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Give chains a chance: no- fuss dining with a difference at Vapiano London

I recently visited  “Mediterranean restaurant” Vapiano at the Southwark branch in London (NOT pronounced South-Wark, as I discovered even more recently- thanks, British English, for keeping my brain in shape with your bizarre pronunciation rules). I had been to Vapiano in Budapest and Berlin before, and was pleased to discover thin well-executed concept had made its way to London. Before sniggering, give it a chance and follow me on my visit to Vapiano London….

vapiano london southwark

If you’re one of those people who don’t eat or buy from chains as a matter of principles, look away now. Or maybe not, and be surprised. I am a food blogger “by night”, but a marketer by day – call it professional bias, but I can’t help thinking that thriving eateries must have something to them that intrinsically works if they get people through the door, day in day out. And this applies to every category, from rarefied “concept” places with exotic menus and prices to match, down to unprepossessing high-street chains.

Vapiano is not just a brilliant concept, it is executed well- and as they say, “devil is in the detail”. When I go there, I don’t expect “Italian” food – exactly as I don’t expect it as much pricier “Italian” establishments in the Big Smoke- but a fuss-free dining experience that is still enjoyable and pleasing to the eye, and Vapiano provides just that.

Food is ordered directly from the cooks at the individual stations. They prepare all dishes fresh in front of the guests. While the dishes are prepared, there is time to allow for personal preferences. In our glassed-in Pasta Manifattura, guests may watch live how pasta and dolci are prepared fresh every day. Our pizza dough, sauces and dressings or pesto are also home-made – best ingredients are guaranteed (from the company website) 

All the Vapiano outposts (apparently there are more than 100 around the world, mainly in Germany) also maintain the “fil rouge” of the lovely interior design, a creation of  the Matteo Thun studio in Milan, which to me embodies the best of Italian modern design (yes, Modern Italian is not an oxymoron- we have so much more to offer than kitsch gingham tablecloths and giant wooden pepper mills).

vapiano london review

Although the Vapiano London branches may not be as shiny as its continental counterparts, it shares the same attention to freshness of the food and friendly, efficient service. The cooks welcomed our requests for extra chilli, less cream,  more dill on our dishes and were apologetic about some pasta formats being sold out.

Now, the food at Vapiano London- I really enjoyed our pastas. The portions are generous without being ridiculously large, and with the addition of some (free) extra seasonings, very tasty. Freshly made pasta in a fast-food beats bad pasta anywhere else to me. The quality of the starters on the sharing plate was a bit sub-standard for me, with the exception of a very tasty bruschetta – but at least they don’t falsely claim it’s “Parma ham” and “Parmigiano Reggiano” like many places do. Desserts were faultless- I like my tiramisu with the least amount possible of biscuits and the Vapiano specimen was 90% mascarpone cream so a winner for me. Coffee by Illy was very well made as well- a feat in these days where “good coffee” seems to be exclusive territory of Australian and NZ roasters.

vapiano matteo thun interior design

The place was buzzing on a random Tuesday night, including the airy bar space, where groups of office workers were cheerfully knocking down spritz and appetizers. Say what you want but whatever the unpretentious food business secret sauce is, the place “has it”. I will definitely keep Vapiano London on my map – the Southwark branch is just near the desert that is London Bridge for well-priced, group or family friendly restaurants – and my fussy Italian family never failed to love it in other European capitals. With its German heritage and Nordic feeling, Vapiano still reminds them of home, and this is the best endorsement to Vapiano “Mediterranean” credentials I could give.

Cost: a meal for two with a shared starter (portions are big), two pasta mains, drinks and desserts comes under £20.
Vapiano on Urbanspoon


vapiano london italian food

I was a guest of Vapiano for dinner- opinions are mine, as always

Another post of my “give chains a chance” series- Rossopomodoro, Hoxton Square






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