Where in Manchester can you watch a trained chef prepare an Italian meal in front of your very eyes in minutes?
At Vapiano, which opened in the Corn Exchange last November.
Rather than having to wait for busy servers for your food, you go straight to the chef, place your order, and watch them create your dish to suit your taste.
The restaurant seats 400 diners over two floors. The kitchen, main seating area and a bar are located upstairs, with a second bar and more seating available below.
Upstairs you will find three different cooking stations where you can see the food being prepared – one for pasta, one for pizzas and an antipasti and salads area.
It’s a beautifully fresh and airy space, with plenty of light coming in from the historic dome of The Corn Exchange to shine down on clean woodcut tables sparkling with an array of oils and vinegars.
There are even olive trees growing indoors and potted herbs on the tables which you are encouraged to add to your meal. The herbs, that is, not the trees.
And the food is just as fresh.
All you do is find a dish you like the look of on the menu and go up to the relevant section, where the chef will start making your meal from scratch.
You pay for your food and any drinks you want by swiping the card you were given when you arrived. It’s that simple.
This is fast food like you’ve never seen before. It’s self-service convenience meets continental sophistication.
The open kitchen setting encourages you to stand and watch as your dish is prepared – and maybe sip on a drink as you do so. Waiting staff are on hand to take your bar orders and clear tables. You get the best of both worlds.
How many times have you eaten out and thought, ‘It’s okay but needed a bit more oomph?’ or worried about picking certain items from the menu in case they’re under-seasoned or too spicy? Vapiano solves that problem straight off.
That’s because the cooking station concept allows you to have your food made exactly the way you like it – whether it’s adding extra protein, putting in more garlic, toning down the chilli or even trying some different diced vegetables.
The menu is classic Italian food; starters like bruschetta and carpaccio, a huge range of pasta dishes, pizzas, and risotto for mains, with plenty of gluten-free and vegan options.
And everything is super-fresh. Both pasta and dolci are made every day on-site in the special manifattura, whilst dough, sauces, dressings and pesto are also prepared in-house.
Far from just some shredded iceberg, Vapiano prepare salads with punch – from packed veggie options to a seared beef and prawn combo. Their signature is perhaps the strawberry and spinach served with goats cheese, which looks a wonder on the plate.
The pasta is one of the most popular main course items, made fresh every morning and cooked in minutes when you order. It’s available in a range of shapes and a spelt option for a healthy wholemeal kick.
Pair your pasta with one of the many sauces. A signature ragu (available both beefy and vegan) is sure to go down well, with other examples including spicy tomato-based specials, creamy carbonara options and, of course, classic pesto packed with toasted pine-nuts and fresh basil. Our resident pesto connoisseur gave it the thumbs up.
No Italian experience feels complete without pizza though. At Vapiano there is a dedicated station so you can enjoy morning-made dough with your choice of toppings. Also cooked in the pizza oven are bubbling bowls of lasagne.
Forget food served on silly slates and boring boards. At Vapiano it’s contemporary Italian served by the bowlful. The only boards you see are chopping boards, as the chef creates your meal.
When it comes to dolci, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The menu features all the classic Italian desserts like little chocolate-dusted pots of tiramisu, pannacotta, ice creams and sorbets as well as parts, cheesecake and pastries. Delicious.
Vapiano serves the freshest, tastiest food served faster. And not just the pasta.