The Beast from the East put pay to my original planned visit at the beginning of March but I finally got along to try out Edinburgh’s newest Italian, Vapiano.
I’d been along to the launch at the beginning of December but it was so crowded that once I’d got a seat, there was no way I was leaving it so I had no idea just how vast this place is.
Vapiano is vast and there’s more than enough seating for everyone
Set over three floors, it’s rather like a DIY food court. A global chain, which originated in Germany, it is now in 33 countries, over five continents and has 200 restaurants, with the first Edinburgh branch opening last December, just off St Andrew’s Square.
The self-scan card allows you to pay for only what you ate
Rather than being a restaurant as such with waiter/waitress service, you’re presented with a self-scan card that allows you to charge any food and drink to, and which you settle up as you leave. An interesting concept if dining in a group, you’re not going to have any arguments over who had what, until that is you come to the sharing of the drinks’ bill, as you can guarantee someone will get stumped on that one, especially if you’re in a large group!
The place is tastefully decorated, with homage to Italian city scenes decorating the walls, and large trees emanating from some of the tables, with various pots of Italian herbs of rosemary and basil scattered among the tables, which you can help yourselves too – well I assumed that was the case!
You are free to pick your own table on any of the floors and then peruse the menu. We opted for the middle floor based on the fact that was where the bar was and also one of us wanted pasta, which meant traipsing downstairs, whilst my dining companion wanted pizza, which meant visiting the cooking station upstairs.
Sharing antipasti are more than big enough for two
We started with the piatto antipasti, perfect for sharing, which you order at the drinks’ bar. It’s a generous plate of proscuitto tipo Parma, salami, chorizo, roasted vegetables, pesto, Grana Padano D.O.P., creamy buffalo mozzarella and lovely doughy bread. You help yourself to the olive oil and balsamic vinegar on the table, although for a time, ours had gone walkies. Thankfully Owen, the manager soon located us some.
We shared a bottle of Castle Firmian Pinot Grigio, which was recommended by Owen. From Trentino in Italy, it was a clean, nicely balanced Pinot Grigio, with a gentle floral aroma, had a good medium weight in the mouth, and a refreshing finish, which worked well with all our dishes.
It’s a self-service affair at Vapiano
Then onto our mains. You need to visit the different cooking stations as I mentioned before, with pizza upstairs and the pasta and risotto stations downstairs, which means your conversation gets interrupted if you want different things, which we did. We left coats at the table but took our bags with us. Even though it wasn’t busy, you can’t be too careful in a city centre when it comes to security.
There’s one thing I hate is queuing for food (it goes back to my uni days) but thankfully on this occasion there wasn’t anyone else waiting for their food to be cooked. I’d hate to think how it works when it’s busy.
Michelle, my pasta-cooking chef, asked me to choose the type of pasta I’d like, which is all home-made on the premises in their ‘manifattura’. I went for the Campanelle pasta, shaped like a cone with a ruffled edge, which is plunged into a pan of water while Michelle got on with cooking the rest of my dish.
I had opted for Chicken Alfredo, which consists of chicken breast, mushrooms, onions, cream, egg, Grana Padano D.O.P. Michelle asked if I wanted small, medium or large choice of chicken and whilst I opted for large (I was feeling hungry) when I saw the portion sizes, I told her I probably only required the medium size. She took great care to ensure my cooking was cooked properly all the way through.
I loved my pasta dish but the portion sizes are very generous and I was defeated. Even with my dining companion helping me out, I still had half a bowl left at the end.
My dining companion, C., opted for a Diavlo pizza, with spicy Italian sausage, peppers, red onions, tomato sauce, mozzarella. Whilst she said she quite liked it, she found the base rather doughy and overly thick for what was supposed to be a thin based pizza.
Time was moving on and it felt like the staff were eager to finish service too and they were mopping floors around us and stacking stools onto tables as I ordered my dessert. Not the subtlest of hints and it didn’t feel like the customer was king on this occasion.
Room for dolci?
I was the only one who had room for something sweet but sadly many of the dolci choices on offer, they were out of including the lemon and raspberry sorbets, and the green tea coconut fudge ice-cream.
I finally opted for the strawberries and cream ice-cream, which was nice enough but comes served in a small tub, a bit like you might get at the cinema.
Apparently they prepare their dolci every day at Vapiano and list things as homemade and handmade but I doubt the ice-cream was. So maybe opt for one of the other options, such as the tiramisu della casa or cioccolata forsta nera.
When there’s so many new restaurants opened up around St Andrew’s Square, a brand/chain needs to be confident of their offering and mindful of the competition. Whilst Vapiano doesn’t pretend to be up-market, it is what it is, a laid back restaurant offering fresh, Italian food, which is probably great for a quick post-shopping refuel (or not so quick, if it’s busy and you have to queue for your food) or when you’re in a group, but bad luck you, if you end up footing the drinks’ bill.
7 South St David’s Street
0131 285 6123
Kerry ate at the invitation of Vapiano