I’ve tried a number of Vapiano restaurants before, but never here in the UK. I remember walking into my first one in Berlin (many, many years ago) and loving being surrounded by greenery and the innovative way fresh herbs were placed on tables. That was by far my favourite part of the restaurant. I had very vivid memories of the for quality, so when I had the opportunity to try out the Manchester restaurant came about I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to push aside my love for the design concept and concentrate more on what really matters. The food.
It was a dull, cloudy lunch time, I met up with G and we power walked over to the Corn Exchange to enjoy a fast pasta lunch, in celebration of national pasta day.
I know I said I wouldn’t be sidetracked by the interiors, but they are pretty special. Why? because they’re so simple. Simple in design, simple in the way they look and they very much let nature do the talking. There’s a beautiful green wall, signature herbs on every table and of course lots of beautiful olives trees dotted around. The tables are oak, most are intentionally long, to encourage groups, friends or even strangers to perch together and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere.
If you haven’t been before, Vapiano is a different to your usual restaurant. You are given a credit type of card when you arrive and any food and drink you order is added to your smart card, you can then settle the bill on your way out. Vapiano doesn’t have a central production facility like most other chains, all food is made fresh on site – this includes the pasta, you can even watch it being made. There are numerous counters where you go up and place your order, watching it from start to finish adding however much or little extras as you want.
Great! All the smells, the sounds… the bright red tomatoes drew me in and I knew I wanted a tomato based dish. I chose Gambaretti – King prawns, tomatoes, spring onions, tomato sauce and fresh lemon. G decided to go rogue and order a risotto, not quite grasping the concept of national pasta day.
As our dishes were cooked we watched, I wanted extra chilli and it was nice to be able to ask and have my dish tweaked to how I like it. Watching them cook, I kept glancing at G thinking I’m not quite sure this portion size is worth what we’re paying… but once it was all cooked and plated up, the portion looked at least twice the size of what I thought?!?
It was a very, very generous portion and it was perfect. the pasta was beautiful the sauce was beautiful and the king prawns were a fantastic size, you can tell Vapiano stay true to their ethos of sourcing high quality ingredients.
G’s risotto was equally as tasty, not too creamy and heavy as a lot of risottos are, the best thing was knowing it had just been cooked right there in front of us, eating a luke warm risotto is never enjoyable.
After watching the fresh pasta being made at Vapiano it was funny that by chance my mother was coming to stay the following weekend for a ‘pasta-making’ session, something I had promised to try with her as part of her birthday present. It was so interesting to actually try out the process for ourselves, really added a sense of appreciation to the team of chefs that do it day in day out. We had a blast doing it at home – but it was far too long a process for me to fit into my everyday schedule.
(P.s. we also made CHEESE!?!?! so alongside our fresh pasta we enjoyed some fresh HALLOUMI too!!! I know, it’s got naff all to do with pasta but we were so proud and it tasted SO GOOD. But note to self and others – making cheese is hard. I repeat HARD.)
There are so many Italian restaurants around Manchester, well not just Manchester, everywhere you go Italian style food is usually available. What we have here in Manchester, are a large collection of high quality Italian eateries. Readers of my blog will know I am a huge fan of the San Carlo group and I wrote some time ago about how you should pick which of their restaurants to visit based on the occasion. Well I’m going to adopt that same analogy here with Vapiano.
Yes Italian food is everywhere. Yes even in the vicinity of the Corn Exchange there are a number of pizza and Pasta joints to choose from. So what would make me choose Vapiano… well, here’s my opinion: If you’re looking for somewhere to enjoy casual dining, great ambience, FRESH food how YOU want it, then this is the place to go. After tasting Vapiano in three countries, I’ve not been disappointed once… and it is nice to know that I have one here at home.
And hey, who can say no to a restaurant that offers free home-grown herbs to all that pass?
*** Thank you to Vapiano Manchester for inviting G and I to check out their Manchester restaurant. Of course all opinions and photographs are my own ***