Located within, though not part of, the Grace Hotel, Vapiano was an easy option for me as I was staying at the hotel.
This is an excellent Italian restaurant following a concept with which I was not familiar, outside a reasonably upmarket food court I had eaten at in Beijing. When you enter the restaurant you are handed a chip card (like a credit card) which has a nominal value of A$75 – the amount you have to pay should you loose it during your visit. Having secured the card you make your way to one or more of the separate stations where you can order pizza, salads, pasta or drinks/desserts. Having placed your order you swipe your card and the applicable cost is added. When the food is ready you go and get it (I was given a buzzer device). At the conclusion of your meal your return the card and pay for the food and drinks accumulated thereon. While I had no trouble placing orders, I did notice that when I was leaving that there was quite a queue at the pasta station so you might want to consider that if you plan on going at peak times.
In terms of seating (across two levels), the majority of this is at high large share tables though a number of smaller (still high) tables exist. I generally avoid places with shared seating but it actually worked here in subdued lighting with plenty of plants to break the place up a bit – overall a great ambience but not a place for an intimate dinner for two.
In terms of food, I stated with a barbecue pollo pizza. This comprised of chicken breast, red onion, smoked cheese on a homemade thin base with tomato, barbecue sauce and mozzarella. This was beautifully cooked and very tasty if a little light on the chicken. I made it even more enjoyable by accompanying it with a glass of decent Riesling.
For dessert I was tempted by a delicious honeycomb topped cheesecake affair, served in a pot. I gave in to temptation.
I rounded off my excellent meal with a cup of very nice coffee.
The total bill (May 2015) was what I considered a very reasonable A$44 (though the wine was a little expensive).
If you are comfortable with the way food is ordered/served and the shared table concept I highly recommend Vapiano, King Street (the latest in a small chain of about six of these restaurants on the East Coast of Australia – they are much larger overseas) for its food, casual ambience and value for money.
On writing the above, which I have no need to amend, I did read other reviews on this restaurant and many of them rate it extremely poorly lambasting the requirement to stand and wait while your pasta is prepared (having watched that of everyone ahead of you in to queue do the same). I wonder why the buzzer concept used at the pizza station cannot be applied at the pasta counter. The other major complaint relates to the view that the whole concept does not work if more than a couple of people are dining together. While I was one and it worked fine for me I am inclined to imagine things would be different if I was with family or friends.
Opens 11am daily. Closes 11pm Sun-Thur and midnight Fri-Sat.
Address: Corner of King and York Street, Sydney
Price Comparison: about average
Phone: (02) 9299 0079