Originating from Germany, Vapiano is a global franchise chain of "fresh casual" Italian restaurants that has some impressive reach around the world: more than 120 outlets in 26 countries on four continents.
|Vapiano Sydney, Grace Hotel, corner York and King Streets, Sydney|
Enter from the corner of York and King Streets, and be greeted by signature pale wood furnishings and pots of fresh basil throughout the venue, and the Vapianisti – as employees of the restaurant are called – who provide smart-cards and seat diners.
|Pasta kitchen stations|
Swipe your card as you order and pay a collective bill at the end. It's almost like the casual dining version of Asian hawker stalls, with no waiters or runners, and cooked-to-order Italian offerings instead.
Inside, the tall table with stools was a little awkward with mushroom lamps and pots of basil down the middle of the table obscuring views of your fellow diner across (perhaps designed for that specific reason).
|Downstairs dining space|
The Vapiano food concept is the same the world over: fresh Italian cuisine, made onsite and in most instances, prepared or cooked to order – fast and in front of you.
Pasta and desserts are made fresh daily in the restaurant while pizza dough, sauces and dressings are all prepared in-house. Produce is sourced locally, and wherever possible, within 150 kilometres from each restaurant.
|Antipasti plate (small)|
The tomato and basil bruschetta, green olives, sun-dried tomatoes and extra bread rounded out the platter which is ideal for sharing among at least three people.
The pizza had a decent crust and base, but I would recommend much more exciting toppings than simply diced tomato, garlic, rocket and parmesan cheese.
|Pasta cooked to order|
It was a little bit sad, especially as the just over al dente linguine cooled and started to stick together in large clumps.
|Ravioli con carne|
|Innocent Bystander moscato|
|Vapiano pasta station|
I couldn't shake the feeling of being at a Sizzler or a back-in-the-day Pizza Hut style restaurant, where you grab food from different stations (though not all-you-can-eat in this instance). The panels promoting the menu and ingredients above the cooking stations add to the franchise feel, although the many, many pots of basil help greatly with the general feeling of freshness and greenness.
As we left a tourist couple walked in, sharing that they were familiar with the concept from their home of Sweden; comfortably grabbing their smart-card in preparation for an almost self-serve lunch.
Vapiano's European roots obviously run deeper than their Australian offshoots so far, but in an increasingly globalised world there seems to be a place for franchised, fast and fresh food – for global customers at the very least.
Food, booze and shoes dined at Vapiano as a guest, with thanks to Open Haus.