Over the past few years, Edinburgh has finally been realised by our friends in the south as somewhere worth investing in when it comes to installing chain restaurants the rest of the country enjoys. It has seen the likes of Gaucho, The Ivy, Vapiano, Byron, Wagamama, Bar Burrito and more pop up – something for every budget and experience and about time. Whilst in my opinion our independent restaurants can’t be beaten, it is good to know there is an ever growing variety of eateries suitable for all tastes.

I have passed Vapiano on St David’s Street many times, from when the building itself was a gaping hole through to its completion in November of last year. Being a bit of an Italian fiend (via my in-laws and a mother who won’t eat anything but pasta and pizza) I have tended to stick to what I know, but it was a nice surprise to receive an invite to visit Vapiano this weekend with my boyfriend and I went along with a completely open mind.

The first thing I should mention is I have suffered years of having a few hours to spare between the end of my working day and the start of rehearsals at 7.30pm. The choices I had to eat and pass time were limiting. I could go to a supermarket and munch a sandwich on a bench somewhere, visit a chippie and do much the same or if I was feeling really flush I could go to a restaurant for a sit down meal, alone, and try to pass an hour or two.

The thing I love about Vapiano is you could eat entirely by yourself and no one would bat an eyelid. The layout is incredible. Consisting of three layers, the staff encourage you to move around the “open” restaurant, trying different courses in different parts.  Issued with a card, we were encouraged to try the antipasti, pastas, pizzas, insalata and puddings which is simply and quickly paid for when you leave.

I’m going to dedicate the first part of the review to this beauty.

Phil and I decided to share an starter and hands down it is the best antipasti we have had. Not only was it huge, the variety of meats, bruschetta and cheese was to die for.

Unbelievably, after this we still had another two courses to sample. Phil opted for the Campanelle with deliciously cooked steak. I’ve never tried this style of pasta before but I love it. I opted for a carbonara which was beautifully authentic. Our chef, Michelle, crafted both dishes infront of us with such care and you could tell she really knew her stuff when it came to food. Each table hosts herbs and sauces – perfect for personalising your dish.

Following our main course, we took advantage of the open style of the restaurant and moved to the dessert section which had the most stunning lit-up backdrop of Florence. I took a minute to review the customers surrounding us and there was a real mix – a couple out for dinner, a group of students, tourists – the real pull of the place is it appeals to all. The puddings were the perfect size following the generous portions we had, which I coupled with a strawberry Bellini (to wash everything down of course). Everything was super reasonable, with a plate of pasta costing around £8 and the antipasti to share about £12.

For a relaxed, informal lunch or dinner or pudding or sharing plate it is the perfect place to spend with a group of friends or alone if you need/want to. The staff went out of their way to make us feel welcome and provided an excellent level of service – it shows that it really is worth trying new places, you never know when you will find a hidden gem.

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Thanks to the team at Vapiano and Stripe who offered us a three course meal for two with two drinks each.