The rhetorical question was recently posed to me by my editor, ‘Why don’t you try Wagyu for a Let’s Do Lunch feature?’
My immediate thought was to let him know that I had had a look at the menu and it was fifteen quid for a steak sandwich, salad and chips so I didn’t think that I would’ve received much of a thank you when I presented my expenses. Sensing an opening for a bit of a bash and not wanting to waste this unexpected chance, I suppressed my first response and replied, ‘What a good idea. I will get on it straight away.’ (Before you Google it and read the menu.)
Wagyu is a new cafe bar and grill in Victoria Gate, just above John Lewis. The cafe part has been open for a few weeks but the restaurant will not be in operation until the first week in September, although the full menu, more or less, is available now, and as the cafe is on the ground floor with views of the passing shoppers, and what with me being a nosey Parker, it was perfect. There is also an area outside the premises in the shopping precinct itself if you are even nosier than I am.
The name Wagyu is taken from the type of beef it specialises in, which comes from any of the four Japanese breeds of beef cattle and can be eye-wateringly expensive, with prices hovering around £200 per kilo for some fillets. The reason for this is the high fat content which marbles the cut and so when it’s cooked properly this renders and makes the meat supremely tender and buttery to the taste buds. The beef here is sourced, not from Japan itself, but Warrendale Farm near York, so the provenance is impeccable. There are also other choices on the menu, including vegan and vegetarian options.
I decided to play fair and rather than go for a steak, ordered the Frickles and Burger Special at £10. Frickles is a made up word like Jedward and Brexit, but more appealing than either, being short for Fried Pickles. These were gherkin style pickles which had been deep-fried in tempura batter, served in a bowl on top of a green salad (the frickles not the bowl) and accompanied by soy dipping sauce. The pickles were pungent but not overly so, which was just as well as I had a glass of Pinot Noir to do my burger justice and I didn’t want it to end up tasting of vinegar. It didn’t. I also had a glass of iced tap water which had been offered to me when I took my seat to quaff whilst perusing the menu.
There are three choices of burger: Chicken Katsu, Vegyu – see what they did there – and Wagyu. It would have been rude to order anything other than the speciality, so Wagyu it was. It came in Rustic Brioche with cheese, tomato, cos, crispy onions and dripping chips, which are substituted by salad for the Vegyu burger. The brioche was lovely and yellow but just a tad on the dry side, and the cheese was Smoked Apple Cheddar which was superb, having almost the consistency of mozzarella when hot and a wonderful creamy taste. The dripping chips were served separately in a small bowl with mayonnaise, my choice of dip. They were lovely and floury in the middle whilst being brown on the outside. They were not quite crisp but that didn’t detract from the taste. All chips should be fried in dripping.
It was the beef I was here for though and it didn’t disappoint. The six-ounce patty was perfectly done, just brown in the middle and juicy as a peach in July. You could tell that the meat was special as it had a taste like I have never come across before. The butteriness came through and was evident even when eaten with the cheese and tomato. I thought that my home made burgers were about as good as you could get but I have to admit to silver medal position now. I will be back to gold next time though when I have splashed out on some wagyu mince.
To illustrate the value of the deal, which is available from noon until 5.00pm each day, the Frickles are shown on the main menu at £3 and the burger £12.50. I couldn’t leave without having dessert. Well, I could but I didn’t want to, and this is where the ‘more or less’ full menu comes in, as the desserts are being revamped and so I was offered a choice of cakes. I went for the Millionaire’s Sponge and a black Americano, both of which were £2.50. The coffee was excellent and the cake divine. There were two flavours of sponge – chocolate and what I took to be caramel with a layer of soft caramel between and a selection of gold trimmings on the top. Thank goodness it was lighter than it looked.
I must say that I enjoyed my trip to Wagyu very much which was helped by the great service from my waitress, Hanna, and also meeting the manager, Philip, who informed me that once the main restaurant is open upstairs they will be introducing a Wagyu Sunday Dinner. I am looking forward to that, if only I can find a way to block their price list from my editor’s computer.