With a simple concept of informal, relaxed yet interactive Italian dining, Vapiano has made rapid expansion and award winning success look easy. The first Vapiano opened in Hamburg in 2002, bringing a new take on Italian dining. The concept has now expanded to over 160 restaurants in 30 countries and 5 continents. Vapiano invited us down to try some of their vegan and vegetarian options and to see what we thought of the place.
Open since 2015, The Manchester Vapiano is situated in the recently renovated Corn Exchange. On entering, it’s hard not to be taken aback by the size of the place. Light and bright with a variety of seating areas to choose from; with over 400 covers available you are not going to struggle to find a table. I’d recommend that you go for a table under the Atrium Dome, with the sunroof giving you a touch of al fresco dining. It’s the perfect venue to escape from a rainy day in Manchester, of which there are many.
One of Vapiano’s selling points is also its most divisive: the use of chip cards for payments. Unlike a traditional restaurant setup, diners each have their own cards for tracking orders and payments. Simply scan the card when you make your order and clear your tab at the end of the visit. I have seen and enjoyed the concept used in wine bars successfully in the past – Salut Wines is well worth a visit – but never with food. It does create one issue in that it can be hard to time the arrival of food if you are eating with guests. Those in large groups may not like that people are getting up from the table every time they want a dish. However, solo lunch visitors, those on business lunches or a first date are served wonderfully – no more issues splitting bills or sharing a tab with those who are drinking when you are not.
Vegan Pizza and Pasta
The real highlight of the afternoon was the pasta, offering a truly interactive dining experience. With 12 different pasta types to choose from & a variety of sauces and extras, every pasta dish is made to order and exactly how you want it. Each dish is then cooked in front of you in a matter of minutes.
Our Pasta Dish was the Funghi Bolognese, a delicious ragout made of mushrooms, carrots and celery, served with tomato sauce, onion marmalade, soy sauce and fresh herbs. For me, the pasta was just on the right side of al dente, offering a bit of bite, satisfying to eat from first fork to last. The dairy was not missed.
For anyone wondering, Vegan Pasta consists of flour, water and a little olive oil. No eggs or milk required. The texture is a little softer than the regular variety, but I reckon few would notice the difference.
The pizza experience is a little different – after ordering I was given a buzzer pager (totally bringing back the 90s) that would buzz once the pizza was ready. I guess watching a pizza cook in a wood oven isn’t as entertaining as watching the skilled pasta chefs at work. After ten minutes my pizza was ready and I was summoned to collect.
The pizza of choice was the ‘Con Cipolle Balsamico’, consisting of homemade tomato sauce and balsamic shallots, courgette, aubergine, fresh basil and rosemary. It’s only the second time I’ve had a vegan pizza and I’m happy to report it was easily the best. The absence of cheese was not missed.
One thing I wasn’t impressed with was the price of beer (I am from Manchester after all) At £5.60 for a pint of Peroni, it has to be one of the most expensive beers in town. Better off sticking to the house wine, much better value at £4.35 a glass ☺.
Overall, I really enjoyed the afternoon in Vapiano and its great to see that they are updating and adding to their vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options. For those on a restricted diet or a fussy eater, I highly recommend you try this place out.
If you are thinking of visiting I recommend that you keep your eye on Vapiano website and MCR Confidential who regular feature deals and discounts.