Let’s take a moment to be honest with each other here, that Food & Drink icon in my navigation bar is looking decidedly empty, and we need to change that. It’s not that I haven’t been eating in some fine establishments, just that I haven’t blogged about it, and, well, that simply won’t do. I offer you all of the apologies.

I’ve heard a lot about Vapiano, the Italian chain (with a dodgy font, sorry, has to be said!) that have WAY more branches than I thought (check here for international and here for european locations) but I hadn’t tried it until yesterday when we took a friend who was visiting London. Although it was my first time I was familiar with the concept after reading Lily’s review, and I didn’t plan on doing a post since she’d already featured it, but since I’m vegetarian and everyone has a different dining experience I thought I’d go ahead. So, Vapiano works a little something like this: You get a credit card type affair given to you as you enter (one for each person) and you just kind of walk around and find your own table. We went to the Great Portland Street restaurant (there’s also a Southwark one) and there were comfy low seats, high benches and seating upstairs and downstairs. The tables have fresh herb plants for you to use and oils and vinegars which is a nice touch as well as looking pretty. I should add that it was a really busy time (Saturday night) and of course, the Oxford Circus location is a prime tourist trap, but we didn’t have a problem finding seating and didn’t have to share a table. It was busy though, but more on that later.

You go up to the line you want (pasta, pizza, appetizers) and queue to order your food. When ordering, you give the chef your little credit card and your food bill is added to that. Soft drinks and water are also ordered here, but for alcoholic drinks you need to pop over to the bar. I think pasta is ready almost instantly, but if you order pizza like we did, you’re given a buzzer and just return to collect it when your buzzer vibrates. This is where I had a couple of problems. We were seated upstairs, and when my buzzer went off I went down to collect my food only to be told it wasn’t ready and my buzzer hadn’t gone off (it had, but stopped vibrating just as I reached the pick-up point) I wasn’t too bothered but went back upstairs to sit with the boys who were already tucking into their food. I waited about ten more minutes and then my buzzer went off again, but when I went down my food still wasn’t ready. I think I was just unlucky, the staff were extremely busy and it wasn’t a huge deal to me so I just waited for my food.

It definitely didn’t put me off going again but it’s worth bearing in mind if you are with people that prefer a traditional dining experience, for example I’d happily go there with friends but the layout and way you order means you can end up eating separately and someone needs to hold the table if it’s busy, so it’s not somewhere I’d go for a big family meal as it can be a little anti-social. Great for sharers, solo lunch breaks and relaxed meals when you aren’t pushed for time. The payment system as you exit is great for friends as it makes it super easy to split the bill, or pay for all the cards together if you would like.

In terms of choice, it was good for carnivores, but as a vegetarian there wasn’t a great deal I could have. Not a bad selection, but not the most diverse, although I’m sure modifications would be okay if you were willing to wait a little longer. Price was pretty standard for an italian, my pizza and drink came to around £11 (and they stocked my favourite Arizona cranberry green tea) which isn’t bad at all.

All in all I liked the experience, I’d love to go on a less busy day to see how the service was, and I’ll definitely go back and try the pasta next time. For reference, photos show the bruschetta, verdure pizza, and the barbecue chicken pizza (all delicious).

Have you been to Vapiano? What did you think?