“But Edinburgh is a mad God’s dream.” So says Scottish poet Hugh MacDiarmid, his words etched high along one of Vapiano’s walls among doodles, quotes and chalkboard menus.
And, while we’ve yet to decide on MacDiarmid’s sentiments, we’re pleased the informal Italian has just reopened its doors on St Andrew Square after an 18-month hiatus. The story goes that Vapiano originally opened in (the entirely un-Italian) Germany in 2002 and since then has expanded to 31 countries, including this split-level restaurant in Edinburgh. And we can see just how popular it was pre-pandemic – the three floors are buzzing with supporters.
While the decor itself is neutral, which could well be expected from an international brand, the chefs’ focus is on handmade pizza and pasta, which is created from scratch in front of you in the open kitchens (one focusing on pasta and risotto, the other on pizza and antipasti), steam rising as they work.
While I particularly liked the pesto basilica – subjectively because I have a fondness for pesto – the arrabbiata had a good kick to it if you’re a fan of a little spice. The cognac pasta (including bacon, chicken, garlic and said cognac) caught my eye too, and, as a South African, I’m pleased to see they have Savanna cider on the menu.
Ordering is via a QR code, which you scan at your table, handy with today’s minimal interaction vibe going on. An added bonus is that you can personalise everything, so if you’re not a fan of one ingredient, simply ask to leave it off. Or perhaps add extra garlic if you’re feeling daring – the only kicks we get coming out of a pandemic, really. Fancy spelt pasta? Give it a bash.
The food options lean towards the safe side (bar, perhaps, that cognac pasta and seasonal limited editions), so don’t expect anything fancy, schmancy. But if you’re a) a fan of Italian and b) looking for a laidback meal out – as general manager Andrew Meldrum says, “Vapiano’s fantastic location is ideal for post-work and weekend dining or for those simply wanting to jump out of the office for a quick lunch” – this is your spot.
Postscript: come to think of it, we prefer the “choose life” Trainspotting quote. Adds another postscript: Vapiano does takeaways and collections or they’re Deliveroo if you’d prefer a cosy night in. (K. Wilkins)