Saturday, 25 April 2009


My visit to Giraffe was on a Friday afternoon, and was quite busy inside the restaurant with mainly young professionals and students. I ended up sitting in the less loud/atmospheric area outside, which suited me fine as I was only there for a quick lunch.

The restaurant aims to offer a welcoming, global experience, both in the food and music. Thus the menu offers a wide variation of cuisines, from Mexican, to Asian to American - and if you fancy a world food tour you could start your meal with ‘Wok Fried Edamame’ and follow them with a ‘Roasted Mushroom, Spinach and Goats Cheese Tostada’ with a side of Fries.

There are a higher than normal number of interesting vegetarian options, such as the, ‘Super Healthy Veggie and Oregano Salad’ and the ‘Sunshine Powerfood Salad’, both packed with nutritious beans and veggies. For those looking for something a bit more substantial they also offer an Asian style noodle stir-fry, winter vegetable burrito and falafel burger. I opted for the lunch special (which changes monthly), ‘Huevos Rancheros’, vegetarian style (with mushrooms instead of chorizo). It was clearly not the traditional huevos rancheros (which consists of fried eggs smothered in enchilada or chilli sauce served with soft tortillas on the side used for dipping and mopping), but was instead one flour tortilla topped with black beans, chilli, avocado, cheese, egg and mushrooms.

As a light lunch the dish was fine. The ingredients were fresh and tasty, but I couldn’t help but feel that I could have easily put this together myself, which is generally not what I expect from a dining out experience (I prefer to spend my money on things that I either cannot make myself or cannot be bothered to make myself.)

Overall, the menu was exceptionally vegetarian friendly and the atmosphere would have been great for a casual meet up with friends, but the food was closer to homemade than restaurant quality (however, this may not apply to the regular dishes as I did have one of the specials). That being said, if I happen to be near a Giraffe in the future I definitely would try it out again.

Food: 7
Service: 7
Atmosphere: 8
Price: ££

Friday, 24 April 2009


Having visited Wagamama a couple of times before I knew more or less what to expect in terms of the ‘cozy’ picnic table style seating arrangements and the potential differences in food delivery times. Thus with these prior experiences in mind, we decided to visit on a quiet early Sunday evening to increase the chances of not sitting within elbow jostling distance of a stranger and being able to eat at the same time.

As with most ‘EngAsian’ restaurants there tends to be a greater and more interesting, selection of vegetarian dishes. On this visit I was craving something spicy so went for the 'Yasai Chilli Men', a stir fry of wholewheat noodles, tofu, chillies, ginger, and veg. Happily both our meals arrived at pretty much the same time. For my particularly tolerable palette the dish was not spicy, but it did have a delicious flavour. Sadly, as with some of the other vegetarian dishes I have tried, I found the accompanying vegetables and tofu lacking in quantity. The fried tofu was delicious, but there were only a few chunks and I would have liked a few more vegetables to break up the large mass of noodles.

We also ordered a side of edamame beans sprinkled with chilli and garlic salt. By sucking the beans out of the pod you could taste the chilli garlic seasoning, but found beans were rather bland and unexciting by themselves. More of a healthy snack then anything else, but perfect for a boost of protein and fibre!

Other dishes I have tried before include the tasty, but somewhat messy 'Saien Soba', a vegetable soup which comes in a large bowl with a flat wooden spoon and chopsticks and requires some trial and error to eat both the noodle and veg chunks while slurping the yummy broth. My favourite dish is probably the 'Yasai Yaki Soba', which is a combination of wholewheat noodles and veggies, including the intense bright pink pickled ginger which balances the salty soy sauce.

The appeal of a restaurant like Wagamama has to be the offer of something different in that everytime I’ve been there I’ve had a very different experience. Some great – courtesy of a shared bottle of wine, some tortuous – courtesy of moody table neighbours. But whatever my social experience I have always enjoyed the food. It can be a bit salty at times, due to the heavy handed use of soy sauce, but the depth of flavour is there and the quantity is generally not disappointing.

Food: 9
Service: 8
Atmosphere: 8
Price: ££