The concept of fast food is usually accompanied by a wrinkling of the nose and a quick scout on Google Maps to see if there’s anything better to eat nearby. It gets a bad rap which is often deserved; limp burgers squished between sad buns, adorned with warm lettuce and served with cold, greasy fries does not a tempting lunch-on-the-run make. Vapiano however takes the idea of food served quickly and breathes new life into it delivering hot fresh pasta, pizza & salads that might just make you reconsider the notion of fast food after all.
With 3 restaurants in London but over 160 across the globe, this is a chain that’s grown massively since the first spot opened in Germany in 2002 and this branch in Wardour St can always be counted on to deliver speedy food, excellent service & well priced dishes that will keep hunger at bay. Leafy trees stand loftily over long communal wooden tables with fresh herbs & oils ready for sprinkling over your dinner. Food is ordered from kitchen stations around the edge of the restaurants and every dish is made to order as you wait. Extra chilli? No problem. Hold the garlic? Sure. Friendly chefs work quickly although at peak times, be prepared to wait 10-15 minutes in the queue, something that doesn’t really bother me given the alternative of pre-cooked claggy clumps of pasta or reheated trays of grease-pooled pizza.
Being given a card as you enter onto which all your purchases are loaded means there’s no waiting at the food stations while the person in front of you fumbles for coins – just buy what you want then pay at the end, a quick, simple, painless process that’s definitely a tick in the box. The space itself is also fairly generous though the street level floor gets full quickly so you may want to venture downstairs where it’s vast and a little bit quieter.
I’m a creature of habit when it comes to Vapiano; spelt spaghetti with salami, ricotta, pine nuts, white wine, rocket and a disgustingly delicious amount of butter & garlic. It’s the right side of oily & satisfying with generous amounts of cheese & meat tossed through well-cooked strands of pasta and a kick of white wine coming through at the end of each twirly forkful. Portions are generous and priced between £7-10 for practically every one of the pasta, risotto & pizza choices (of which there are many including vegetarian and vegan options) which makes them one of the best value cheap meals in the centre of London you’ll find.
Is this Michelin star dining? Nope but you know what? It doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is and the quality is far superior to a lot of other Italian chains that litter the streets of Soho and it’s a brilliant place to fill your tummy without emptying your wallet before or after a night out.