A POPULAR pan-Asian restaurant has opened its doors at Festival Leisure park, completing the area’s transformation from a clubbing mecca into a family destination.

Wagamama, at Festival Leisure Park, in Basildon, marks the fourth one to open in Essex, with the next closest being Chelmsford, and then Lakeside.

Southend Standard:

Opened up - staff at the Festival Leisure restaurant

With the changing face of Festival Leisure Park from a hot spot for nightlife to a family-friedly venue, Wagamama fits in perfectly.

Last year saw the closure of Chicago’s bar, which was the last bar standing after all four nightclubs – Liquid, Envy, JJS, and New York New York – closed in 2015.

The bars and clubs which gave Festival Leisure its nickname of Bas Vegas were replaced with a children’s soft play centre – 360 Play, dessert restaurant Sprinkles, and restaurant chains Bella Italia and Firejacks.

More recently, Mr Mulligans crazy-golf opened, part of a growing trend in the popular dining and crazy-golf combo.

Inspired by fast-paced, Japanese ramen bars, Wagamama opened in London’s Bloomsbury in 1992, and has flourished ever since.

Renowned for its chicken Katsu curry, Wagamama pushed the boat out two years ago after launching a full vegan menu, featuring 19 plant-based dishes – including the world’s first vegan egg.

The white of the egg is made from coconut milk and a hole in the middle is filled with siracha mayo – made to look like the orange yolk.

Girish Kotian, general manager, said: “We’re really excited to be here in Basildon.

“The food is very nourishing and we are very proud to be serving it.

“We love to nourish modern society with our heart-warming food. The kids menu is really good too.”

Every single dish is cooked fresh, with four sections in the kitchen where chefs specialise in certain dishes.

The team of 25 front of house staff and head chef, Joey Tabulog with his 25-strong team of kitchen staff, have been training for the past three months and give off a buzzing energy with their “ready-to-go” attitude.

Joey, said: “We’re excited and ready to go.

“We’ve been preparing for this for months.”

The restaurant has a cosy feel with stunning decor and trendy lighting,

It boasts seating for 120 guests, a mezzanine level for 60 guests and a private dining space as well as its own bar.

There are also 40 outside spaces for the warmer months.

Matthew Chambers, centre manager of Festival Leisure Park, said: “Throughout the past decade we’ve successfully transitioned Festival Leisure Park into a family friendly destination, with popular venues including Cineworld, Hollywood Bowl, 360 Play, Mr Mulligans and Sprinkles, appealing to visitors of all ages.

“We’re therefore delighted to add to our fantastic offering and welcome Wagamama here to Festival Leisure Park.”

There are temporary opening hours for the first two weeks to allow the staff to settle in.

During the week the restaurant will be open from 11.30am until 8pm. There is a later closing time of 11pm at weekends.

The normal opening hours will see the restaurant stay open for later.