Words & Photos: @oliverinstead
As soon as we walked into the establishment, it was a breath of fresh air… literally, as we were greeted by a live green wall, dainty little pots of fresh basil plant and just very simple, very stylish decor.
The first restaurant in the UK outside London, I could already understand the success – Vapiano is no ordinary Italian. The self-service concept means there are no servers or table service. They don’t direct you where to sit. You simply walk in and collect a ‘card‘ at the front desk to which you’ll get charged as you order from the bar and open kitchen – by far my fav feature.
The vibe – 9.5/10
As you might have noticed from my last restaurant review (here), I don’t do crowds. So we strategically chose to go on a Monday night so it would be quiet and get ourselves a nice table at a brilliant spot by the balcony overlooking all the snazzy, newly opened restaurants in Corn Exchange (none of them as busy as this cool little Italian place I might add). However, the chances are you might not be as lucky during the weekend… it looks like the sort of place where you’d have to fight for your existence.
The service – 8/10
There wasn’t much of a service, which is the whole point!! Although I will say that the chefs weren’t terribly inviting… and if you’re going to make them interact with the customers, at least educate them on approachability and not to look so irritated when people turn up at the salad bar for some mozzarella.
On the other hand, the manager Gianmaria who showed us around each section and talked us through the concept was very professional and kept a friendly face on him from the moment we arrived ’til we stepped out the building so fair play to him!
The food – 8.5/10
The entire meal was very pleasant. The stand-out for me would have to be the stir-fried spaghetti ‘Granchi di Fiume‘, with crayfish, veggies and lobster sauce. Amazing!! Slightly experimental but the oriental-inspired fusion of spices and cheese was right up my street. Italian and Asian are two my fav cuisines and this dish combines both of those so what’s not to love? Note that if you order pasta, you’ll have a range of freshly made pastas to choose from and I went for the spelt variety just because I like all things earthy, wheaty-tasting.
The desserts weren’t the strongest course, which says a lot coming from someone who has the sweetest tooth. The lemon and vanilla cheesecake, although looked delicious, was a major let down. It lacked flavours (no taste of lemon or vanilla) and body, which felt almost like eating undercooked watery scrambled eggs, that’s not been seasoned. Would not recommend.
Having known the price range, it was a much, much tastier meal than I would’ve presumed. With a restaurant that offers fresh ingredients, cooked to order right in your face dishes, beautiful interior and upmarket yet unpretentious tone all at a reasonable price sitting in the heart of Manchester City Centre, I do not comprehend how anyone could settle for Pizza Express, Zizzi or Bella Italia?
If you want to know more about Vapiano, take a look on their website here and I hope to hear about your experience at one of their restaurants!
Myself and my little raviolo were invited to try out the dishes as part of the #EatPastaRunFaster campaign so all expenses were taken care of by the Vapiano team but rest assured all views are mine, and mine only.