After a few years’ hiatus, I was back in Sydney for a work trip last week. I had an inauspicious start on Monday morning when the café we went to for breakfast had NO gluten-free options. They couldn’t even give me just yoghurt and fruit, as all their breakfasts were pre-made with muesli in them. They had no gluten-free bread available, and only very grudgingly agreed to make me avocado and bacon for breakfast.
However, this was redeemed in the evening when my colleague and I went to Vapiano – the Italian restaurant in the ground floor of our hotel building. This was a very slick operation. At the front desk you are given your own card. There is a pasta station, a salad station, a pizza station and a bar and dessert station. You place your order, swipe your card and then at the end of the evening, you pay your bill. It’s a very simple and efficient way of taking orders and organizing a bill split between multiple people if that’s the way you choose to do it, as you each have your own card.
Vapiano describes itself as ‘fresh casual’ and that is very true of the look and feel of their restaurant. There are tubs of fresh herbs growing all through the restaurant and even at each table and it gives the whole place a welcoming and informal feel. There are a selection of high and low wooden tables, with soft lighting. The air is redolent with garlic.
The menu is fairly simple, and broken down into the four categories or stations mentioned above. I was a little disappointed that there was no gluten-free pizza available – they make the pizza dough themselves on premise. Happily, I was reassured by the many ‘GF’ notations against the pasta sauce options. Underneath these was a tiny footnote to say that the gluten-free pasta was gnocchi. GNOCCHI!!!! I had to double check to make sure. Happy, happy days – I love gnocchi and rarely have it as I can’t be bothered making it. Just a note that they also make all their pasta on the premises too!
At the pasta station, you tell one of the chefs at the counter what you would like to have. That night, I chose the gnocchi with a fresh basil pesto (made on the premises), roasted pinenuts and extra mushrooms. And here’s the kicker – when I asked for it gluten-free, the chef said “are you coeliac and would you like this cooked in fresh water?” How great is that?
I inhaled my pasta so fast that I forgot to take a photo that night or a couple of nights later when I grabbed another order of gnocchi, this time with sundried tomatoes and chilli. Again, the chef asked if I was coeliac.
Highly recommend Vapiano for a great dining experience (and I’ll talk more about the salted caramel white chocolate cheesecake in another post!).
Vapiano is located on the ground floor of the Grace Hotel, corner of King and York Sts in the Sydney CBD.