One of Canberra’s most-experienced food critics and this paper’s longest-serving columnist, WENDY JOHNSON indulges herself with her top eating experiences for 2018
VAPIANO opened in the city with some fanfare last Easter. It’s the seventh location in Australia and the chain operates around 200 eateries in more than 30 countries.
Vapiano describes itself as a “Euro-chic chain for pastas, pizzas and more, ordered cafeteria-style in modern environs with a bar”.
We wish we’d read this website description before lunching. It would have helped manage expectations. With the expensive looking “Euro-chic” fitout, we weren’t expecting “cafeteria-style” ordering. More on this in a moment.
Vapiano is Italian through and through. The menu is extensive and covers all bases – antipasto, salad, pasta, pizza and dessert. With a fair few mains, you pay more for extras.
Produce is locally sourced “where possible” and vegans, vegetarians and those with food intolerances are well taken care of.
The sun-dried tomato pesto with my fusilli was intense and colourful ($18 without prawns, $23 with). I enjoyed the hit of chilli and roasted pine nuts. The ricotta added a lovely creamy element to the dish and the cherry tomatoes packed a punch. The dish included a generous serve of plump prawns. However, it wasn’t hot.
The spaghetti with fresh garlic in olive oil with chilli and parsley ($17 without prawns, $22 with) generated mixed feelings. First, it was only lukewarm. Second, there wasn’t any evidence of chilli. My friend went to the counter area to shake some dried chilli on the dish to spice matters up.
Vapiano’s is massive inside and out. We spotted a groovy looking square oak table in the back corner, surrounded by windows with the sun streaming through. An impressive olive tree grows out of the middle of the table and we loved the pots of herbs and bottles of olive oil and balsamic placed here and there.
However, the bench seating proved to be awkward, especially with the cafeteria-style ordering. I sat in the corner without realising this meant there was no escaping unless I asked everyone along the bench to get up to let me out. It’s a lot of effort if you want to order a second drink or if you decide you want dessert – and inconvenient for those around you.
Vapiano loves to upsell. When ordering, I was asked if I wanted chilli, bread or cheese. I indicated my dish already had chilli but was told the staff “have to” offer it again. They also do so when meals are delivered.
This is the chain’s second cashless restaurant. Service was pretty speedy on our visit.
Vapiano, Monaro Mall, Civic. Open seven days.