In what appears to be one of Wellington’s more anticipated restaurant openings for years, a branch of the international noodle bar Wagamama has opened in the Meridian building, and already queues are forming out the door: indeed, breaking all Australasian records for turnover in a first week, despite it being the middle of a very bleak winter. It evidently has been a phenomenal success. This is the first (and probably will be the only) branch of Wagamama to open in Wellington – there are already two or three in Auckland, although the chain itself started in London a couple of decades ago and has been spreading steadily across the world, exhalting its values of positive eating and positive living. The mantra of good design has always been strong at Wagamama, courtesy of Alan Yau, who got David Chipperfield to design his first, Bloomsbury branch of Waga’s in the early 90s, and followed that up with John Pawson to design the branch in Wardour St in Soho (London). Here, the fitout, by Christchurch based designers Element 17, also follows the Wagamama guidelines – the space is tall, and largely unadorned, with the solid oak refractory style tables so reminiscent of communal meals – no separate dinky tables here – they pack them in and push you through. Being so spacious in height as well as floor area has its advantages – stunning views out to sea, where you can watch the Bluebridge ferry and EastWest ferry launch across the harbour, as well as catching the late afternoon rays streaming down across the outdoor plaza. The decor matches the food – sophisticated yet wholesome, with solid timber features and fixtures proclaiming its down to earth goodness. Damn good food too – with the menu basically unchanged from the original in Bloomsbury. There is no doubt that Wagamama has captured, as has Meridian above, one of the most choice spots on the waterfront, and it brings some company to Mojo’s fine coffee bar nestling nearby.
I stand corrected. Or rather, I sit. At a table that could also have come from a food factory….
I ate there on opening night, and while there were a few slip-ups from a largely inexperienced and pubescent staff, everything was fixed up courteously and it was a pleasant evening. Food-wise I wouldn’t rate it above cheaper casual Japanese restaurants in the city (Arashi, Hede, Miyabi etc) so I wouldn’t make the walk out from Te Aro for the food alone, but the setting is magnificent and it would be fantastic place on a sunny summer evening.
I remember going to Wagamama’s in Bloomsbury in the early 90’s. It was a bit of an architectural mecca. Designed by David Chipperfield, the rumour was that he had followed a philosophy that there should be no more than two materials meeting at a junction.
We looked and looked and tried to find anywhere where this situation occured and couldn’t find any.
We marvelled at the design and the rigour of it all. Imagine thinking about every single junction in a restaurant environment. Fantastic.
(and the food wasn’t bad either….)
A good review over at texture:
They need to sort their dessert end of the dining experience out before it gets amongst the rumour mill that it just doesn’t cut it not having exactly what is on the menu, or not having it at all. And then trying to charge a reee-diculous price for anorexic portion served up.
(Sorry, that was about the food, not the architecture.)
The Covent Garden branch reminded me a lot of a larger, lit-up Good Luck bar. Still had an extremely funky atmosphere, even without windows!
I like Wagamama. I could do with some noodles right now.
What I like is that its an affordable restaurant in a 5-star location.
Quite often these sorts of spots are taken up by the white linen crowd who charge the GDB of a small African nation for 3 courses and an espresso.
….make that “GDP”….