I think it’s common knowledge among vegans that wagamama is a relative haven of vegan food, and Oxford residents have been patiently waiting months for the restaurant in the city to open its doors again. They are now officially open with a totally new look, and I was happy to be able to invite a few friends along to enjoy a plant-based meal in the opening week.
wagamama has a separate vegan and vegetarian menu, of which the vegan half is extensive – you definitely won’t find this many options to choose from at most other chain restaurants. The food is all cooked fresh too, again something that is probably a rarity! With their open kitchen comes transparency around the way things are cooked, and wagamama kitchens are designed so that all the vegan food is cooked completely seperately from the rest, with equipment solely used for that purpose. This might sound like it should be a given, but I know there are plenty of other establishments just in Oxford that don’t do this as common practise. It’s really nice not to need to worry about your veggies being fried in meat juices by mistake/through carelessness.
We ordered some drinks to begin with, and now I’ve tried a couple of the juices I think I’ve decided the ‘positive’ is my favourite. All the juices sound full of goodness but this one won me over with its refreshing citrus but sweet flavour. While we were sipping our drinks and deliberating over what to order, a few of the vegan sides were brought out for us to share too. The salted edamame are a great protein packed snack to start with, and we also tried the tasty yasai gyoza with chilli dipping sauce.
One of the most exciting things about the Oxford restaurant’s relaunch is that with it comes the launch of a new and exclusive dish, available only in Oxford and the test branch, Noodle Lab, in Soho, London. We were told the vegatsu, a seitan katsu curry, is already proving extremely popular since the restaurant opened and lets hope for the sake of fellow vegans all over the UK that it sells well enough for the dish to get rolled out nationwide. While I absolutely love the fresh veggie and tofu stir fries, curries, and noodle bowls, it is great to also have a more ‘meaty’ option to choose from. My non-vegan boyfriend has now tried this dish a couple of times!
Between our orders we tried the vegatsu, the vegan pad thai and the yasai samla curry. All were packed with flavour and incredibly filling, making wagamama what I think is one of the best value meals out. My pad thai had a good kick to it from a generous handful of chilli, but it wasn’t overpowering and the whole dish has so many different elements which come together to make for a delicious comforting bowl. The tofu was also cooked to perfection, for my tastes. We all ordered a side of wok fried greens to go with our mains, and these are possibly my favourite things on the whole menu. A small plate of stir friend broccoli and bok choi seems simple, but the punchy garlic and soy sauce definitely makes it.
For me wagamama is all about filling up on the savoury dishes, and we definitely didn’t have much room for pudding by the time we’d finished our mains. There are only a couple of vegan options, both sorbets, but the flavours are more interesting than you generally find on a menu (i.e. something other than mango). We tried the lemongrass and lime sorbet which was refreshing and a great way to round off the meal.
When you do check out the new Oxford wagamama, you’ll see just why it took quite so long to renovate – it is like a completely different place. The restaurant feels so much more spacious, modern, and bright than it was previously, and they’ve opened up the upstairs which looks really cool too. We used to be pretty much regulars here before, and I don’t think it will be long before we’re back again.
We dined as guests of wagamama, all thoughts are my own.