Vapiano Soho review: Watch your dinner being cooked in this relaxed Italian eating experience
There’s a new style of dining standing out amongst the chain restaurants, posh eateries and greasy spoons in Soho. Having already won over many fans in mainland Europe, Vapiano has set up shop in Wardour Street providing a relaxed and speedy dining experience. Italian is one of my favourite foods and is responsible for my genuine love of carbs. However, when it comes to eating the cuisine, I find many venues can be overpriced so was pleased to discover Vapiano is serving good quality Italian fare at reasonable prices.
Vapiano is an expansive venue covering two levels with different open kitchens lining the back wall. While it doesn’t take reservations, the high turnover of diners just looking to eat and go means there won’t be a long wait at peak times. Upon arrival, you are given an electronic card which you swipe Oyster-style at the various counters when you order your dishes or the waiters use when serving drinks at your table. You then present the card at the exit to settle your bill. I found this system easy and convenient and makes splitting the bill with your friends simple.
The venue is light and airy with contemporary furnishings and artworks. The street-art style design above the different pasta, pizza and salad counters certainly caught the eye. After one of the hostesses on the door explained the concept to us, we headed to a table to check over the menu before deciding what to order. Although you essentially carry your own food to the table, there are also waiters taking orders for drinks. One thing that immediately struck my friend and I was the wide range of wines, beers and cocktails for sale and what good value they were. I ended up treating myself to a Strawberry Bellini for only £5.
The open kitchens feature different sections for pasta, pizza and salad so you can order directly from the chef cooking it and specify exactly what you want and how you like it. While my friend opted for pizza, I headed to the pasta kitchen and chatted to the friendly and speedy chef as he made my dish. The freshness of the ingredients before me were clear to see and I was impressed with my choice of 11 types of fresh pasta. It only took a few minutes before my dish Scampi E Spinaci (King prawns, basil pesto, cherry tomatoes, spinach, light cream sauce on fusilli) was ready and needless to say, it wasn’t long before I had eaten it. The pasta was cooked to perfection and the rich flavour of the ingredients really came through. I’m hungry for another one just now writing about it! Meanwhile, my friend opted for the Verdure pizza (Roasted vegetables, mushrooms, tomato sauce, mozzarella) which she praised as one of the best pizzas she’d had in a long time. She also accompanied her meal with a salad with the choice to design your own if you want to go off menu. The open dialogue directly with the chefs mean you have the option to go off piste from the typical salad recipes.
Finally, we just about had room for dessert. These are pre-prepared and very good value with most around £2.25 to £4. I opted for a small Panna Cotta (Blend of vanilla and cream topped with strawberry sauce) which was delicious and a perfect size after stuffing myself with carbs, while my companion opted for the very naughty Death By Chocolate cake, which was creamy, but not too rich.
While the concept may sound like a food court, it certainly doesn’t feel like one. The low lighting, contemporary interiors and friendly staff make for a relaxing environment. I loved the idea of being so involved in the preparation of your meal. Every dish we had was tasty, fresh and rich in flavour, while the brilliant value of drinks were an added appeal. Whether you need a quick lunch or catch up with friends over dinner, I would highly recommend Vapiano. I think this place will be my new Soho hotspot.
- Vapiano Soho, 84 Wardour Street, Soho, W1F 0TQ. Nearest stations: Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus or Tottenham Court Road. There are two further branches in Great Portland Street and Bankside. For more information, visit the Vapiano website.
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