Udon chain Marugame Udon has just opened up two new branches in London, and if you love Japanese food, you won't want to miss out! Following the success of Marugame Udon in Japan and various other places in Asia and the United States, the chain decided to expand to England, with a restaurant in Spitalfields that opened in the summer. It then set up another restaurant at The O2 in September and more recently Canary Wharf and St. Christopher's Place. When I caught sight of a promotion offering free udon whilst scrolling through social media a couple of weeks ago, I knew I had to try Marugame Udon. I decided to visit the St. Christopher's Place restaurant as it's the most convenient one for me to get to after work.
When I arrived at Marugame Udon, I was approached by two promoters, who showed me the way to the restaurant and scanned my voucher. Once inside, I walked down the stairs and spoke to the doorman, and he explained to me how the restaurant works. Marugame Udon is quite different to other Japanese restaurants in that it is in the style of a canteen. You choose your preferred Udon or rice bowl from the menu (which is available on a board), pick up a tray, and order your dish.
The food is quickly prepared in front of you, and then you move along the counter where you have the option to add tempura and omusubi sides (basically a rice ball covered in seaweed). There is also a small but varied selection of drinks (including Coca-Cola, Kombucha, Ramune Lemonade and Japanese alcohol) and desserts (such as dorayaki pancakes, soft serve ice cream and Little Moons mochi). Across from the counter, you'll find the Condiments station. Here you can add sauces or spices to your meal (free of charge). After paying for your food, you are able to find your table.
As I'd eaten a fairly big lunch, I opted for the Chicken Katsu Curry Udon, which is described as "crispy fried chicken thigh in panko breadcrumbs with mildly spicy curry sauce with udon", and the Mango Cheesecake Mochi. I also added a helping of pickled ginger.
The Chicken Katsu Curry Udon was as tasty as I'd expected - it was very flavoursome, and the amount of chicken pieces and udon noodles was just right. There were also some chunks of potato in the dish, and the addition of ginger provided a fruity and spicy aftertaste. The mochi was delicious too - you can't go wrong with mango!
Marugame Udon may be located in the centre of London, but the prices are very reasonable. Udon bowls range from £3.45 to £8.95, while rice bowls cost between £5.95 and £8.95. In terms of tempura, chicken gyoza is £0.85 per piece, vegetable gyoza is £0.85, chicken karaage is £1.75, and courgette tempura is £1. Omusubi is priced at £2.25. Drinks are between £1.45 and £5.95, and diners are able to get a complimentary glass of water with their meal. The unlimited soft serve ice cream is £3.25, and a guaranteed rival to Pizza Hut's Ice Cream Factory.
Since it was a Friday night, Marugame Udon was busy when I visited, but there were plenty of seats available (perhaps because it was still early). The restaurant has a relaxed atmosphere, and I didn't feel under any pressure to leave as soon as I finished my meal, which can be the case in other eateries. Marugame Udon is a fantastic spot to pop into during your lunchbreak as the service is very quick, and it's good for a post-work dinner with friends too. I'd also recommend it for solo diners, first dates and families.
With its scrumptious food, friendly staff and central location, I can see Marugame Udon becoming my new go-to restaurant in London.