A little bit of Italy in the heart of Brisbane

16 02 2010

I have to admit that when it comes to ‘fast food’, I’m not a great fan; of course there is a time and a place for the McDonalds and Hungry Jacks/Burger Kings of the world, but there is also something to be said for putting the stresses of life to one side and enjoying a meal in good company.  Even when time does not permit.  So it was with this in mind that I detoured from the chaos of the Queen Street Mall in Brisbane’s CBD to the newly opened Albert Lane and its chic Italian eatery, Vapiano.

The restaurant, a term which could be loosely applied to the venue, is the first Australian-based outlet following the success of the US and European chains, and is bustling with skirts and suits on reprieve from their inner-city cubby houses.  Greeted enthusiastically at the door, my friend and I were not only introduced to the vibrant and airy dining room, with a mix of high set and low-to-the-ground tables that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Alice in Wonderland, iron lamps and pots of fresh herbs for diners’ pleasure, but we were given a brief run-down on the quirky billing system.  (Which also removed any confusion around ‘split bills’!)  Further intrigue surrounded the open view pasta, pizza and short order stations, affording diners with a first-hand look at meal preparation, perhaps forming a sort of ‘quality control’.  A bold move.

On this visit, my friend and I each ordered pizza; a Verdure and a Diavolo.  Both were delicious, and the thin crust was reminiscent of my time in Italy.  The Verdure was a meatless pizza on a tomato base topped with a selection of roast vegetables and mozzarella cheese, and the Diavolo – also made on a traditional tomato base – featured pepperoni, capsicum, onion and fresh mozzarella cheese.

The later discovery that all ingredients were sourced locally, within a 150km radius of Brisbane, as part of Vapiano’s commitment to local produce was welcome.  The pasta and pizza are also made fresh daily, only adding to the sense of quality in what was being devoured and digested.

Set over two levels, a sneak upstairs revealed an open-air bar and two other dining spaces, making Vapiano a space catering for up to 235 diners.

Despite the marvellous food and novel surroundings, there are two things I would have to fault Vapiano on.  The first was the amount of noise.  This is not a restaurant affording intimacy (and fortunately my friend and I weren’t seeking such), and with large numbers of hungry people the echo of conversation bouncing off timber floors and glass doors made most forms of conversation tricky.  The second fault is in the theme of the restaurant.  It is Italian, and I love Italian food; so much so that I also look for a flow through in the written menu (there was a mix of English and Italian description) and in the pronunciation of menu items by staff, to ensure enjoyment is my overall experience.  Here, I was let down.

Vapiano is a little bit of Italy in the heart of Brisbane.  Make it a must-do on your list of places to enjoy good food and wine without having to leave the country.

Overall rating: 3 out of 5

Vapiano details:
 Address – Albert Lane, Queen Street Mall, Brisbane, QLD
 Food – Italian
 Drink – Licensed 
 Prices – Antipasti from $6.00, Salads start at $7.00, Pasta and pizza from $13.00, and Dolci from $7.00.

Vapiano is open from 11.00am – 11.00pm 7 days a week.




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