Vapiano - My only reason to pay for parking in the city.
Tell me this - when was the last time you walked into a Restaurant and saw the Chefs making the pasta you were just about to eat?
Or what about the last time you got to chat with your Chef while he whipped you up a quick Pappadelle Carbonara?
Or - just for fun now - when was the last time there were fresh LIVING herbs on your table, and a nursery within arms reach where they lovingly tend to them for your eating pleasure?
I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that you might have had trouble answering those questions...?
Well if you want to change all that - I can tell you where you will get all of the above and more. Much, much more. You'll find it all at Vapiano on Albert Lane, Brisbane City.
I'm pretty new to food blogging so I was blown away to be invited to the Grand Opening of Vapiano by Marissa at Red Agency and equally as devestated to find out that I wasn't going to be able to go. (Damn work commitments!) So because of this act of generosity (flattery?) I was intruiged enough to put it right at the top of my list of restaurants to visit on my Christmas holidays.
Today, with all the rainy weather I was inspired to take hubby out on a lunch date and indulge in some Italian comfort food. But Vapiano was not what I expected...
Vapiano is not your usual cheesy Italian with red checked tables and takeaway boxes stacked behind the cash register. It is not your usual gluggy pasta with soggy base pizzas. And it is not your usual boring blob of whipped cream masquerading as Tiramisu.
What it is is a cozy, sunlight filled Restaurant that has the feel of a friends loft. The staff are super friendly, very efficient and although this is fast food at it's sexiest - there's not a hint of "d'ya want fries with that" robotic faux-customer service.
Between hubby and myself, we have eaten more versions of Carbonara than you've probably BBQ's so naturally, it's our yardstick for how we measure Italian Restaurants.
This is how the judging process of Vapiano's Pappadelle Carbonara went:
Hubby looked at it appraisingly, spun a fork of pasta and gingerly took a bite. Next came a strangled grunt, widened eyes... closed eyes... and then his arm wrapped protectively around the bowl... He repeated this process a few more times and then managed to take a breath between mouthfuls to tell me what I had already guessed. "This is bloody good Carbonara".
Considering Vapiano is claiming to be a little Italian, a lot Australian - it's probably the best compliment they could have got!
While hubby was busy guarding his pasta, I was sampling the Con Carne Pizza - Vapiano's version of the BBQ Meatlovers and this too, was a resounding success.
While the pasta was perfectly cooked ribbons of uber-fresh Pappadelle, the sauce was mindblowingly good. The Carbonara was creamy, with generous chunks of bacon and white onion all simmered with enough garlic to give it a velvety richness that was perfectly balanced. Pure, utter, BLISS.
Although I was disappointed to see that there was a commercial Pizza Oven in lieu of the Wood Fired version - this did not affect the quality of the pizza one iota. It was crispy edged, chewy middled and soft textured goodness personified. The toppings were quality, and quality local, Australian produce at that.
So what else sets Vapiano apart from the rest? They have a chip card system which is a godsend to all the CBD workers on a strict lunchhour and who dread the nightmare "splitting of the bill". This gives every person the ability to order what they want, be responsible for their own bill and not worry about getting stuck with the extras someone else ordered...
Everything is cooked a la minute - literally. The pasta is cooked right in front of your while your Chef chats happily and makes sure that everything is cooked to your taste. Oil, chilli, garlic, pepper etc - it's all in your control.
When I ordered my pizza, the Chef was actually rolling out my dough and checking it's springback for texture. Wow.
The only complaints I have are these:
#1 - There is no garlic bread on the menu. Although in hindsight, I wouldn't have been able to fit it in anyway - but what's an Italian restaurant without garlic bread?? Or even a little garlic pizza...?
#2 - Parking cost me $25. Considering lunch for the both of us including drinks only cost $40, I was outraged with the cost of parking. Outraged with no one to listen but the yellow machine demanding payment... *sigh*
The Verdict: This is like the Italian version of Wagamama - only better. Much better. Super fast service, fantastic quality Australian produce and very well priced - especially considering its CBD location. Parking costs are another matter entirely...
Recommendations: The Carbonara was without a doubt the best I have ever had. And I have had a lot of Carbonara in my time. The pizza was brilliant. I honestly don't think you can go wrong with any item on the menu. Although I didn't have room to try it - the Pannacotta is served in the cutest pickling jar with a topping of homemade Berry coulis adorning it like scarlett froth on a cappacino. I will be back to try one of those. Mark my words.