One thing that all runners love to do is eat carbs. At least, this runner does. Pasta, pizza, risotto…cake! It’s all good and essential for fuelling those long runs. Vapiano, an awesome Italian restaurant do carbs very well indeed and knowing this, they have teamed up with Dr Sarah Schenker, a Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist who says ‘It’s important to balance your carbohydrate intake with plenty of protein. The delicious pasta dishes from Vapiano can be a big part of your fitness plan whether you’re a runner, cyclist, body builder or partake in any regular sport.”
Sounds good to me. Even better, she has developed a menu with athletes in mind.
Pasta Bolognese – delivers plenty of carbohydrate to build stores of glycogen in the liver and muscles. The beef provides high quality protein needed for muscle strength and repair. It is also a good source of easily absorbed iron needed for the transportation of oxygen in red blood cells. The tomatoes deliver beta carotene needed to protect cells from oxidative damage (increased in runners) and boost immunity.
Pasta pomodoro – tops up carbohydrate (glycogen) stores. The meal eaten the night before is crucial in delivering the last top up of glycogen to help avoid ‘hitting the wall’. Needs to be a safe easily digested meal that won’t cause any digestive problems or stomach upsets on any already nervous stomach.
Rucola ravioli (recovery meal)– glycogen stores will be depleted so carbohydrate from pasta is important to help muscles recover. There is plenty of whey protein from the ricotta which delivers special amino acids that are effective in helping to repair the muscles and prevent muscle soreness.
Sounds good, right? I know some people find pasta boring, but I disagree. Vapiano invited me along to test out their food and see what the fuss was about. So I duly grabbed my husband, skipped lunch to make sure I was suitably hungry and arrived eager to try it out.
The concept of Vapiano is part very 21st century and part school canteen. The restaurant is really light, airy, chilled out and welcoming. There also appears to be a picture of Dr Frank N Furter on the wall. However, there are no small tables, the beautiful wooden tables are laid out for lots of people, in the style of Wagamama and you choose where you want to sit. Upon arrival, everyone in the party is given a card, similar to a keycard at hotels. When you order your food from the food stations, this is scanned. You then present it when you leave and pay the bill on the card.
It’s very much a canteen style set up and takes a little getting used to. However, it has plus points, for example not having to wait for waiting staff and when you are in groups, there’s no quibbling over how to split the bill. Staff are friendly and happy to answer any questions you may have.
The menu is exhaustive with a good selection of pizza, pasta and other items. All food is prepared fresh on site and when we arrived, the aroma in the air of garlic, herbs and tomatoes was incredible. We decided to share the Piatto Antipasti to start with, opting for a large between two as a starter. The smaller size would really have been sufficient. This would have been perfect as a light lunch with a bottle of wine outside in the sun…
I love bruschetta and it was seasoned to perfection with glorious fresh tomatoes. Yum. The bread is made on site and there was plenty of cheese, parma ham, salami, chorizo and cheese to enjoy. We were even offered more bread.
Despite the large portion size, we polished it off like the troopers we are and it was time to choose our main event. I decided to go for the Ruccola Ravioli as it was part of the #eatpastarunfaster menu and my husband chose the Gambretti, pasta with fresh prawns and tomato. Vapiano really shows off what it can do here. You watch the chef cook your dish in front of you and it can be tailored to what you want. Pasta is made fresh each day and you can choose what type you want. They even have gluten-free options.
How good does this look?
The prawns in the Gambretti were juicy and succulent and the Ruccola Ravioli was surprisingly decadent! The buttery sauce was incredibly rich and the cheese just melted in the mouth. The pasta was cooked slightly al dente and you could taste how fresh it was.
We were pretty stuffed after all that food, but I’d been eying up the desert menu and find it hard to leave a meal without having dessert! It was a hard choice, but I eventually went for Baccio, which is chocolate and hazelnut mousse on a biscuit base whilst my husband went for Death by Chocolate, working on the assumption that thumbs up or thumbs down for any restaurant depends on their ability to do chocolate cake. It was rich. It was chocolatey. It was delicious. It was a thumbs up. The Baccio was light and delicious.
Because I love desserts and wanted them all, here’s a few pictures of the other treats on offer.
Finally, we reluctantly had to leave. It was such a cool restaurant and we happily could have sat there for longer. However there was a final surprise – when you go to pay, customers are offered a bag of sweets to take away! I’m a sucker for Haribo Teddy Bears so this was a bit of a win for me.
Vapiano is a great concept, although it takes a bit of getting used to. They also do take away, so it would be a great place for a lunch break – either sit in canteen style, or take away. In terms of price point, it’s reasonable, at a similar level to Pizza Express (pizzas £7-£10, pasta £7-£11) and although some may argue that this doesn’t include table service, the food is excellent and portions plentiful.
Claudia, the cheerful manager who looked after us explained that they often get very business at lunchtime and I can see why. However, although it had a good buzz at 7pm Thursday, it wasn’t crammed full, so I imagine this is a good time of day to check it out for a casual meal with friends. Great food, freshly cooked, in chilled out surroundings. Aside from Italian sunshine and the Mediterranean sea, what else could you possibly need? There are also plenty of vegan and gluten-free options, making it a great pick for all dietary requirements. We’ll be back.
Vapiano invited me for a complementary meal for two. Views my own and my greedy husband’s.