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Mikonkatu 15, Helsinki
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Enjoy the Vapiano experience!
Grimsby, England, United Kingdom
August 3, 2011
Best of IgoUgo
While in Finland, my sister and I had a really hard time finding places where we could both eat as she is a vegetarian and most of the restaurants had very few (or none at all) options for her. Even though we had been through the main train station ...
While in Finland, my sister and I had a really hard time finding places where we could both eat as she is a vegetarian and most of the restaurants had very few (or none at all) options for her. Even though we had been through the main train station many times during our stay, it was only in the last couple of days that we noticed this bright looking Italian restaurant called Vapiano.
== History of the chain ==
In October 2002, the first Vapiano restaurant was opened in Hamburg, Germany and founded by four German entrepreneurs. The group of men wanted to created a fast food style restaurant with a bit more class than the average restaurant. In doing this, they created an Italian style restaurant which prided itself on the high quality of the food being served which ranged from fresh pasta and hand-tossed pizzas. Now, the restaurant chain has spread throughout Europe and is in the process of being taken across to America (with a few stores already open) with plans for the rest of the world as well.
== Where you can find some Vapiano restaurants ==
== Finding the restaurant ==
Vapiano Helsinki can be found just to the left (as you come out of the main doors) of the main train station. If you just look left out of the doors, you will see a large restaurant on the corner with bright red banners advertising what it is they serve. Next to the train station is the main bus terminal too so if you are getting the bus in from anywhere, you will be able to get off here and go straight to the restaurant. The banner outside of the restaurant states that you can get pizza and pasta from €7,30.
== How the restaurant works ==
As you enter the restaurant, someone at the front desk will greet you (hopefully with a pleasant tone and a smile). The staff member will then hand you a credit card style card and explain that this is what you use to order your food with. The restaurant is set into different sections and as you go up to the station you wish to order from, you hand over your card and someone behind that counter will scan in whatever it is you have ordered. This is a really good thing for people who like to order separately or order different kinds of food. At each station, when you order, the food is then cooked there and then right in front of you. However, if you order pizza, you will be given a buzzer so you can go back and collect the food when it’s ready.
At the end of your meal, you take the card back to the front desk where they scan it and give you your final meal price. Everything apart from drinks is clearly priced on the menus (menus for different languages were given out at the front desk) so you pretty much know what you are going to spend anyway.
== My experience ==
I was immediately impressed with the idea of this restaurant and how everything worked so I was quite excited to go up and order my food. We both decided to have pasta as it would save us waiting different amounts of time and as we headed over to the pasta station, the aroma of freshly cooked food hit us straight away and had us drooling.
Before you can even decide on which meal you would like, you first have to decide which kind of pasta you would like it cooking with. The choices were Pappardelle, Spaghetti, Penne, Linguine, Conchiglie, Campanelle, Fusilli, Tagliatelle, Ravioli, Spelt Spaghetti and Spelt Fusilli. I love penne pasta so the choice was pretty easy for me but my sister was stood there for quite some time deciding between pastas and choices of sauce etc. Once you have chosen your pasta, it is time to decide what else you are going to have with it.
The pasta section of the menu is split into 4 groups, A to D which are separated by prices. Anything in A is 7,30. B is 8,50. C is 9,80. D is 11,00. As you look from group to group, you can see why the prices change. A is the most basic of pastas like pesto while D is full of expensive sea food. I didn’t want anything cheap and I didn’t want something too expensive and I’m not a fan of sea food anyway so I chose the carbonara from Group B which comes with bacon, onions, cream sauce and egg. I don’t eat onions though so I made sure I could have this without before letting them get on with cooking my meal.
The chef took a box of pasta from behind him which had obviously been weighed out earlier on in the day (as well as freshly made) and put it in the pasta cooker beside him. Next, he added a bit of oil to a wok and threw in some chopped up bacon for a couple of minutes. While the bacon was cooking, the chef asked if I wanted garlic and basil adding into my pasta which I said yes to as I am a massive fan of garlic especially in pasta. As soon as the garlic was added, the smell was amazing and I was getting really quite excited about eating my meal. Next, he adds in a cream sauce and whisks along with the other ingredients and finally, adding an egg for the last few minutes. When the sauce is fully finished, the pasta is then added into the wok and mixed together thoroughly. The wonderful looking pasta was placed carefully in a long, oblong dish before finishing off with parmesan cheese and herbs, which the chef pulled right off the plant just in front of him, down the middle of my dish. While all of this was happening, another chef was cooking my sister’s pesto spaghetti.
Although having carbonara sounds like such a simple meal, it was the best I have ever had from anywhere. The sauce was rich and creamy without being too sickly. The parmesan cheese and herbs added some lovely flavours to the pasta and sauce and really topped off my whole meal nicely. The portions are extremely reasonable too considering that the prices were the best we found anywhere in Helsinki. A meal like this was costing us at least 14,00 anywhere else so for me, the prices were amazing. We both had a coke with our meals which only cost 2,80 so even the drinks were cheaper than other restaurants. Although our meals were to die for, neither of us could finish them. The portions are very generous and I think we could have probably shared a dish if I had picked something without meat.
The restaurant itself has a very contemporary look with the tables being surrounded by foliage and herbs. The smells coming from the plants were a bonus for me as it gave the restaurant a really fresh feel to it but the smells weren’t overpowering at the same time. Each of our meals only took 5 minutes to cook and you could see that the chefs working there were highly skilled and enjoyed what they were doing. The service from both the chefs and front desk was exceptional and I couldn’t have been more pleased with how we had been treated during our visit. This was by far the best meal I had in Helsinki. It tasted the best and was also the best priced meal I had so I have no idea what the other restaurants are doing to charge as much as they do.
After my experience with this restaurant, I would definitely go again should the country I am visiting have a branch there. I am also really happy to say that there are two Vapiano restaurants in London which I will be visiting for sure the next time I go.