Wagamama, Eldon Square, Newcastle

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TRADITIONAL noodle bar dining means long benches and cramming in with strangers if it’s busy, but on a cold teatime recently, we almost had Wagamama to ourselves.

I rejoiced when Wagamama’s tasty noodles made it to the North East and while it might not be the most authentic, it’s a good jump off point for trying Japanese food, with its simple, colourful menu and helpful staff.

I set about banishing the chills with a huge bowl of seafood ramen for £10.15 – noodles topped with smooth dory, seasonal greens, prawns and squid, plus kamaboko (a bright pink Japanese seafood product) and slippery green wakame, or seaweed.

It was hot, filling and exactly what I needed on a cold winter’s night, liberally sprinkled with soy sauce and dried chilli flakes, which are placed along each table.

My dining partner is not a fan of Asian food outside of luminous sweet and sour chicken, but it was my turn to choose where we ate out, so he was forced outside his high-calorie comfort zone for one night.

After some brow furrowing on his part, I suggested katsu curry – chicken deep fried in breadcrumbs with curry sauce and sticky white rice.

Success! Mild curry, chunky pieces of chicken with a light spicy breadcrumb and a pile of rice to soak up the sauce, all for £8.95.

After all this almost-healthy living, we treated ourselves to dessert, with intensely-flavoured chocolate and lemongrass frozen yoghurt for me and a chocolate wasabi fudge cake for him, a combination of hot and sweet which worked surprisingly well.

The reluctant diner admitted his first foray into Japanese food had been a pleasant surprise – not as “fiddly” as he feared it would be.

With a pint of diet coke for him and plenty of green tea for me, which comes free with meals, the bill came to £30.20, a little pricey for tea for two.

Budget-watching diners should head to wagamama.com, where you can sometimes find money-off vouchers, plus opening times, menus and more.