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Wahu, Spinningfields, Reviewed

David Blake on The Avenue, 'fast food' and quids

Published on July 3rd 2014.

Wahu, Spinningfields, Reviewed

SPINNINGFIELDS marches on towards complete food and drinkery.

Wahu are savvily trying to tap into an ever expanding (quite literally) gymhead crowd, ravenous for anything swimming in its own protein juice.

Let’s cut to the chase. The Avenue, for shopping at least, hasn't worked out. Instead of a destination, it's become a desert strip of luxury stores that most of us mere oiks have barely glanced at.

So there’s been a shift in focus.

Bosses have arrived at the realisation that all we’re really interested in now is gorging ourselves and getting loaded.

The AvenueThe Avenue

Soon The Avenue will be all food and drink. It’s inevitable. In fact, it's already under way.

Spanish restaurant Iberica are rumoured to be ploughing through into the empty All Saints store (We thought Alchemist had this one?), Thaikhun have knocked through into LK Bennett, while next door, Southern Eleven are moving into the former Brooks Brothers. Across the way Kurt Geiger has thrown in the towel, as has Ted Baker next to that, we hear they may have made way for Brazilian gaff Fazenda.

That's half of 'em bit the dust.

This isn’t necessarily a problem unless The Avenue becomes an out of hand ‘bar street’, over flowing with tattooed biceps and breasts like bronzed bowling balls poured into cellophane. But we’ll cross that bridge…


The latest addition is Wahu, at the east end of The Avenue.

It’s an independent. We like that. The fact that the young owner and entrepreneur, Jamie Barr, chips in on the floor and dives behind the serving counter when things take a turn for the busy works to his advantage. Dirty hands indicate responsibility and a yearning for success. Good on him.

The location is a blinder, possibly the heaviest spot for footfall in all of Spinningfieldom with a hefty terrace for lots of summer lunchtime bottoms. The interior too is charming, like somebody has thrown a Dulux colour party in a greenhouse and combined that with a dangly light showroom. Odd those lights, but fun.

Wahu's point of difference is that it serves hustling 'healthy express food' and the opportunity to design your own meals, starting with a rice, pasta, salad or wrap base and moving on to the gubbings. The problem when you claim to serve 'express food' is that it needs to be fast. Wahu wasn't, on this occasion.

The counterThe counter

Ok, it's only been opened two weeks and certain creases need to be ironed out, and they will, given time, but a ten minute wait for pasta and chicken to be cooked because there's none ready deflects from the point of a jump-in-and-grab-it-joint (and at 3pm I didn't even have to suffer a queue). So I didn't pop-in. I sat down and waited for food to be delivered to a table. Express food?

The staff were perfectly polite about the situation, Mr Barr even brought the food over to the table himself and apologised for the delay citing 'stock issues' or 'Wednesday stock count' or something.

Anyway, the grub. 

I opted for a lunchtime box, which at £5.95 before add-ons is probably standard these days. But 'double your 'protein' for £2 and you're at £7.95, add quinoa for 75p and you're at £8.70. Add a health drink for £2.99 and you suddenly find you've slipped into a £12 lunch. Will people spend that every day for a lunch in a box and a tidgy bottle of health plop? Couldn't prices be dropped a shade?

The grubThe grub

That said the tucker is nifty.

The pasta was fresh and bouncy, the chicken was buoyed by a perfect Caesar, the peppers were colourful, cold and crispy, the red onion though was a touch too red cabbage. Red onion should be crunchy like a Vinny Jones tackle and as potent as a wasabi paintball shot from a Panzer. The cheese was cheese. The cucumber, pineapple and spinach health drink at £2.99 tasted like all green health drinks do, like puréed cactus.

You can see what Wahu's getting at. The protein product market is booming, it's estimated that by 2017 the world will be scoffing £8bn a year of drinks and bars. Wahu want a slice of the protein pie, fuelling the gymhead crowd ravenous for anything swimming in its own protein juice, or polymers or amino acids or something.

 So amongst the porridge and muesli (from £1.95) sits egg white omelettes and protein pancakes (from £3.95) for early gym'ers. For lunch gym'ers, fillings aren't fillings, but 'protein' (chicken, beef, lamb, salmon, halloumi) supplemented by extras.

Dinner though is more ambitious, the bases are cheered up by things like firecracker chicken, mediterranean lamb and a hectic sounding Tasmanian salmon.

I hope Wahu does well.

