To eat anything at all you must first collect a contactless card, which is then be used to tally up everything you order. When you’re done gorging yourself, you take it back to the front desk and pay your bill, thus eliminating the need for individual cheques or service charges. It’s an unusual concept – although, apparently, big in Europe, where Vapiano has 150 locations in addition to its three in London – but it seems to work well.
Once you’ve got your card, you choose a pizza or pasta station and watch the jolly chefs pull your meal together. It’s not for the indecisive; there’s a dazzling array of toppings and pastas to choose from, all made fresh that day.
Vapiano is most known for its pasta, which is something I’ve never been crazy about. We ordered it anyway, though, as its supposed to be the specialty, and I’m so glad I did. We chose the granchi di fiume, crayfish and fresh vegetables with lobster sauce and cheese, and it was the best pasta I’ve ever had. I even preferred it – just – to the dell’alpe pizza, which was covered in four different kinds of cheese (including gorgonzola!), dried tomatoes, rockets and figs. Yes, figs. Who’d have thunk?
We also tried the insalata reef’n beef (£8.00), a fresh salad with prawns and beef fillet, but I think the amount of meat you get (three large prawns and a smattering of steak) represents pretty poor value compared to the pasta and pizza options.
The desserts on offer are all made fresh too, and include traditional Italian desserts – such as panna cotta and a fantastic tiramisu – and less continental crowd-pleasers such as an extremely chocolatey tart and a thick slab of cheesecake that seemed to think it was a quiche.
Interestingly, many of Vapiano’s puddings come in two sizes, including the purse-pleasing potlettes pictured above, which come in at £2.25 each. (The larger portions cost £4.00 a pop). I don’t know if this is a European phenomenon or just Vapiano, but the cheap sweets trend is certainly one to be embraced. Fuck paying £6+ for a pudding.
Now, the counter service is great, but not exactly conducive to chat. If you’ve come with one other person, you can either both go up with all your stuff and then find somewhere to sit with your plates of food, or send one person up while the other keeps a seat. Quite a few people seemed to be happily leaving their bags unattended, but bugger that. Leaving your shit to get nicked in a busy Soho restaurant is a very bad idea. So I’d say it was better for small groups of friends than one-on-one dining.
We visited Vapiano on a Monday night so it was relatively quiet, but the Soho branch has loads of seating even if you visit at busier times. We visited on invitation from the restaurant and tried pretty much everything, but you just have to go for the pasta, even if – like me – it isn’t usually your thing. Mains are £7-10 each and – with the exception of the salad – portions are generous. Whatever you have, make sure you get that lobster sauce poured all over it. I’d bathe in the stuff if I could, Cleopatra style.
You can find Vapiano at 84 Wardour St, W1F 0TQ and peruse their menus online.
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in Islington and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.