Since the dark days of uni when I was packed off each term with a 10kg sack of fusilli pasta I have shied away from ordering pasta in restaurants. I have a hard and fast rule, pasta must only be ordered in proper Italian restaurants, so when I visited proper Italian restaurant Vapiano in Manchester I knew I’d be ordering pasta.
Vapiano opened in the recently revamped Corn Exchange in Manchester in November last year. It has two light and airy floors, the first floor being the more popular and bustling space, as that’s where the kitchens are located.
Vapiano has a slightly different way of operating, there is no table service, you are given a card to use each time you order food or drink. You order directly from the chefs and watch them cook your meal in front of you, this takes minutes and it allows you to tailor your dish to your own tastes. Want more chilli? Ask for it. Less cheese? You got it.
Choosing a comfortable table next to the balcony, we ordered a couple of glasses of a red wine from their wine list, while we checked out their extensive menu.
For someone so picky about pasta I do have very simple tastes. I opted for the Pesto Rosso – cherry tomatoes, tomato pesto, pine nuts with ricotta cheese. I chose the freshly made Campanelle pasta. I went over to the kitchen and put my order in with the chef, I swiped my card on the counter and within minutes my pasta dish was being whipped up in front of me. They use fresh pasta made every day on site, so it only takes a few minutes to cook.
Once cooked I took my Pesto Rosso back to the table, the pasta was perfectly al dente and the sauce was rich with a little hint of background heat. The pine nuts were plentiful, the grated ricotta was generous. It was superb, I enjoyed every forkful and couldn’t fault it.
On the side, I ordered garlic bread with cheese. As pizza takes a little longer to cook they operate a pager system. You order at the pizza kitchen, swipe your card and get a pager which goes off when your pizza is ready, you return to the kitchen and pick up your pizza. It seems a very efficient system.
The garlic bread was oozing with cheese and a generous amount of fresh garlic. It was delicious but I think it could have done with another minute or two in the oven for me, so the crust was a little darker. The dough, again made that morning, was light and crispy and everything I want in a pizza dough.
My companion opted for the strawberry and spinach salad – a salad of fresh spinach, strawberries, goats cheese, red onion and pine nuts with a raspberry and maple dressing. It was a light, colourful salad with well balanced flavours which was consumed with much approval.
They then moved on to the pasta course, choosing a salmon carbonara which contained smoked salmon, onions, egg and cream. The dish contained lots of lovely chunky pieces of salmon, which did look delicious and made for a more interesting alternative to the traditional carbonara.
We barely had room for pudding, but we persisted. I chose my favourite, Tiramisu whilst my friend opted for the Bacio, a chocolate and hazelnut mousse on a biscuit base topped with chopped hazelnuts. I adore Tiramisu and I’ve eaten a fair few in my time, the sponge was light and the cream and mascarpone had been whipped so it was airy, it was excellent, a little light on the coffee flavour for me, but I do like it strong.
The Bacio was as pretty as a picture, presented in a jar it was a little like a cheesecake but with a mousse layer. I had a little taste and I was pleased that the chocolate wasn’t too overpowering, I liked the generous sprinkle of hazelnuts on top and the biscuit base added some extra texture.
Although the card system probably isn’t for everyone,I think it’s probably useful for large groups who might haggle over splitting the bill, or for those watching their pennies. I did enjoy watching my food being cooked in front of me and I loved that it was so fresh and hadn’t been sat around waiting for a waiter to bring it to my table.
Between us the bill came to around £70 which for three courses, wine, soft drinks and coffee was very respectable. The meal was delicious and probably the best pasta dish I’ve eaten in years. The menu is extensive and there will be something on there for everyone, whatever dietary requirements you may have I’m sure most dishes could be tailored to accommodate even the pickiest eater (me). I now know why Vapiano is considered one of the best Italian restaurants in Manchester.
Vapiano is now firmly on my ladies who lunch rota, we’ll be back, and we’ll be back again soon!
Vapiano is located in the Corn Exchange in Manchester, for more information and to view their menu visit their website.
We were invited guests of Vapiano and were not asked to pay for our food or drinks. All images and opinions are our own.