Quick Lunch

Wagamama – Westfield (an ode to Pork Dumpling Soup)

Food bloggers don’t normally write about chain restaurants unless there’s a *slightly* more sinister reason behind it (like Chris of Cheese & Biscuits’ amazingly hilarious encounter at the Aberdeen Steak House. Best post ever).

Most chain restaurants are either horrible, or just good ol’ reliable places to eat that don’t really warrant any sort of commentary. For me those reliable places are Nandos, Busaba and Wagamama. I eat at all three fairly regularly, but have never felt the need to say anything.

Until now.

Because last night at the Wagamama at Westfield, I tried the Pork Dumpling Soup, and I was blown away.

wagamama pork dumpling soup

For £9.10, you are treated to a bowl of tender sweet char sui pork dumplings, slices of spicy sausage, a hard-boiled egg, leeks, spinach and spring onion served brimming to the top in a lovely aromatic lemongrass and coriander broth. It was fantastic – and it’s probably the first single dish at a chain restaurant I’ve gone out of my way to praise.

Wagamama is almost always reliable (the Chicken Katsu Curry DQ had was just as good as it always is), but I do love how every once in a while, ‘reliable’ can still be amazing.

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La Menara – Fitzrovia

A few weeks ago, my friend Mihnea was in London from Bucharest for a day, so I suggested we get a lunch around my office. Having all but checked off every quick lunch spot on Charlotte Street, I set my eyes further afield: Cleveland Street – home to a few cute little places I haven’t tried yet, including La Menara a tiny Moroccan and Middle Eastern restaurant.

As we walk into La Menara, we’re greeted by the very jovial owner, and are offered our pick of the seats. The place is decked out in Moroccan-y decor – lots of gold and red and mix-matched chairs. It’s very homely (but in the British sense). Their lunch special menu offers some staple Middle Eastern dishes (Tagine, meatballs, falafel, etc.) each for £5.95. I pick one of two things that don’t have cucumber listed on the ingredients: the Lamb Shawarma with chips:
La Menara

Should have known though. When it came, there was cucumber in the salad. I apologised and asked if I could be made another one since I can’t have cucumber (Yes, I’ve become one of those people. Sorry, but it’s just easier to say you ‘can’t’ have something rather than, “my throat closes up and I dry heave at the thought of XYZ”). He seemed alright with that, and quickly returned to the kitchen. One minute later, my sandwich appeared miraculously without cucumbers. I knew that he’d just taken the salad off, and put a cuke-free one on in its place, but I didn’t say anything.

Sure enough, I take a bite, and I could still taste the remnants of those evil bits of pungent green monsters. I tried to eat around it the best I could, but the pita was soggy, the lamb overdone and the garlic sauce very meh. The chips were way too salty, so I didn’t even really enjoy those either.

::le sigh:: Not such a fan of the food. All all. The owner was really really really nice though. I might go there again and try something else just because of him.

La Menara on Urbanspoon

Fernandez & Wells – Soho

I think the first time I heard how amazing Fernandez & Wells was, was though was Krista’s glowing review from a couple years ago. Since then, everything I’ve ever heard has just been endlessly positive. So when I found myself in Soho and starving, I figured it was the perfect opportunity to give this ‘wonder-sandwich’ a go.

It’s not a huge place. There are a few stools along the side across from a counter filled with lots of delicious ingredients. There’s a larger area of seating in the back, but it’s full. I look to the menu and see the chorizo and pepper sandwich I’d heard so much about, and order.

Within a few minutes, I’m presented with this:

fernandez wells soho

Wow. Chorizo everywhere!  I wish I had more to say about it though. Everything was nice – the bread was fresh, the chorizo and pepper obviously high quality – but it wasn’t the most fantastic sandwich I’ve ever had in my life.  Maybe I just got my hopes up too much.

Fernandez & Wells is a great place, and I would go here again, but I’m not sure it lives up to the hype. Or maybe I just need to try something with a little more oomph.

Fernandez & Wells on Urbanspoon