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This is not casual dining as you know it. Walk in the door and be handed a plastic card - your own personal tab.
By Daniela Sunde-Brown
September 18, 2013
By Daniela Sunde-Brown
September 18, 2013

Dining out with friends is all good fun until someone tries to split the bill. If Tim, Tahlia and Tony shared a bottle of wine, Thomas had an entree, Tamika ordered three gin and tonics, Tim couldn’t help but have dessert, meanwhile Tahlia and Tony crack a second bottle -  you’ve got a mighty mess on your hands. And besides, it’s not fair on ‘budget-wise Tess’ to split the bill even if she refrained from dessert or even a sneaky vino.

Enter, Vapiano. This is not casual dining as you know it. Walk in the door and be handed a plastic card - your own personal tab. No messy sharing, you’ll walk out with no bitter disputes. The venue is massive - a double storey mega-complex hidden in a lane just off Queen Street Mall. Not exactly a date venue, the solid wooden tables are designed for four or more - each features a small marble planter with a lamp and fresh basil or rosemary plants to enhance your food. The design is clean and unique - making it hard to believe Vapiano is indeed an international franchise with the same fit-out replicated across Europe and in Egypt, Brazil and South Korea.

Food wise, the highlight was most certainly the antipasti plate. Stacked high with an amazing buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto, pepperoni, parmesan, olives, roast veges and bruschetta, the small size ($13.9) was on par with many boards you’d find elsewhere for double the price.

We couldn’t let the L’acacia pizza go past without a try. Almost dessert-like in flavour, a strong hit of honey reaches your taste buds before the salty prosciutto and tomato base weigh out the sensation. The pizza base is beautifully thin and crisp with a great woodfired taste that allows the toppings to shine. A little sparse on the fig, but not on other flavours. We also opted for the Gamberi e Rucola, with classic italiano flavours the olives and prawns ran beautifully with a generous topping of fresh rocket giving a healthy and light flavour.

The rocket and walnut salad ($10.9) was tasty, albeit a little drowned. Despite receiving a mixed leaf base rather than rocket, the lettuce leaves were crisp and very fresh. Vapiano’s pasta is made fresh on site. You line up to watch your dish being made and while it’s fun to interact with the chefs as they work, it’s a little alarming seeing how much butter, oil and cream gets added to each dish. They say ignorance is bliss, but thankfully the taste makes up for it.

Staff are friendly and upbeat - our pasta cooker was a bit of a joker, asking how our night was - and the venue has a great relaxed and fun vibe. With bars on both levels, cocktails aren’t far - nor is dessert. At $3.9 a pop, get yourself a jar of cheesecake, tiramisu or panna cotta. You won’t regret it, because Tess, life’s too short not to order dessert.

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