FOOD fans finally got their first glimpse of Wagamama’s new restaurant as it opened its doors to the people of Southend for the first time.

The chain has moved into the former Bella Italia site in London Road and enjoyed a busy first day of trading yesterday.

The restaurant is based across two-floors and saw expectant customers queue up outside ahead of the 11am opening.

Jasmine Cotgrove, 27, general manager said: “It went really well and we were very busy.

“We did expect that, especially opening during the summer school holidays and the team handled it really well and it all went smoothly.

“We have a Japanese-inspired menu with lots of different dishes and great side dishes which are great for sharing.

Echo:  Service - some of the team behind the bar Service - some of the team behind the bar

“The feedback has been really positive and lots of people have been really keen to visit and tell they are waiting all weekend.”

Customers said they were delighted to try out the new restaurant and were very impressed.

Charlotte Logan, 29, from Southend said: “We love Wagamama and are so happy one’s opened here in Southend. It saves us a trip to Basildon or Lakeside.

“The food has been great, the service has been lovely and I really like the look of the restaurant too.

“I am sure we will be coming back again soon and lots more times too.

“The staff are really fabulous and have been working so hard.”

Robert Carter, 51, from Leigh said: “We had a fabulous meal at the new restaurant. It was really lovely and we have been waiting for it open.

Echo: Stylish - The interior of the new restaurantStylish - The interior of the new restaurant

“There’s nothing else like this in our area for us and I hope they will start doing deliveries out to where we live.

“We love the food and the restaurant looks great too.

“I am sure it will be very popular and I was not surprised to see how busy it was for the first day.”

The opening of Wagamama comes amid plans by American fast-food chain, Wingstop, to move into the former TSB bank in London Road.

It is hoped the new restaurants will provide a much-needed boost for the areay, which is set to see new lighting, CCTV, plants and outdoor eating areas installed under Southend Council’s £4million investment plan to upgrade the city centre.