With its communal benches and no-bookings policy, Wagamama changed London’s dining landscape when it first opened back in 1992. This year, the group celebrates its 25th anniversary, so we got in touch with executive chef Steve Mangleshot (pictured) to talk about the company’s impact on the UK’s restaurant scene. To mark the occasion, Wagamama is also offering a complimentary dinner for two with Steve himself. Read the interview below to find out how to enter.

Words: Eamonn Crowe

Steve Mangleshot Wagamama chef London

Wagamama started in 1992, what impact has it had on the London restaurant scene since its inception?

Wagamama has undoubtedly shaped the contemporary dining scene that Londoners and customers from all over the world enjoy today. We were the first to bring a ramen bar to London in the 90’s and our standards are high. For example, we serve our food as soon it’s ready to ensure the food is at its very freshest when it hits the (communal) table.

Wagamama restaurant chain UK

How has the food menu at Wagamama developed over the past 25 years?

Some of the dishes on the menu are so popular that they haven’t changed in 25 years; the chilli chicken ramen (above), which was the first dish on the menu 25 years ago, remains one of our bestsellers to this day. We are always discovering new flavour combinations, food trends and playing with spices to weave into our menu. Most recently, we experimented with seared beef tataki, twisting a classic pad thai into a light summer salad – which is now available on the summer menu.

Wagamama restaurant chain UK

Where did the inspiration for classics such as the katsu curry and the ramen come from?

The katsu (above) is direct from Tokyo with a little presentation twist to make it more appealing for Brits. With the ramen dishes, we took the inspiration from Japan allowing us to create our own taste versions of what is a classic Asian dish. Ramen is our bread and butter, and since we opened in 1992 we’ve sold enough noodles to go around the entire earth over 64 times.

Wagamama restaurant chain UK

Wagamama was arguably the first restaurant of its kind in London, do you feel it changed people’s perspective?

We were the first restaurant of its kind to open in London in the 90s. I believe that we’ve helped people understand and appreciate Asian cuisines more than any other brand in the UK. Before we opened in Bloomsbury, ramen wasn’t a dish that was frequently heard of, let alone available to taste and enjoy. Now if you walk down any high street in London, you are meters away from places selling curries, ramen, buns or gyozas. I’m excited to see what happens in the future and what the next generation will produce for the UK dining scene.

Wagamama restaurant chain UK

COMPETITION

For the chance to win a meal for two cooked by Wagamama’s executive chef Steve Mangleshot at Wagamama Covent Garden, tweet us @SquareMeal with #Wagamama25 and the answer to the following question: 

“What was the first ever dish on the Wagamama menu?” 

This competition closes at midnight on 26 July 2017.

Terms + Conditions:

 - This competition is open to residents of the UK (excluding Northern Ireland) aged eighteen or over and is open until 23.59 on 26 July 2017

 - Wagamama employees, their families or agents, Wagamama affiliated companies, or any other person connected with the competition may not enter

 - The prize consists of a meal for two with executive chef Steve Mangleshot in our Covent Garden restaurant. Travel expenses are not covered, there are no cash alternatives and the prize is non-transferable and subject to availability

 - The prize is valid for 12 months from the date of notification of winning

 - Winners and their guests agree to take part in any publicity accompanying or resulting from the prize without further recompense

 - By entering this competition, you agree to be bound by these terms and conditions and that our decision is final and binding in all matters relating to this competition. If you fail to comply with these terms and conditions your entry will automatically be void

This article was published 20 July 2017