Vapiano, the Italian global fast-food chain founded in Germany, operates in 33 countries, over five continents and has 200 restaurants – one of which has now opened in Edinburgh. We were invited along to check it out.
The restaurant is just off St Andrews Square and although it doesn’t look very big from the outside, it covers three levels inside dotted with various cooking stations. When you enter the restaurant, everyone is given a plastic card that you use to charge any food and drinks you order. Each card is handed in at the end of your meal, and you just pay the balance on the card – perfect for bill hagglers everywhere.
The concept seems quite straight-forward. You pick a table on one of the levels, choose what you want from the menu then head off to forage for your food. When you have found the appropriate station for your dish, join the queue and wait for a chef to make it for you fresh. Everything is self-service apart from drinks which are ordered at the bar and brought to your table.
We started with a sharing Piatto Antipasti (£12.99) – prosciutto tipo Parma, salami, chorizo, roasted vegetables, pesto, Grana Pandano D.O.P, buffalo mozzarella and bruschetta. This was ordered at the antipasti bar and we were given a wee buzzer which summoned us when it was ready. It was a decent plateful and came with plenty of bread – olive oil and balsamic vinegar are available at your table. The pots of fresh herbs are a nice touch – we weren’t’ sure if these were just part of the décor or if we were supposed to help ourselves.
For our main course, we parted company as I headed upstairs for the pizza station and Donnie disappeared downstairs to the pasta bar. We left drinks and coats behind while we each went in search of our dinner. I ordered my pizza verdure, was given a buzzer then headed back to our table to wait. In the meantime, Donnie was at the back of the pasta and risotto queue waiting to place his order.
After a five minute wait in the queue, Donnie ordered up his “Cognac” pasta dish (£11.69). Your choice of pasta is plunged into a pan of water while the chef gets on with the rest of the dish while you wait. He stir-fried the chicken then added the peas, bacon, garlic, tomato sauce, cream, spring onions and cognac. The dish is finished off with some parmesan and more bread – if you are in search of carbs you’ve picked the right place.
While all this was happening, my buzzer had gone off, I had collected my pizza and I was halfway through it by the time Donnie got back. The verdant pizza was thin crust and topped with tomato, mozzarella and roasted vegetables. I was expecting some lovely charred oven-roasted vegetables rather than the slightly overcooked bland ones that had made an appearance earlier on in our antipasti starter. The topping made the whole pizza a bit soggy which was a shame.
Donnie’s pasta dish was the highlight of our meal – thoroughly enjoyable and great flavour. The pasta was perfectly cooked, had a nice balance of ingredients and just the right amount of rich tomato sauce.
Room for dessert?
Desserts are ordered from the main bar and feature various Italian desserts pre-prepared in-house in rather unstable Kilner jars. We were tempted by the Bacio and selection of ice cream. The Bacio is chocolate and hazelnut blended on a biscuit base topped with chopped hazelnuts. It really missed the mark with a loose, odd textured base, a flavourless creamy topping and a past it’s best strawberry.
How can you go wrong with Italian ice-cream? There were various flavours on the menu including strawberries and cream, cookies and cream, dark chocolate, lemon sorbet, raspberry sorbet and green tea coconut fudge (£3.50). I imagined a bowl of two or three scoops so was disappointed when Donnie arrived back with a wee cardboard pot of sorbet including a plastic spoon inside. Why not just have a proper ice-cream parlour?
Vapiano provides fast food though not fast food prices and is fine for a quick bite on the move. One of the good things about the ordering system is that you can order when you are ready and there are no arguments about splitting bills. The down-side is that you will likely spend more time wandering the restaurant organising your food than catching up on the latest gossip.
If you are looking for a relaxing evening catching up with friends or a romantic dinner for two ,then look elsewhere. Vapiano’s novel approach to dining is initially fun but then you quickly realise that it’s actually quite nice having a friendly waiter to look after you for the evening.
7 South St David’s Street
Thanks to Vapiano for inviting us to go along and check out their new restaurant.