One of the best things about being a food blogger is getting invited out to different restaurants to try them out. A lot of the time I am writing reviews for London-Unattached but occasionally I get asked directly. What I love about it is that I often get to treat a friend to dinner out - without having to pay a penny. Hana has had some nice date nights this year because of it and this was one such night.
Vapiano, Southbank soul
Vapiano brings a different concept to dinning. The idea behind Vapiano is simple. Offer great quality Italian food, freshly prepared to order in an environment that’s a million miles from the overly styalised competitor chain restaurants.
The twist comes when you come to order and pay. When you arrive at Vapiano you will be given a swipe card. You give the card a swipe when ordering your food and drinks, which are added to an account you pay off at the end of your evening. Drinks are ordered either at the bar or through a waiter service, either of which will swipe your card. You order each course, starter, mains, desserts, directly with the chef at different sections of a long wrap-around counter.
There were stations for pasta, pizza and salad. The beauty of this is that you can personalise any of the dishes on the menu. Don’t like some of the ingredients? Leave them out or substitute them for something else. It was great to see the food prepared in front of me, though the chefs looked run off their feet taking orders and cooking. For pizza orders – which need to be cooked to order – you’re given a buzzer which alerts you to your foods readiness.
Vapiano Southbank, is decorated in a simple elegant way which is also strangely reminiscent of a canteen environment. It is split into two distinct areas. The front of the restaurant houses the serving counters, bar and long communal tables adorned with a variety of fresh herb plants. The rear half has smaller, more intimate tables as well as the performance area.
Vapiano’s other unique selling point is to bring it’s customers soulful music in the form of live acts to accompany their food. On our evening we were treated to set by Stephanie McCourt who sang a blend of her own songs and covers of (what my other half told me) are famous tracks by the likes of Paloma Faith. Stephanie can really sell a song and brought some real life and soul to the evening with her stunning voice. If you don’t have chance to see Stephanie McCourt at one of her live gig’s I’d highly recommend her EP, Stripped Bare. Vapiano will be running live music events at their London restaurants through May and June;
5th – Soho & 6th – Bankside
2nd – Soho & 3rd – Bankside
On to the food itself. I started with the carpaccio of beef served with cipriano sauce, Grana Padano, raw mushrooms and rocket. The last time I tried this dish was in a cafe in South Pigalle, Paris and this version lived up to those memories. The beef was succulent and sliced almost impossibly thinly and the smattering of sauce perfectly balanced it.
Hana ordered the strawberry and spinach salad which might sound an odd combination on paper but looked delicious.
I also ordered some bruschetta between us, why not?
We both opted for pizza for our main courses. Hana chose the Diavolo pizza which is topped with spicy sausage, peppers, red onion, tomato sauce and mozzarella. She likes things a little spicy and this went down very well.
I ordered the Dell’Alpe. This comes without a tomato sauce but instead has gorgonzola, Grana Padano, smoked cheese, dried tomatoes, rocket, mozzarella and figs. Not one for lactose intolerant people! I hadn’t tried a white pizza before and really enjoyed this one. The figs were an especially lovely addition.
I washed the meal down with a couple of glasses of Monte Schiavo Verdicchio Classico from the heart of the Marche region in Italy. The strong white wine has a great palate and fresh, zesty taste and aroma.
Vapiano’s music evenings are back in May and June. In the meantime I recommend popping down to their Southbank venue as the perfect place to have a mid-week meal out.
90b Southwark Street,