It’s no Breakfast at Tiffany’s. More like a dog’s breakfast.
Despite the several breakfast reviews here at The Picky Glutton, I’m not usually a breakfast person. It may sound blasphemous and potentially unhealthy, but more often than not I just can’t be arsed to deal with the complexities of food first thing in the morning. One sure fire way to ignite my enthusiasm for breakfast is to wake me up at 4am and drop in Heathrow with two hours to go until my flight with nothing to do. Business travel doesn’t get any more glamourous.
The breakfast options at Heathrow’s terminals, even the brand spanking new Terminal 5, consists, as expected, of depressing chains. I made the mistake of giving the benefit of the doubt to Wagamama, an Asian restaurant chain with communal bench seating that most Londoners need no introduction to, and its Japanese-inspired breakfast menu. Although I sampled breakfast at the Terminal 5 branch, the breakfast menu seems to be available at many of the others too.
The yasai yaki soba is a vegetarian fried noodle dish, although incorrigible carnivores will be glad to know there’s a version with bacon in it too. Although yaki soba is usually made from wheatflour ramen noodles, the menu states that buckwheat soba noodles are used instead. In the vegetarian version the noodles are served with egg, cabbage, mushrooms, caramelised red onions, chinese chives and tomato. You would hardly guess this medley of ingredients was actually in the dish though, given its almost uniformly bland, lifeless flavour. Only the fleshy tomato strips tasted of anything at all. I’m fairly certain I wasn’t actually served soba noodles too – they had none of the nutty, moreish taste that soba noodles usually do. They looked and tasted more like the strips of cardboard that pass for ramen noodles in an instant noodle packet. Almost inedibly bad.
Given the friendly, chatty service I didn’t want to damn Wagamama’s breakfast menu without giving it a second chance so I also ordered an okonomiyaki. I’ve sampled this savoury Japanese pancake many times at Abeno Too near Leicester Square and I was expecting the same thing here – a fluffy, yam and wheat flour pancake stuffed with fillings. Sadly, I neglected to read the weasel worded menu closely – a ‘Japanese-style pancake omelette’ is what I got. Although it smelt right with the brown sauce and katsuobushi tuna flakes sprinkled on top, Wagamama’s version isn’t a pancake at all, but just an omelette and a particularly bland, tasteless, undead omelette at that. I could barely taste the vegetables allegedly mixed in to the egg.
A good okonomiyaki can take a good 10 minutes or so to prepare by a skilled cook, which clearly doesn’t lend itself well to a fast-paced eatery like an airport restaurant so I can understand Wagamama’s bastardisation to an extent. What’s unacceptable is that it’s a horribly inept bastardisation that could put people off okonomiyaki all together. If you want to make a crap omelette to appeal to the lowest common denominator, just call it a crap omelette.
The least offensive part of my entire breakfast was the iced coffee, but even this wasn’t terribly good. It’s very sweet and milky, like a Vietnamese coffee, but it’s quite diluted with none of the intense sweetness of that delightful drink. It’s not particularly strong either – I had to top up my caffeine levels with a Starbucks flat white only an hour later.
I’ve never understood the enduring appeal of Wagamama. It may be cheap and ubiquitous, but the food ranges from terrible to mediocre or, in the case of breakfast, just plain awful. I had wondered why my fellow diners had opted for the unimaginative western breakfasts also available. It turns out they’re the safe haven options – the utter abominations that pass for an Asian breakfast at Wagamama should be avoided at all costs.
Branch tried: Heathrow Terminal 5, airside
Phone: 020 8283 6186
Opening Hours: seven days a week 05.30-21.30.
Total cost for one person including coffee: £15 approx. (you’ll pay less if you’re less of a glutton than I am)