With so many restaurants opening all over Manchester it’s a challenge to offer something a little different. Whilst Germany may be an unusual birth place for an Italian restaurant, the pizza and pasta chain Vapiano, which was established in Hamburg in 2002, brought a fresh and innovative dining experience to Manchester when it opened in the Corn Exchange at the end of last year.
The Vapiano concept
The name Vapiano is derived from an Italian saying “Chi va piano va sano e va lontano”, which translates to: Those who have an easy-going and relaxed approach to life, live more healthily and longer. The restaurant’s approach follows suit with laid back dining so you can spend as much, or as little, time as your schedule allows.
When you arrive you are given a card that acts as your ticket to dine. The concept is simple. You make your selection from the extensive menu, place your order at the relevant counter and watch your meal being cooked in front of you. This leaves plenty of scope to tweak your dish to suit your personal taste as ingredients can easily be added or removed.
All the food, including the pasta, is prepared fresh by the restaurant each day. The very nature of a pizza and pasta menu makes it difficult to accommodate certain dietary requirements. However, the risottos are gluten free and the customisable nature of the salad dishes make it easy to leave out any problem foods.
Scanning your card when you order ensures that your meal is added to your own personal bill. This concept would work particularly well for dining as a group because it leaves no scope to argue over who’s eaten or who owes what. You simply take your own card to the till and pay for your meal as you leave.
Eat Pasta Run Faster
Vapiano has teamed up with nutritionist Dr Sarah Schenker to promote carbohydrates as part of a balanced fitness and diet plan. The ‘Eat Pasta Run Faster’ campaign incorporates Vapiano meals in to two special diet plans that have been specifically designed for runners (although they would also suit other athletes). The aim is to provide the right amount of carbohydrate to leave you feeling energised for running without unwanted weight gain. Carbohydrates are balanced with protein and healthy fats in a series of meals that top up glycogen levels to ensure that runners are able to perform consistently at their best whilst feeling fit and energised.
With it being running season and with the Great Manchester Run just round the corner, following the diet plan could be a great way to incorporate dining out in to your training programme.
There are two diet plans. One aimed at runners who regularly put down a few miles, most likely in training for 5 to 10 k events, and one aimed at carb loading for people training for half or full marathon distances.
The Vapiano Experience
I was invited to check out Vapiano and sample a few dishes from the running plan. I took the boy with me to ensure that I could try as many different dishes as possible – in the interests of writing a thorough review of course!
We started with Antipasti in the form of Bruschetta and a Strawberry Spinach Salad.
Not being a huge fan of goats cheese I was able to swap it for ricotta and I have to say that this was a stand out dish for us. It’s unusual to see strawberries in a savoury dish but they worked perfectly with the spinach, cheese and pine nuts. The addition of raspberry maple dressing lifted the salad to another level and we both agreed that we would order it again on another occasion – not something the boy says about salad very often (if ever)!
On to the mains and we were careful to select dishes from the diet plan. The boy opted for Risotto Funghi, which was very tasty. He decided to add a little of the fresh basil that is made available on every table to add a touch of extra freshness.
I had the Salmone, and was impressed that I got to choose my own pasta. I opted for the Campanelle, which held the sauce very well and made for a tasty and very filling main course.
We also sampled the Perla pizza, which is an open pizza that is baked and then filled with parma ham, mozzarella, rocket and cherry tomatoes. It’s an unusual approach to pizza, and was presented like an open calzone. The freshness of the ingredients stood out and we were glad to have the benefit of the manager’s recommendation to add some home made pesto from the salad station. We both felt that this improved the dish, which otherwise came without a sauce. That’s the beauty of being able to customise your meal.
By this point we were completely stuffed but it would have been rude not to try a dessert, wouldn’t it?! We shared a Cioccolata Bianca, which was similar to a cheesecake, served in a kilner jar. The biscuit base was topped with white chocolate and cream, then salted caramel sauce and honeycomb finished it off with a crunch.
What we thought
The concept of ordering each dish as we went along took a bit of getting used to and we could see other diners looking a little confused as they got to grips with the system. It also feels a little strange to stand and wait for your meal when you would usually be chatting at the table. However, if you embrace the idea you soon realise that you can order at your own pace. If you want to take a break between courses you can – a tactic which helped us find room for dessert.
Dining as a two it was a slightly strange experience but the quality of the food more than made up for it. And, I can see that if you want to go out as a group the concept would really come in to its own. It can often be the case that you get stuck at one end of the table unable to talk to everyone. The process of getting up to order your food gives you a good opportunity to mingle and catch up as you wait for your dish to be cooked.
There is a special dining space that can be reserved by large groups, but otherwise the restaurant does not operate a booking policy. That gives you a good chance of securing a table on a whim but may not suit if you want to be sure to avoid a wait.
Go to Vapiano with an open mind, be prepared to sit where there is a free space, choose your food, eat and drink at your own pace and go with the flow. There’s a time and a place for this kind of dining and with such good food, all you need to do is find out what works for you.
And, if you’re taking part in the Manchester 10k, or any other running event, you can indulge in a guilt free dining experience that will fit comfortably with whatever training plan you have decided to follow.
I’m certainly planning on taking this year’s Swiss contingent the night before the 10k – maybe I’ll see you there!
Vapiano: Address: 13, The Corn Exchange, Manchester M4 3TR, Tel: 0161 348 7590
Vapiano is running an Instagram competition offering customers the chance to win vouchers worth up to £1000. Take a picture or make a video of your visit and use #MyVapiano in you post to @VapianoUK. The competition closes on 30th April. Full details can be found on the website.
The Great Manchester Run 2016
Writing this post has made me a little bit excited about this year’s Manchester 10K. I wrote a few posts about it last year. You might like to check them out and soak up a little bit of the atmosphere:
The Swiss loved it so much that they are heading back to do it all again this year. Outfits are looking like they’ll be on an 80’s theme. Keep an eye out here and on my Twitter feed so you can support them during the race!
I was offered the chance to try Vapiano and sample some dishes from the #EatPastaRunFaster campaign for free. Opinions are, as always, my own.