Oh Manchester, we are in for a treat. Vapiano is coming and I got the chance to visit three of their restaurants in London for a sneak peek of what to expect.
Our first Vapiano experience was at the bright and airy Bankside restaurant. Floor to ceiling glass windows and a bright London sun made for a lovely and relaxed atmosphere.
Vapiano have over 150 restaurants, in 29 countries, across 4 continents and it is not hard to see why. Their ethos is a relaxed dining experience; you are given a card as you walk through the door and you pick a table. Have a look at the menu and make a choice before you go to the right cooking station to order. Your food is cooked to order whilst you wait. Extra garlic? Extra chili? No problem, the chef will cater to your personal taste before scanning your card to add the meal and passing you your food to go back to your table with to enjoy.
The whole experience is seamless and, for a lunch time, the restaurant was packed! I loved that people came and sat at our table without question and chatted to us about their day. Many would expect the self service style to mean that the quality isn’t there. So let’s see what the food was like.
We started with the anti pasti platter which is monstrous for £10. The buffalo mozzarella was creamy and light with a lovely citrus flavour whilst the homemade pesto brought out the creamy flavours even further. The bruschetta topped with tomatoes was also excellent with the bread just toasted rather than being hard like many others are. The tomatoes were light with a good kick of salt and garlic to provide the perfect topping.
My absolute favourite dish was the strawberry and spinach salad priced at just £6.50. Creamy goat’s cheese mixed with nutty pine nuts, juicy fresh strawberries and light spinach are topped with the sweet yet zesty raspberry maple dressing. They really should sell this dressing to go… I need more of it in my life and it really would bring any dull salad to life. The dressings and sauces are all made in house daily by the talented chefs who are trained rigorously on each of the different cooking stations in turn.
Each restaurant has an impressively aged olive tree inside with this one growing out of our table. You will also find fresh herbs on each table that you can tear off to enhance the flavour of your meal if you so wish.
Next we visited Vapiano Soho to try the main courses. This restaurant is more like what we can expect in Manchester. Set over 2 floors the atmosphere is a little less ‘hustle and bustle’ and somewhere you could easily spend a few hours enjoying a good bottle of wine.
There’s an impressive selection of pasta and pizza which are cooked to order in record time. It takes just 3 minutes to make a simple pasta dish compared to 8 minutes for a pizza. As with the dressings the pasta and pizza dough are all made in house daily and you can pick what style of pasta you have to go with your sauce. There’s also spelt pasta available.
The salsiccia con ficci with the delicately chopped figs throughout a rich tomato sauce was paired beautifully with deceptively spicy italian sausage. The pasta cooked al dente was beautiful and the sprinkle of optional cheese just finished the dish off with a creamy bite. A beautiful combination.
The scampi e spinaci with its gently cooked prawns, punchy pesto and spinach was also a hit with the group who loved the creamy finish the light sauce gave. Another one we will be eagerly awaiting coming to Manchester.
We did try the pizzas but unfortunately I didn’t get any images. The bases are wonderfully crispy with some amazing toppings. We tried the crudo e fichi with prosciutto, fresh figs, honey, tomato sauce and mozzarella. We were concerned that the honey would make the pizza too sweet but it added a lovely floral note and the very small sprinkle of cheese enhanced the flavour rather than drowning it in cheese. Just exquisite.
Onto Great Portland Street for our ‘dolci’ which are served in small or large jars making them super quick to serve. At £2.25 or small dessert and £4 for a large they are ridiculously reasonably priced so we tried a few!
The tiramisu is the lightest I have ever tried. The thinnest of sponge layers helps and the light spike of liqueur keeps things smooth without being too rich.
The panna cotta is also light and not too gelatinous making it a delight to eat with just the right amount of vanilla to flavour this creamy pudding.
The amazing prices and quick service means many officer workers pop into Vapiano for their lunch. Even if you don’t have time to eat in you can take your food away in branded Vapiano containers for no extra cost.
When it comes to paying you scan your card on the way out, pay your bill and take a handful of jelly babies which await you as you leave each restaurant. Surely we’re all children at heart.
The Manchester restaurant is set to be just as spectacular. Hosted in our iconic Corn Exchange you can expect a 100 year old olive tree, an indoor terrace as well as an outdoor seating area overlooking Exchange Square.Having toured the 3 London restaurants I can’t wait, it’s going to be epic. I’ll see you at the pass.
Thanks to Vapiano and Down at the Social for introducing me to the concept. All food was provided for review purposes.