthy Fast Food
One of the attractions, for us, is that the food should be better for you than Mac Donald's (although I'm not sure how much salt is used) and it's still usually served fairly rapidly, which is important, when you have Baby around! 

I say usually, if you arrive at a peak time, then despite the best efforts of the staff, food can be a little bit slower to arrive. 

The other thing to bear in mind is that dishes come as soon as they are ready, rather than all together at the same time, so if you have a little one, it's a good idea to pack a few bread sticks!

Order Takeaway
Another thing that we like about Wagamama's is that that you can order online (on the computer or via smartphone app) and pick up it up as a takeaway, at your own convenience. This has worked well for us, when we've been travelling with Baby.

Of course, you can't cover dietary requirements online, but if you get to know which dishes are okay and are not too worried about cross-contamination, then you should be okay. We've never had any problems, ordering this way.

If you're after a 'cheap date', Green Tea is free. I'm not all that fond of Green Tea, so my 'usual' is elderflower. It's light, with a sweet hint and refreshes the palate, quite nicely. Sometimes we get Baby the Apple Juice, but really she's much more happy with her own water.

Anyone for a 'natural fruit ice lolly'? To be quite honest you can get these at almost any restaurant now and, no thanks, I really don't want one!

Their prices are pretty good, I think. Ours breaks down, as follows:
Sparkling elderflower £2.20
Chicken and Prawn Cha Han £7.55
Mini Juice £1.65
Mini Ramen £4.35

Update November 2013:
Whilst others I know are happy to eat at Wagamamas, we no longer do so. This is because I started to get reactions after eating there, even though I used to be fine. Although they apparently wash their woks, it appears that this has been insufficient for me. The last reaction was so severe that I couldn't eat properly for a few days. I no longer want to take the risk.   :(


  1. When you visit do you ask for their allergy menu? This is a detail list of their dishes and what needs to be removed for you to eat it. I am certain there are more things you can have as I take my sister & she is coeliac. I love Waga they never make a fuss about allergies and are very accommodating for egg & dairy free.

  2. There is more on the gluten free list, as well as the dairy free list, but it's the cross-over with dairy that always seems to cause problems!

    To be honest, I've never asked for a folder, here, because we found the list online and I assumed it was the same. However, I will try again next time.

    Thanks for the suggestion!

  3. We went there yesterday for the same reasons. It can get boring - especially when meeting other people. But, nothing beats being confident about what your allergy child is eating.

    1. Yeah, feeling safe is so important. I have to admit, I'm probably more likely to take risks with myself rather than Baby - I just have to be prepared for the consequences, if I do.