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December 13, 2011

Christmas Shopping Expeditions – Favourite Revival Stops!

by Val Reynolds
Oxford Street, London

Oxford Street, London

Shopping for Christmas presents is exhausting* and shopping in London is even worse! So we always make it a rule to go somewhere super for lunch, or failing that, afternoon tea.

On our first Christmas shopping this year we decided on Wagamama in Lexington Street for lunch.

Why? Well we knew they had a new season’s menu and it was close to our favourite shopping areas – Oxford Circus and Soho. Also the food is consistently good according to my companion, who knew from experience Wagamama always gives great value for money and an authentic menu.

As it was the first time visit for me I relied on my companion to guide me through the menu which was overwhelming in length and range. However with the helpful glossary and my companion’s guidance things became somewhat clearer.

From the new season’s menu I chose apple and lime pork ribs, Yasai gyoza – five deep fried vegetable dumplings with sweet ginger soy dipping sauce as sides, and Teriyaki chicken donburi – grilled juicy chicken glazed with orange, teriyaki sauce, sticky white rice, with thinly sliced carrots, pea shoots, spring onions and sesame seeds as my main course.

We asked for a glass of wine to go with our meal and the New Zealand Yealands Estate sauvignon blanc was an excellent choice. We shared a very very nice white chocolate and ginger cheesecake, but not the plum wine! Deceptively light with a scented, floral sweet taste it was very alcoholic!

You will find menus for each Wagamama restaurant  on the Wagamama website. First find the restaurant you would like to visit and then find the current menu available. As a possible guide to a newcomer the most popular main dish is chicken, rice, curry, Yaki soba, Sides: chicken gozo and chilli squids.

Wagamama seating

Wagamama seating

I liked the clean, streamlined seating arrangement where you feel part of a large table – which takes 24 – but it is so arranged that there is a gap beween each six, so you are well separated, no feeling of being cramped. A bench under the table for coats, bags etc adds to the clean uncluttered decorative style. Being rather short I would have liked a bar to rest my feet on, but that’s a minor point. Image

As the restaurant filled up, it was a Tuesday lunchtime, the noise level rose bouncing off the walls and ceiling. I wondered how easy it would be to reduce the level of noise with noise absorbing ceiling and wall decorations.

*We heard of some recent research by The Sanctuary Spa into the nation’s festive shopping habits that showed the average Brit will walk more than a marathon whilst looking for gifts for loved ones with an average of 30 miles covered per Christmas shopper.

Phew, I’m sure we didn’t walk that far but our next shopping outing was in the Victoria area, too far away to drop by The Sanctuary Spa, although I heard they have some lovely gifts on offer, so we plumped for the Caxton Grill and Bar at St Ermin’s Hotel to have some much needed rest and restorative nibbles.

Why? The bar has a certain romance of espionage and mystery … It was the haunt of the Cambridge Five spies, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean. Now just reopened after a massive restoration and redesign it is a beautiful, relaxing and calm oasis to retreat to.

We did have a glass a champagne to start us off – only to distract us from our aching feet and insipient headaches you understand, followed by some heavenly canapes, some beautiful savoury sandwiches, and something divine named Fish and Chip – a piece of fish and one thick chip, cooked as one in batter. Oh dear, my mouth is watering at the memory.

Fish and Chip, Caxton Grill & Bar

Fish and Chip, Caxton Grill & Bar

Suitably refreshed, the loos were top notch, we left on a high, resolving to go for lunch sometime very, very soon or even Afternoon Tea in the Library

Val Reynolds Brown, Editor

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