With friendly staff who are willing to talk you through the unfamiliar dishes, and a team of talented chefs who have mastered a whole range of culinary themes, Wagamama White Rose is the perfect place to take a leap of faith and try something new.

The atmosphere

I’ve been to Wagamama once before, a few years ago at a different location. And while I don’t have any bad memories of the experience, I remember thinking that they layout was perhaps a bit too progressive. I was perched on a long bench and shoved so cosily to the stranger beside me that I had to eat with my elbows tucked in. This is not the case in the White Rose branch.

While it still has the same casual atmosphere that the brand is known for, the White Rose Wagamama is open and comfortable, with big picnic-style tables and generous booths.

The layout channels the industrial trend we see almost everywhere these days: stripped-back wood, metal décor, Scandi-chic pendant lights, exposed beams, and a kitchen you can see straight into. But it doesn’t have that hipster-for-the-sake-of-it vibe – it wears its ‘cool’ with a sense of experience.

We received a warm welcome from the staff and instantly felt relaxed – and hungry.

Starters and drinks  

As someone who is trying to be a vegetarian and stick to whole ingredients as much as possible, I was excited by the diverse menu. Wagamama’s Asian-inspired offering is incredibly diverse and includes a huge spectrum of vegetarian and vegan options.

Inspired by a starter we had in Canada a few years ago, we chose edamame with chilli salt, and we weren’t disappointed.

Chilli and salt coat the outside of the shell, to give an initial kick of flavour, which is balanced out perfectly by the juicy crunch of the beans. It’s a fun and light dish, ideal for a starter

In the spirit of trying something new, I ordered steamed buns with mixed mushroom and panko aubergine, injected with Japanese mayonnaise. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I made all night.

The buns were soft and doughy, giving way to the crunch of the breadcrumb-coated aubergine and tender mushrooms. But it was the Japanese mayonnaise that sold it for me – cool and creamy with a bit of a zing, it gave the dish a unique twist that felt exclusively Wagamama.

The drinks menu is just as vast, and our attention was immediately grabbed by the selection of fresh juices. I opted for the ‘positive juice’ (pineapple, lime, spinach, cucumber, apple), while my companion chose the ‘super green’ (apple, mint, celery, lime).

Both were incredibly refreshing, and not too heavy – ideal for pairing with the Asian flavours. Mine had a fruity and sweet edge brought on by the pineapple, while his was like a guilt-free, energy-boosting mojito.

The food

If it wasn’t organized so well, Wagamama would be overwhelming. They serve everything from rice bowls to ramen, pad thai to curry, with variations of each. To make it manageable, the menu is divided into sections, with explanations of what the types of dishes are.

The staff at the White Rose location are clearly big fans of the menu, and were happy to talk us through the choices. Luckily, their guidance helped to narrow things down. My companion was seduced by the seared nuoc cham tuna off of the seasonal menu, and I ventured into unfamiliar territory and opted for the yasai ramen.

I was served a giant bowl of noodles, topped with tofu, mushrooms, and Japanese omelette, which all mingled together in steaming veggie broth. As a newbie to the ramen trend, it took me a while to master my spoon/chopsticks combination, but once I found a rhythm, I was in Wagamama heaven.

The broth had a spicy kick, which was softened by the noodles and giant chunks of tofu. The generous smattering of wild mushrooms were rich and indulgent, while Japanese omelette added a hearty finish. The best part was getting a bit of everything in one bite, for a delicious explosion of flavour and texture.

My cohort was blissfully tucking into the generous slab of tuna steak, which was ‘seared exactly right’ so that ‘you can still taste the meaty saltiness of the fish’. It flaked away into the bed of cous cous, sweet potato, and edemame beans, for a ‘surprisingly filling’ mix of tenderness and crunch.

The dessert

I’m still a bit surprised we managed dessert, after annihilating both the starters and the mains, but the unusual and extensive choices on the menu were too tempting to resist.

I chose the banana katsu, which is an unusual and wonderful combination of flavour and texture. Panko-covered banana is doused in caramel syrup and plonked on a pillowy bed of salted caramel ice cream, to create a sweet, sticky, and super indulgent concoction. The crunch of the deep fried banana works perfectly with the soft ice cream, and the salted caramel gives a sharp bite to an otherwise ultra-sweet dish.

As someone who can’t resist anything coffee flavoured, my companion opted for the coffee ice cream, which turned out to be a giant bowl of creamy goodness, smothered in syrup and topped with sesame seeds – the perfect ‘dessert coffee’, in my books.

The verdict

We left Wagamama White Rose with a huge list of things that we want to try next (including the katsu curry, a donburi bowl, anything else that contains Japanese mayonnaise). The incredibly friendly and helpful staff made the whole experience feel relaxed and fun, and the food was both tasty and wholesome.

While ordering an unfamiliar dish can feel like a gamble, at Wagamama you’re guaranteed to walk away satisfied – it’s the perfect place to try something different, and feel confident that it’s going to be both reasonably priced and entirely delicious.


By Mady, Restaurants of Leeds Share this story