Vapiano, Bankside, 2, 90b Southwark Street, London SE1 0FD
Vapiano is a German chain serving up fresh cooked to order Italian fare. With locations worldwide, from NYC, Brasil, South Korea… Each diner is handed a chip card, which you swipe at the various ordering points, totting up what you’re spending and then pay at the till as you leave, swiping a handful of the complimentary Gummi bear sweets at the same time.
We loved the ease of the card system, reducing the pain and tedium of splitting the bill at the end of the night. I have had a similar idea for years which I was hoping would get me rich one day, but I’ve given up on that idea.
Pasta is cooked in front of you, allowing you to customise your dish, and is freshly made every day in-house. With the pizzas you’re given a buzzer to let you know when it’s ready, and even then they still finish it off as you watch.
The second branch of Vapiano in London opened fairly recently near my office in Southwark, I thought it’d be ideal for a get together with the girls, no bill to work through at the end. Shame they stopped the cocktails though, they were really great, happy hour after work was always a popular choice. Now it’s just soft drinks, beer and vino, but at good prices, the cheapest bottle of Sicilian red would only set you back £13! We opted for one slightly higher up the scale, because that’s what you’re meant to do, isn’t it? A bottle of Ancora Montepulciano D’Abruzzo was just £1.50 dearer at £14.50.
Out of my three friends, none had been before so were quite baffled by what I think is a very simple system. We didn’t really think our meal through properly, and ended up rushing up and down ordering and collecting dishes, breaking conversation in the process.
We ordered the biggest plate of Carpaccio as a starter, with Cipriani sauce and rocket £8.50. Unfortunately this was the one dish I didn’t watch being made, it was littered with Parmesan and cheesy sauce, which ruled it out for me. The girls enjoyed it, after adding a bit of seasoning to it which they felt it was lacking. I was left to devour the cheese-free Bruschetta £2.80 instead.
Sue went for a steaming bowl of pasta with the Salami E Ricotta Con Rucola with tagliatelle £8.75, they certainly are generous with portion sizes here. Another great thing about the pasta is you have a choice of up to eleven varieties, even including spelt. Anna loved the Diavolo pizza, with generous toppings of spicy Italian sausage, peppers, red onions, tomatoes, mozzarella £8.75.
My Crudo E Fichi pizza with Parma ham, fresh figs, honey, tomatoes £9.95 was one of the most unusual pizzas I’ve ever had, so tasty with the sweet honey and figs. I chose it after having a delicious, and similar pasta dish there the other day, the Salsiccia Con Fichi spicy Italian sausage, fresh figs, tomato sauce £9.75.
Al opted for the Calzone with ham, spicy Italian sausage, artichokes, mushrooms, onions, olives, tomatoes, mozzarella £8.95. The photo doesn’t do it justice, it was bigger than my head and Al devoured it quicker than anything I’ve seen in my life. I didn’t even get to see what the innards looked like.
Desserts are ordered at the drinks bar, where there was one poor chap trying to make coffee, serve drinks and desserts all at the same time. It’s moments like this that made me doubt the card system, but not for long. Anything that saves working out who pays what brings me happiness. I read once that 20% of your time dining is spent doing just this, life is too short.
I had the special, a mind-blowingly cheap Gingerbread Cream, white chocolate with cream and gingerbread spices, topped off with Havana Club rum and chocolate powder, £2.50. I wish I’d ordered two as it was gorgeous, my mouth wanted to be filled with that soft gingerbread cream for ever, amazing.
Anna wished her Death By Chocolate £3 came with ice cream or cream, a bit too rich and heavy on its own. Al wasn’t overly keen on her Riso Al Latte Con Frutti rice pudding infused with vanilla served with a topping of seasonal fruits £3. Despite it being served in a cute Kilner jar. I was just impressed she even had room for more food.
Sue’s Tiramisu (£1.50 small, £3.85 large) went down well, I wish I’d tried it but girls don’t seem to do that kind of thing, offer tastings of their food. Must just be something couple do.
A great night was had by all, it just isn’t the place to go for a three-course meal with a bunch of friends. I would go more regularly for lunch but I’d end up getting even plumper than I already am, and skint. They do takeaway also, and if you buy a pasta dish it comes in tupperware that you can keep, god knows how much that costs them to keep up. If we’d been less greedy with our meal and stuck to one course each we wouldn’t have missed out on so much conversation. So I guess we only have ourselves to blame…
Vapiano London 2,
90b Southwark Street, London SE1 0FD
PHONE: +44 (0) 20 7593 2010 . FAX: +44 (0) 20 7593 2011
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 11am – Midnight.
Sat 12 noon – Midnight
Sun. 12 noon – 11pm
Kitchen until 11pm. Sunday until 10pm.
Nearest tube: Southwark and London Bridge.