vapiano, edinburgh, review

We’ve always loved a self-serve (remember Pizza Hut salad bars; you’d pile your plate high it was unlimited and probably not eat any of it, but still, it was free and you did it yourself and you loved it).

It’s no surprise then that Vapiano, which hit Edinburgh’s busy St Andrew’s Square back in November with a bang (a very busy, raucous, free-flowing booze launch night), is has become a popular spot in central Edinburgh for quick and fresh lunches and dinners.

The premise of Vapiano is that everything is fresh and homemade, to order, right in front of your eyes. Split over three floors, the restaurant has three bars – one for pizzas and salads, one for drinks and one for pasta. On entering, you are given a card which logs everything you purchase from the various bars. Being pregnant and super hungry when I arrived*, I wasn’t relishing the thought of having to walk over three floors to get my dinner, but the meals are prepared so quickly that it’s worth it. And you feel like you’re working some of it off by getting it yourself!

What’s great about it is that you can have your starter or antipasti before deciding what to have for your main course. This is particularly great as their portions are very generous and you might want something a little lighter for your main when you’ve had a mammoth bruschetta to start.

I mean, who doesn’t love the place that gives you a whole mozzarella ball? Yes, exactly, no one.

I went for the Insalata Caprese as my starter which is actually one of the salads and it was delicious and generous – buffalo mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, basil, rocket and balsamic. Basically my idea of heaven. My dining partner for the evening opted for the Bruschetta Mozzarella and was similarly impressed with the generous portion and flavour.

The only issue here lies with the pizza and pasta bars being on different floors, so if you were a parent who wanted pasta with a child who wanted pizza, one of them would need to go a little cold whilst waiting for the other at the other counter. Luckily, both me and my friend decided on pasta.

With the pasta bar, you decide which of their homemade pastas you’d like and what you’d like to have with it. The different kinds of pasta aren’t noted on their menu, which would be useful but you can just walk down to the pasta bar to see what’s on offer. From spaghetti to pappardelle and almost everything in between, you certainly won’t be short on choices. The menu itself has the usual suspects on it along with some unusual choices you wouldn’t normally see on a pasta menu.

I was recommended by Hope, who was on the reception desk when I arrived to try the Pollo Piccante when he said it featured chicken, orange-chilli sauce and pak choi, I wasn’t so sure but he advised me to trust him. I’m glad I did. This Asian-Italian fusion should not work but it does – it’s tasty, with a bit of warmth behind the chilli and so, so moreish. My friend went for the more conventional choice of Salame e Ricotta Con Rucola which was a creamy affair with salami and ricotta, along with pine nuts, onions, butter, white wine and rocket.

I was recommended by Hope, who was on the reception desk when I arrived to try the Pollo Piccante when he said it featured chicken, orange-chilli sauce and pak choi, I wasn’t so sure but he advised me to trust him. I’m glad I did. This Asian-Italian fusion should not work but it does – it’s tasty, with a bit of warmth behind the chilli and so, so moreish. My friend went for the more conventional choice of Salame e Ricotta Con Rucola which was a creamy affair with salami and ricotta, along with pine nuts, onions, butter, white wine and rocket.

The next thing I loved about Vapiano is their “dolci” cabinet – they offer mini and regular sized desserts, so there is something for everyone. I’m certainly more partial to a pudding now I’m growing a human, but I’m still not quite ready for full-sized ones after having had two good sized courses at this point!

I knew what I was having before I even looked – the panna cotta which was so lovely at the launch night was calling my name. my friend decided to go for the same, I took a mini she took a regular. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite as good as the one I had on the launch night – it felt like it had a little too much gelatine in it making it overly set and not quite as wobbly and light as you’d want or expect from a panna cotta. The flavourings were lovely, so it was a shame that that let the meal down. That being said, it was our only complaint of the evening!

I’m sure Vapiano will continue to be a success, popular I imagine with lunch trade and hungry shoppers wanting a quick bite to eat without overpaying whilst not forgoing any of the flavour. I’d certainly recommend it as the perfect week night quick dinner spot or as the place to go for some mid-shopping lunch that won’t break the bank.

* I was invited along free of charge but as ever all my words and thoughts are entirely my own.

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