In fact, in weeks it's busier than many established operations in the area. But the devil lies in the detail, fast food, however good for you, still needs to be fast, also when 'healthy fast food' becomes unhealthy on the pocket, it could soon lose hype and appeal.

Let's hope not for Wahu.




Wahu, Hardman Street, Spinningfields, M3 3HF. 0161 832 3022.


Menu here

Rating: 13/20 (remember venues are rated against the best examples of their type - see yellow box below)

Food: 6.5/10 Touch pricey
Service: 2.5/5 Happy but needs to be swifter
Ambience: 4/5 Like the gaff 

PLEASE NOTE: Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away.

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22 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Poster BoyJuly 3rd 2014.


AnonymousJuly 3rd 2014.

Great review and I really hope the place does well. On the pricing point - agree entirely - for me its too expensive. The competition in the area (eat, pret, philpots, katsouris) all are about £2 cheaper for a salad and I think over the long haul this may damage Wahu. Comments in my office certainly confirm people think its too expensive to go regularly during the week for lunch. They should look at introducing a loyalty card scheme and potentially a range of ready made salad boxes at a lower price that really are 'grab and go'. Good start though and its great to have a different proposition in Spinningfields.

AnonymousJuly 3rd 2014.

Bob on. Good looking place though. Thing is, at Boots you can get a healthy wrap, snack and health smoothie for £3.29. So you wouldn't go to Wahu everyday because it'll treble your lunch budget. A Friday treat perhaps...

AnonymousJuly 3rd 2014.

I thought Iberica were taking the All Saints unit? Have the Alchemist confirmed?

2 Responses: Reply To This...
David BlakeJuly 3rd 2014.

They're having a slice I'm told, it's been on the horizon for awhile.

AnonymousJuly 3rd 2014.

Thanks, it's a big site I guess. Good review btw, I had exactly the same experience.

GordoJuly 3rd 2014.

Interesting, I was told by an unimpeachable source (jeremy roberts) that it wasn't going to be Alchemist. He's always telling me porkies mind you...

Georgina Hague shared this on Facebook on July 3rd 2014.
bigearsJuly 3rd 2014.

Went for breakfast last week. Pretty average really and took 10 minutes for pancakes! Way too heavy mix, couldn't cut through them with the plastic cutlery they gave me. Also had a protein shake which they gave me in the cups with the rounded top and hole in the middle. Asked for a straw to be told they didnt have any! Had to get a straw from Starbucks!!! Not what i was expecting for just shy of £8.50!

Andrew JonesJuly 3rd 2014.

Agree generally, the feeling in my workplace in spinning fields is it's too expensive for everyday work lunch and you don't get enough (especially say compared to katsouris), when you can get similar salads and wraps (although not as fresh) nearby for a less. Maybe £5 inc some fruit or snack? Don't see it lasting otherwise.

AnonymousJuly 3rd 2014.

Did this place used to be EAT?

1 Response: Reply To This...
Andrew JonesJuly 3rd 2014.


Sue WaxmanJuly 3rd 2014.

I went today for the first time certainly won't rush back very expensive for what you get and thought food very bland but I wish them lots of luck !

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJuly 4th 2014.

Expensive? You won't find food or drink within a working man's budget. The whole social scene in Spinningfields is a bland cultureless vacuum.

AnonymousJuly 3rd 2014.

"health plop" - haha.

Charles CohenJuly 3rd 2014.

Great review, I like the sound of the place and will certainly be giving Wahu a whirl. However I fail to see a problem with "breasts like bronzed bowling balls poured into cellophane", I can think of worse sights in Manchester.

pollolocoJuly 7th 2014.

its a posh subway minus the bread

1 Response: Reply To This...
SAZKJuly 7th 2014.

This. The food looks bland and it's such a shame as I've been wondering for ages why something like this doesn't exist. And if I'm paying these prices I want to get something more exciting that I wouldn't bother making at home. It would probably do well in a gym though.

pollolocoJuly 9th 2014.

I have a lunch place where I can get a salad box of 7-8 really interesting salads and poached salmon/meat for £3.95...this is just an overpriced selection of chopped vegetables

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJuly 9th 2014.


AnonymousJuly 9th 2014.


AnonymousAugust 26th 2014.

Nice healthy food, but expensive and the service is super-slow! After an initial rush after opening this is empty every lunch and I would guess is struggling already. They also seem to be cutting back on the size of the meat/chicken portions. I think they've lost my custom.

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