A long overdue review of one of my favourite lunch places.
It is ideal mostly because of its location. Although within a short walk from my church on a Sunday, we aren’t exactly spoilt for choice in Waterloo. Some people might vouch for the Fire Station but I’d rather be burnt to a cinder.
So putting such heated remarks aside before things get rather more toasty than I would like, I should introduce you to the concept of Vapiano. An Italian restaurant with a twist. It is not a typical restaurant, there are no waiters. Instead it relies on hunger to motivate people to get their food themselves.
On arrival, you get a small card to record your orders electronically. On your departure it will be used to tally up your bill. Lose it and bad things happen. Moving on after collection of such, you then hurry to your chosen station to ask your chosen chef to prepare the dish as you watch, make critical comments or otherwise just be a pain in the ass. I would mention that I am usually not one of these people. I am usually a model customer, staring in stupefied wonder as the cook undertakes technically demanding tasks such as boiling pasta. Reminds me of a friend that managed to burn water but that is a story for another day.
Yet, I know many who are (and take sadistic pride in being this way) difficult customers. Commenting that THAT is not the way to hold the pot. Salt should be added with a particular flourish. Such meaningful actions makes things taste better or similar baloney.
Perhaps instead the concept is wonderful for the bottom line. Without the need to pay any waiting staff and doing away with the need to carefully time dishes to all arrive at the same moment at a table, much unnecessary headache is done away with. Actually, what it reminds me of, is my canteen in school days. Except we didn’t get a choice as food was scooped on to our plates. It was very much a take it or starve approach.
This idea seems to be so successful that on a recent trip to Frankfurt, right on prime Rhine bank real estate, sat another branch of Vapiano. Obviously things are going well. As curious as I was, I didn’t venture in as it would be a shame if I missed the delights of German food for something available in my neighborhood in London.
Pasta salsiccia con fichi, spicy Italian sausage, fresh figs and tomato sauce. With deep, rich, meaty, tomato infused sausage with fresh linguine, topped off with some Parmesan cheese and some spice from little chilies, this is a dangerous dish. It often seems to lull you into a false sense of complacency as before you know it, it is gone. Something to return for time and time again.
Yet, as some would love to point out to me, you cannot judge a restaurant by just one dish. You need to visit multiple times and try the full selection. While I would have some sympathy with such remarks, I would retort that if they were willing to subsidize my way, I would be happy to do as they suggested. Unfortunately, this kind offer has yet to be taken up. Luckily for such armchair critics (and maybe because of the lack of choice around the area) I am able to provide a more objective review by multiple visits and sampling various dishes. Some of their items are bad, I cannot vouch for their consistency on this as that one bad experience is usually enough to scare me off. Others are decent, worth having again. Yet, some are great, such as this particular dish. With the added chili, it will light a fire under you. In a good way.
A quiet eating 6.5/10.
Lunch (1 course) was GBP 10 excluding drinks and service.
90 B Southwark Street
SE1 0FD London