Vapiano, Ü Hacibəyov 6/8, Baku. www.vapiano.com Tel.: 012 598 8118
Now I can tell some stories about this place, like the time, much to our amusement and to the recipient’s disgust, we found a two inch live grasshopper in a salad or the occasion when I was made to wait in the street because I had arrived two minutes before the official opening time at 11 am but, none the less, I still love this restaurant! Recently opened and conveniently located right on Malakan Gardens, it’s light and airy with a cool Mediterranean ambience, fresh looking pine tables, funky furniture, lots of herbs and plants and helpful friendly staff. For Baku, this German owned Italian restaurant franchise which has 120 outlets worldwide, offers some much appreciated International flair.
Vapiano operates on what you might call an Ikea principle: the punter gets to do all the work, in this case, however, without being rewarded by lower prices. On entering the restaurant, you get issued with a credit card sized purchasing card, this you then take to each of the food stations where you order your food or drink, swipe your card and carry your items to the table of your choice. During peak times when the restaurant is full, this canteen style lay-out can lead to some annoying queuing since you can’t order your pizza, pasta, salad or coffee in the same place or at the same time but really, that’s just a minor inconvenience and it’s easily made up for by the fact that you can watch your food being made to order with squeaky fresh ingredients. When you’re ready to leave, you present your smart card and pay; Gummi Bears are on offer to sweeten the experience.
The food itself is perhaps not in the exquisite league but I have had perfectly decent Spaghetti Aglio e Olio which at my request was cooked ‘al dente’ and with less oil than normal, a tasty crunchy salad (minus grasshopper) with good dressing on the side, a very nicely prepared thin crust juicy topped pizza and a very moreish Death by Chocolate dessert cake. The coffee is good too with a selection of yummy little Italian biscuits available to take the edge off that sweet craving!
Different seating options from low slung sofa banquettes to bar stool high tables as well as conventional normal height dining tables are inviting, irrespective of whether you are a big group for lunch or dinner or whether you just want to while away the time by yourself with a good book over a cup of coffee. Anything goes.
Pricewise it’s not cheap – nowhere in Baku is- but it’s not horrendous either and considering the good vibe and the very palatable fresh food, I’d say that it’s reasonable value for money.