I was really excited about going to Vapiano’s on Great Portland Street. I was first introduced to this “fast, casual restaurant with a twist” in 2006 back when I was studying / living in Berlin.
From what I remember, the food was good, there were always seats and the chefs were really helpful – especially accommodating my slightly strange amendments – “can I take this out but add this instead (even though it will become a completely new dish)?”
I actually think the concept is pretty cool and after I first went to Vapiano in Potsdamer Platz, I raved about it to my friends and family.
Simply, you walk in, are met by a greeter who hands you a swipe card. I’ve heard this likened to an Oyster Card and I suppose it’s not far off.
You simply decide what you want to eat and go up to the corresponding counter – Antipasti/Salads, Pizza or Pasta – you tell the chef/cook what you want to eat, if you want any extras, hold up your card to the chip reader and it will be updated with the amount you’ll need to pay later.
After you’ve eaten, you head to the door, give the card back to the server, they swipe it and tell you what you owe!
Fast forward six years and my excitement has been building all day.
Don’t get me wrong here, for what it is, it’s not bad. I just think there are some tweaks to be made!
1. Seating – not enough of a system here.
Please don’t misunderstand, I get the concept – it’s supposed to be fast and easy dining! But this concept really loses some of its lustre when for half an hour *at peak dining times* you are looking for somewhere to park your behind. Other restaurants do self-service in some format, but they will ensure you have somewhere to sit. I’d say its a one-off but after speaking to people I fear it’s not – I don’t know how to rectify this but I think offering the chance to sit in a bar area while you wait for a table is an idea, or simply advising that there is a wait for a seat.
The problem I found yesterday was that it became a bit of a free-for-all. People waiting 5-10 minutes were missing out on tables because someone else who had just walked in grabbed it first. I don’t think that’s right!
2. Food was lukewarm at best.
This is a big pet peeve of mine. For those about to jump in with “this should be served like this and that should be served like that”, I am a heathen. If food isn’t supposed to be cold, I like steam rising off it.
I also don’t really understand how you are literally taking the food from a hot pan and putting on to a plate yet it loses the warmth and heat.
Also on the food, I think there was a lack of seasoning. I know it’s a catering for all tastes thing, but a little salt & pepper action never did anyone any harm.
3. Wait time.
Me and my friend both wanted pasta. After choosing one of the four counters to queue at, I thought – oh this’ll only take 5 minutes … ! Not to be. 25 minutes later I finally got my food. For a “fast, casual” dining experience I feel there’s potentially something to be done here too!
***4*** This is actually the big positive and the one which I’ll remember to tell people.
Thor! No not the Norse god of thunder but the very lovely ‘chef’ who made my food! I asked for recommendations on the best pasta and he was happy to advise, he also and I know he probably does it for everyone, asked me if I wanted extra this or less of that. For me, with my very fussy eating habits
sometimes always, this was one feature I liked!!
All in all …
Service 6/10 (let down by seating)
Would I go back? Yes! (Not during Peak and would request my food piping hot)
19-21 Great Portland Street
Mon – Sat 12-midnight
For 1 person, a main course, dessert and soft drink – approx £15