Catching Up Over Curry
I don’t know what the restaurant scene feels like in your hometown, but I can confidently report that here in Harrogate it feels a bit precarious. It seems like no sooner has a new eatery opened their doors that another is circling ready to pounce on their space. There’s a running joke in our household when, on the rare occasion my husband and I have the opportunity to eat out, that goes a bit like this:
Husband: Where should we go tonight? (because do any husbands ever choose the restaurant?)
Me: Oh, what about that new place? (in reality, I’ve actually said — oh wherever you fancy? no, really what kind of food do you want? And my personal favourite, I’ll find something anywhere we go. You choose. — Before finally admitting defeat and making an executive decision.)
Husband: Better get there before they disappear. (Insert obligatory chuckle here.)
I’m confident the higher than normal turnover rate in restaurant openings and closings has more to do with market trends, people opting to stay in rather than go out and sky high business rates. That said, I paint faces for a living, so do feel free to ignore my financial analysis.
One restaurant in Harrogate that seems to be bucking the open/ shut trend and is, in fact, a local main stay (and on my auto-order list on Deliveroo), is our town’s Wagamama. They invited a small group of local bloggers through their doors to sample their new Autumn Menu and celebrate their Book Launch — the first in 10 years!
We’re a pretty motley crew when it comes to our blogging backgrounds and topics of choice, but also in our dietary needs: 2 omnivores, one who is no dairy (more chicken for me, thanks!), 1 vegetarian and 1 vegan. Dietary inclusivity is thankfully a trend we’re seeing across our current culinary culture and Wagamama is definitely on board with creating delicious offerings for all dietary needs and preferences. One of the things I loved about our evening was that everything was delicious and appropriate for all of us, when it came to sauces and seasonings, so it was obvious what the veggie/ vegan constituents could have. It meant that we had very few pauses in conversation, which is great, because honestly, who wants to stop chatting to figure out which dish had real mayo vs. vegan mayo. Life’s too short for those kinds of interruptions!
Starters arrived and let me just say, this could have been the main event as far as I was concerned. Mixed mushrooms and aubergine bao buns were the star of the show. The siracha sauce was vegan friendly, meaning this was a dish we could all enjoy. Janet and I were tasked with the tasting of mainstay starter, Chicken Yakitori — it wasn’t a difficult task. Succulent and sweet without being cloying. And the tempura vegetables weren’t your run of the mill tempura. I may never eat asparagus any other way.
I would like to report being incredibly sensible and not over doing it on the starters, but at this stage, I’m pretty sure you know me better than that. But, I was still ready for Chef Simon to bring on the mains!
For our main course were served Wagamama’s new Nikko Curry done three ways: with Chicken, Tofu and Sea Bream. Chef Simon explained that in Japanese the word for sunshine is Nikko, and these curries really were like sunshine in a bowl. The characteristic orangey-yellow colour comes from the combination of current super-spice, Turmeric and the light softness of coconut — neither of which overwhelmed the dish, but created a back drop for the punchy hum of chilli and fragrant lemon grass to really sing as flavours. Packed full of veggies, each of the curry options was delicious, but I think the delicacy of the sea bream really satisfied my foodie appetite the most, so was my personal favourite. I chose to pair mine up with brown rice (because I like to pretend that I alway make healthy choics, especially in front of my blogging buddies), but also could have gone for white rice or glass noodles. Mmmmm. Noodles.
I decided to round off the evening with a beautiful beverage. There was a lot jasmine being bandied around during the evening, with a few Jasmine Bellinis being enjoyed by some. I was driving, so no alcohol for me, but I didn’t feel like I was missing out. How gorgeous is this Flowering Jasmine Tea? The aesthetic was rivalled only by the flavour. I love Jasmine and it was nice to finish the evening with something crisp and refreshing.
The evening itself was a triumph and if it’s been a little while since your last Wagas, I would whole-heartedly encourage you to pop in with a mate or 10 to give any of these dishes a try. It’s a cold, grey, Autumnal day as I write this post, and frankly, I could go for one of those Nikko curries or a Wagamama’s signature Ramen Bowl right now to warm me up. It’s the kind of food Autumn was made for. Good thing I was gifted a copy of their new cook book. I can’t wait to get some of these recipes gracing my kitchen table, but until I’ve got the shopping list purchased, there’s always Deliveroo.