Earlier in the week I went to try out Vapiano, one of the new restaurants in Manchester’s Corn Exchange building (which by the way is now quite an exciting collection of eating and drinking venues). The restaurant itself is huge and spacious, spread over 2 floors with a balcony overlooking the inside of the Corn Exchange, and big open-front kitchens on the top floor. There are plenty of tables and loads of space, which is exactly what I like to see in a restaurant, and some actual olive trees to sit around!
One of the most interesting parts about Vapiano is the concept. Every dish is cooked right in front of you. All the ingredients are fresh, including the pasta and pizza bases which are made on the day, and you can choose any dish from the menu, adapt it however you like, or even create a bespoke dish from scratch. The payment system is unusual too – you are given a chip card when you enter, you order your food direct from the serving stations and charge everything to the card, and then you settle up as you leave.
This was my first visit to Vapiano as a proper customer, but I’ve actually been before to a blind tasting event(!) which proved to be really helpful. Because I’d already sampled plenty of the dishes I knew exactly what I wanted to order this time – Aglio e Olio, the cheapest pasta dish on the menu (£6.95) with just garlic, chilli, parsley & olive oil. I’d never normally have considered ordering the most basic pasta dish, but no word of a lie, this was the most delicious one I tasted when blindfolded. And what is great is that I could just add any additional ingredients I wanted to make it more substantial. On this visit I decided to go meat-less and chose to add mushrooms and spring onion. There is a choice of various freshly-made pasta types (I went for penne) and I have to say that the fresh pasta itself is the star of the show – really very delicious!
Craig ordered the Crudo e Fichi pizza (£9.95), which was topped with prosciutto Parma ham, fresh figs and honey, and he was very impressed with both the pizza and the price! We also had a side of garlic bread with cheese, which sounds like a pretty standard item, but was particularly delicious because of the freshly made dough base.
Sadly we were fairly full after our amazing mains and side to have a dessert, but I sampled several of the desserts at the blind tasting event. Like everything else they are all made fresh on the day and come served in cute mason jars for a rustic touch, and quite frankly you would not be disappointed with any of the delicious options on the menu. I think my favourite was the Cioccolata Bianca – white chocolate and cream on a biscuit base with salted caramel sauce and honeycomb (wow!)
Overall I really enjoyed dining at Vapiano and will definitely be returning. The whole card swiping process is a bit weird, but if it means I can have the exact dish I want made freshly right in front of me, then it’s alright with me! It would also be pretty convenient for dining out in big groups, as there’s no bill splitting to take care of – everyone has their own cards. I thought the prices were great, the spacious setting and laid-back atmosphere lovely and the pasta just perfect!
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