Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Vapiano Corn Exchange Manchester 2nd November 2016

I received an invite to visit Vapiano, to sample their new vegan dishes, so how could I refuse.   The first Vapiano opened in Hamburg Germany in 2002 expanding to over 168 venues, in 30 countries, on 5 continents, with more openings planned.

Vapiano in Manchester is located over three floors, in the newly refurbished Corn Exchange, which houses various food outlets and is close to Victoria Station and the tram system, so great if you are travelling into the city.   The design and interior I really liked, modern but not minimalist, light and airy, with large tables and plenty of space.

On arrival each person in the party is given a smart card, scanned each time you order drinks, either via table service or at the bar and any food, although I was not sold on this idea at first, purely with it being something different.

We found a table and perused the wine and drinks list and asked our waiter which wines were vegan, but unfortunately this information is not currently available.   I ordered a large glass of the Mezzacorona Castel Firmian Pinot Grigio, as I know all their wines are vegan, but perhaps Vapiano will look at this for future.

The food menu is quite extensive, with special vegan dishes, clearly shown at the chef stations and I loved the covers on each tray, very appropriate with November being World Vegan Month.

I forgot to take a photo of the Special Pizza card, but the vegan option was tomato sauce, balsamic shallots, courgette, aubergine, basil and rosemary.   There is currently no vegan cheese, more to do with testing the water I think, as to the popularity of the vegan dishes.   I hope that should the vegan options be a permanent fixture, Vapiano will think about offering vegan cheese, especially with such a great selection on the market.

On to the food, which you order at the chef stations to one side of the restaurant (you can see me ordering my starter of pumpkin risotto).   The beauty of this idea is chef can tailor make each dish for every customer, dependent on their dietary or allergy requirements.   However I wonder how this works on a very busy night, as I could imagine long queues and everyone's food orders coming out at different times,  I shall have to return to find out, but on this occasion, it only took a few minutes.

The risotto, not the usual Italian flavours, but with pumpkin and orange juice, is not a combination I would expect to work, especially with coconut milk, but it was delicious, perfectly cooked and just the right consistency.   In fact Steven, who does not like or would ever order a risotto when dining out, loved it and said he would happily have it again.

I opted for the vegan pizza next, so after placing my order, I was given a buzzer and went back to our table, until it vibrated wildly, to let me know it was ready.

The pizza was excellent, with a delicious tomato sauce, just the right amount of toppings and a thin, light and crispy base and with a drizzle of chilli oil, found with other condiments and herbs, in the middle of the table, made a fabulous second course.

I had a brief chat with Manager Marius, who explained they could cater for private parties, in one area of the restaurant on the third floor, but not shut away behind closed doors, so you still get the vibe of the restaurant.   I voiced my concerns about the smart card system, but Marius, said it worked well for large parties, no trying to split the bill, as each person has their own tab, but equally for small parties or couples who want to go Dutch.  

There is no central production facility, so each branch makes everything on site, from pizza dough, to sauces and dressings, even the pasta is made daily.   I was particularly interested to hear that all their pasta is vegan friendly, as it is egg free.

I also note there are other vegan possibilities on their menu, such as Pasta Aglio E Olio (one of my favourites), Pasta Arrabbiata, various pizzas without cheese (or hopefully vegan cheese in future), garlic bread with garlic oil and bruschetta.

Once you have finished eating, you are more than welcome, to retire to the lounge bar area, to enjoy another drink.   I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Vapiano, we were welcomed and well looked after by Marius and his team and I hope to visit again soon.

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