Oriental Food Hall
4 Chelverton Rd. Putney. SW15 1RH
Nearest Tube: Putney East/ Putney BR
Average price per person: less than a tenner
Opening Hours: Mon to Fri 12 noon to 15:00, 17:30 to 23:00
Sat and Sun 12 noon to 23:00
Wagamama concept places are springing up everywhere. Soon after one has established its turf and proclaimed superiority, another one flashes into existence. One could suffer from whiplash from all the rapid activity.
Friends. The corny sounding, cutsy-mitzy name reminds me of little school girls with pigtails gaily skipping with their ‘Hello Kitty’ lunchboxes. Don’t ask me why. Just does. Either that, or I’m just really bitter.
Friends strives and strains to be just like Wagamama. To sip the sweet nectar of success and to tap into that multi-million pound gold-pile that Alan Yau (founder) is proudly preening himself on. Unfortunately it fails on multiple levels and instead is ‘just another one of those noodle bars’.
It has the canteen tables and long chairs concept happening there. Waiting staff are polite, efficient and courteous. The kitchen, however, is not an open-planned concept. Maybe this is where luck has gone so disastrously wrong. Maybe if they opened their kitchen to criticism, the food would be better. Who knows? Also (not to pick) the ambience is much duller and subdued. It needs a few ultra modern, ultra sleek touches here and there.
Onto the food. Actually it’s not quite bad. Not quite great. But I’ll be back here again. Not on a regular basis, mind you. But in a “we’re close and can’t be arsed walking further” kinda situation. Which means it’s not all tits up for this establishment.
The Chilli Beef Ramen (£6.90) is EXACTLY what Wagamama serves up. Not meaning to compare, but not resisting either – I ordered it - for a challenge and a hoot. The large bowl was practically obscured from the Eden Project currently in cultivation there. Their sirloin steak was OK, not as tender as in the big W – but still wolfable. The soup was pretty good (OK I’m gonna sound like a mimic) but didn’t have the same punch to it as the big wig W. (I think the proprietors of Friends are gonna punch me any sec). All in all, after all that critique – a solid bowl of noodles with good proportions of meat to noodles to veges. I will certainly have it again.
The Other Hag had the anti-nemesis of my dish – the Chilli Chicken Ramen (£5.50) served with the forestry of seasonal greens, wakame, menma and spring onions. She slurped it up with gusto and proclaimed it to be a hearty, tasty bowl of dosh. No complaints there.
The Man ordered the Nasi Goreng which arrived in this humungous plate piled up to the nines. (The photos don’t really give the size justice). True to its form, a fried egg laid on its back spread-eagled. Hey, it even comes with a complimentary bowl of soup! He devoured it with flecks of grain flying in all directions, again with no complaints. Apparently an expert on the nasi goring sub-species – he declared it “pretty good”.
So there you go culinary deviants. I started out this review with a negative slant, but after walking with baby step precision through the meal - this joint ain't that half bad. I surprise myself sometimes. Fast efficient service, large portions, reasonable prices – definitely good value for money. So whaddya waiting for? For Wagamama to lower its prices? Not bloody likely.
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