Vapiano, Manchester – Review

Adam Lowe

Adam Lowe is an award-winning author, editor and publisher from Leeds, now based in Manchester. He runs Dog Horn Publishing and is Director and Writing Coordinator for Young Enigma, a writer development programme for LGBT young people.
Adam Lowe

We recently got to check out the new Manchester restaurant from the Vapiano brand, located in the once again refurbished Corn Exchange. This is the first UK Vapiano restaurant to open its doors outside of London, joining over 150 other restaurants worldwide.

Vapiano is a great concept that puts fresh food at the heart of its concept. Diners order directly from their cooks, ordering every dish to taste, using a smart card system to make split bills easier to manage – every diner pays for their own meal based on the balance on their smart card. It’s so popular in London that the three restaurants see 27,000 diners pass through their doors every week.

The name of Vapiano comes from the Italian proverb ‘chi va piano, va sano e lontano’. Literally translated, it means ‘whoever goes slowly, goes safely and far’, although a more accurate translation might be ‘if you have a relaxed approach to life, yours will be long and healthy’.

You’re encouraged to take your time at Vapiano. Order at your own pace, chat and relax, and then order some more if you want to – or just pay your bill and leave when you want to. There’s no waiting for a bill to be brought over or splitting costs or trying to work out which beer was yours. Just run up your own personal tab and pay for it at the host’s station when you leave.

Seating 400, the restaurant spans two floors, employing some 90 staff, with a 100-year-old olive tree and fresh live herbs on the tables. A team of 40 chefs make all the pasta dough on site every day, creating 11 different types of fresh pasta on a bespoke ‘Manifattura’ machine. You can get everything from fusilli to spaghetti, campanelle to papardelle.

To complement your pasta options, there are 30 sauces and dressings also made fresh in-house. Most of the pastas, including the Bolognese and pesto dishes, for instance, are easy enough to cook in three minutes. Popular dishes include the carbonara, scampi e spinaci and salsiccia con fichi. The pizzas take just eight minutes and include calzones and the popular pesto con spinaci.

You can choose from tasty signature dishes such as the strawberry spinach salad with goat’s cheese, red onions, pine nuts and homemade raspberry maple dressing; or the Piatto Antipasti, which fratures proscuitto tipo parma, salami, pepperoni, roasted vegetables, homemade pesto, Grana Padano D.O.P, buffalo mozzarella, and bruschetta.

We tried the beef and reef salad, which was spectacular: large chunks of beef and king prawns, pamesan and a creamy Nizza dressing. This felt light but filling, but also more than a tad indulgent, so it certainly helped with my diet.

My colleague Scott Balf had the Risotto Indiana: grilled chicken, a light curry sauce, cream, onions and red apple. This was great with parmesan or without, and the red apple offers a hint of subtle sweetness to balance the curry sauce and the general creaminess of the dish.

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Seven dolci are made fresh every day. These include staple puddings like tiramisu, panna cotta and baked cheesecake. These are on offer at the counter, where you can order a tasty cocktail or a refreshing tipple.

The desserts we tried were so delicious we went back for seconds! We tried the crema di fragola (Marscapone with strawberries), the cioccolata bianca (a blend of white chocolate and cream on a biscuit base, topped with salted caramel sauce and honeycomb) and the baked lemon and vanilla cheesecake (served with fresh strawberry sauce).

Service at the restaurant was great, despite being relatively hands off. Our drinks were brought to us and we were asked if there was anything we wanted, but the smart cards mean you can order at whim and on your own terms, so any customer service is over and above the call of duty in most cases. It’s always nice to have welcoming staff, however.

Takeaway food is also available for those in a hurry so you can even grab something to go in your busy lunch hour or when you finish work.

To find out how you can get involved follow Vapiano on Twitter @VapianoUK or #VapianoMCR.

For more information visit uk.vapiano.com.

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