November is officially World Vegan Month. I’m not a vegan myself but I was vegetarian for 5 years and followed a vegan diet for a few months. So it was something that I researched a lot and I have a lot of respect for the commitment that vegans have.
Vapiano recently invited me down to their restaurant in the Corn Exchange to try some meals from their vegan menu. If you remember a few months ago I reviewed another one of their Menus and Drew and I loved the whole concept of the restaurant where you are each given a card which you use to order any food and drinks, this is handy for large groups as it’s means no awkward bill splitting. There are also buzzers which vibrate loudly when your food is ready if you don’t want to stay to watch your meals being cooked. Although this is the best part and the chef’s love talking to you.
We were originally booked in to visit a few Fridays ago but this got rescheduled after some damage to the restaurant. So instead we visited last weekend and took Amber along. I’m always interested to see how restaurants interact with young kids.
On arrival we were greated the lovely Maroussa who was very welcoming and chatty with Amber (always gets brownie points with this).
We arrived at 12pm and ordered the 3 dishes that were on order.
- Funghi Bolognese, a delicious ragout made of mushrooms, carrots and celery in its very own homemade tomato sauce, with onions marinated with soy sauce and fresh herbs
- Zuaa Caramellata, a special risotto featuring creamy risotto rice with a homemade sauce of Hokkaido pumpkin, orange juice and coconut milk, with a hint of vegan white wine, ginger, sesame and lime.
- Con Cipolle Balsamico vegan pizza, which has a homemade tomato sauce, with fruity balsamic shallots, courgette, aubergine, fresh basil and rosemary.
There seemed to be a bit of confusion with which ingredients were available as when I went to order the Funghi Bolognese the chef informed me that I couldn’t have it because the sauce hadn’t been made yet and it would be an hour or so. This seemed a bit strange as it was one of the meals that they wanted me to review, so I ordered the Zuaa Carmellata and Amber a pizza from the kids menu. Whilst waiting for the Zuaa Carmellata to cook the same chef came over to inform me that the Bolognese was actually available and would bring it over once ready.
Out of the two dishes the Zuaa Carmellata was our absolute favourite. Incredibely sweet and creamy and the world of flavours all worked together to create one of the best risottos I have ever eaten. The meal is also packed full of nutrients. I love risotto but wasn’t sure that risotto without cheese would work, however I was glad to be proved wrong. And who knew that pumpkin, orange and coconut milk could create such a mouthwatering dish?
The Funghi Bolognese was a very simple dish packed with fresh ingredients. As you can customise your meals Drew and I both opted for extra chilli and garlic. The sauce was incredible.
Next up was the Con Cipolle Balsamico vegan pizza. There was a bit of an issue/communication problem ordering this. The chef had very limited English and I had to repeat my order to him a few times. After about 8 minutes of waiting for our pizza the chef came over to tell me that he was really sorry but that they had no chicken so couldn’t make the pizza and asked if he could make me anything else. So I clarified again that it was the vegan pizza I had ordered. So we had to wait around another 10 minutes for the pizza to be cooked. When I went to collect the pizza a different chef once again apologised for the restaurant not having chicken in stock. Obviously as I’m not a vegan I took it all with a pinch of salt. But I’m pretty sure that the whole episode could potentially cause issues had it been a vegan customer, especially if they had sent out a pizza with chicken on it.
In regards to the actual pizza, I was very impressed. Great thin crispy base with a lovely fresh tomato sauce, diced courgette, aubergine, balsamic shallots and fresh herbs. I think some fresh garlic would have made it even better, but we both enjoyed the pizza and agreed that it was a meal we could make at home.Overall once again I can’t fault the food at all, and it’s great to see a well thought out vegan menu, especially the risotto which was just too delicious. What Vapiano specialises in is giving the customer the chance to have their meals cooked infront of them and allowing them to adapt spices, herbs and ingredients to suit their taste buds, allergies and special dietary requirements. It’s a fantastic concept and gives it more of a homecooked aspect. You are also given complimentary bread with any pasta dish, and the bread is incredibly soft in the middle. One of the chef’s was kind enough to bring the bread over as my hands were full.
Sadly on this occasion the staff let things down just that little bit with the bolognese and pizza mix-ups. As it was 12pm on a Sunday and very quiet I would have expected much better and for the chefs to at least be aware of what ingredients they had available for customers.
On leaving we noticed a little section downstairs with scatter cushions, Amber loved them. And Maroussa told me that she had kids in mind as it distracts them from climbing on the bikes and potentially falling off. Great idea!
I also want to add that the manager on duty was very friendly and passionate about the menu when I spoke to her on arrival, so hopefully the vegan menu will be around for a while. Definitely give it a try and prepare to be blown away!
*I was invited to dine as a guest of Vapiano in return for an honest review.