Thursday, 10 January 2013

Vapiano Great Portland Street, London

While in Finland, my sister and I had found this amazing restaurant called Vapiano and ever since I found out there were two branches in London, I was desperate to go back. Unfortunately though, it took me a year and a half to make the trip to London and to find the restaurant. 

Finding the restaurant

The branch I visited is located at 19-21 Great Portland Street which is just behind Top Shop on Oxford Street. Due to the location, it can easily be found after getting off the tube at Oxford Circus. I say easily but this wasn’t so true for me. I had read the map wrong on the website and not even looked at the actual printed address and I thought the restaurant was on the street next to where it actually is. Needless to say, I was disappointed when I went to find it and it wasn’t there. My flatmate and I (who I was in London with) decided to eat at Strada instead, only to finish our meal there, turn the corner and see Vapiano looking right at us. At least we had another day in London so we could go back. 

How the restaurant works

As you enter the restaurant, someone at the front desk will greet you and then hand you a credit card style card and explain that this is what you use to order your food with. The restaurant is set into different sections and as you go up to the station you wish to order from, you hand over your card and someone behind that counter will scan in whatever it is you have ordered. This is a really good thing for people who like to order separately or order different kinds of food. At each station, when you order, the food is then cooked there and then right in front of you. However, if you order pizza, you will be given a buzzer so you can go back and collect the food when it’s ready.
At the end of your meal, you take the card back to the front desk where they scan it and give you your final meal price. Everything apart from how much a drink will cost is clearly priced on the menus so you pretty much know what you are going to spend anyway. There are paper take-away style menus at the front desk in the restaurant or there are menus are each different cooking station. 

My experience

As my friend had not been to a Vapiano restaurant before, I explained to her how it worked. I already knew what I wanted to eat and we decided to split two dishes so we could have the best of both worlds – pizza as well as pasta. Kate went off to order our piz-za while I went to the pasta station.
At the pasta station, first you must decide which kind of pasta you would like. The choices were Pappardelle, Spaghetti, Penne, Linguine, Conchiglie, Campanelle, Fusilli, Tagliatelle, Ravioli, Spelt Spaghetti and Spelt Fusilli. Both Kate and I always have penne pasta so this was an easy choice for me. Once you have decided this, then you choose what kind of sauce etc. you would like. The menu is split into four different price categories with everything in A costing £6.75, B £7.75, C £8.75 and D cost £9.75. As you can see, the prices vary depending on what is in the pasta and D costs more because there are dishes with seafood items and expensive meat. Carbonara (menu B) was our choice so this cost us £7.75,
After telling the chef what you want and scanning your card, he took a little bag of pasta out from behind him which had obviously been weighed out earlier in the day. In this branch, you can actually see people making the pasta fresh and then bagging it up which was something I didn’t get to see in Helsinki. Next, he added oil into a wok and threw in a lot of chopped up ham for a few minutes, letting it cook. While this was cooking, he added the pasta into the cooker beside him so it would be ready when the sauce was. Next, I was asked if I wanted garlic which I did but at this point, I also said I didn’t want onions in my meal so he left them out. The garlic smell mixed with the ham was amazing and I couldn’t wait for my pasta to be ready. Next he added in some white wine and the carbonara sauce along with an egg yolk and began to mix it all together. This only took a couple of minutes and then the pasta was added, letting it mix together. Once the pasta was placed in a dish, basil and ground black pepper, along with cheese was added to the top. The basil was pulled directly from a plant in front of the chef which I thought was a great thing to do, instead of it being from a tub.
Carbonara is my favourite of pasta and my flatmate’s too so we were both excited to eat this amazing dish. Kate was extremely impressed and now understands why I wanted to go back to Vapiano so mucj. The sauce was rich and creamy but mixed with the parmesan and black pepper, it had a bit of a kick to it at times too. The pasta was soft and the portion was very reasonable for the price. Each of us had a bottle of coke with our meal, which came in a glass bottle instead of plastic and cost us £2.25 each which I don’t think is bad, especially in London.
We had nearly finished eating our pasta when the buzzer went off and the pizza Kate had ordered was ready. This was perfect timing and such a good idea if you are sharing meals. Again, the pizza menu is set up into four sections with the same prices as pasta. We only had a margherita so this cost us £6.75. The pizza comes on a thin and crispy base with the normal tomato based sauce and then loaded with cheese. The pizza was lovely but nowhere near as nice as the pasta but it was nice to be able to eat two different meals without being bored of just one thing. I know I would have struggled to eat either a whole pizza or a whole pasta dish to myself.
The restaurant has a very contemporary feel and look to it with the tables being high and surrounded by stools. There are fresh herb plants in the middle of each table and in this branch, a massive tree at the front of the restaurant. The herbs are mostly grown in the restaurants themselves so you know how fresh they are. I like that you can see the chefs working and watch them make your meal for you and with the pasta section, a dish only takes a maximum of 5 minutes to cook. The chefs were also extremely friendly and didn’t mind if you wanted certain items not cooked in your meal. The front desk staff were also very friendly and had big smiles on their faces. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to this restau-rant and I couldn’t have asked for better service. Vapiano on Great Portland Street is just as good as the branch in Helsinki and I would happily go again!
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  1. Yesss me and my boyfriend got to Vapiano every time we go to Berlin, it's SO nice isn't it?x

    1. No one else has ever even heard of it! So glad they have 2 in London now though :D