Restaurant chains in London are making a comeback 

HUMP DAY SPECIAL!!You’re probably still at work or rushing to finish your work BUT let me ask you this, have you been following my updates on Instagram and Twitter (click on the links to view)? If not, why not?! It gives you the most up-to-date information on where I am eating and what’s new in London. Also a great way to relax watching all these delicious photos of food 😉

I will admit- I rarely go to chain restaurants unless I REALLY have to. I find the menu is not that exciting. Everything on there seems like you can get it at any other restaurant- nothing really stands out for me.  Everything is just so….ordinary. Yet, we pay around the same price for a plate of food you can probably get at an independent pop-up or up and coming stand-alone restaurant.

Here enters The Real Greek and Vapiano who have taken the changing trends in the food industry on board as well as the diners’ expectation and tried to offer something different to what you would expect from them.

I decided to go and check out The Real Greek’s latest branch on St. Martin’s Lane and Vapiano’s new-ish branch in Soho.

The Real Greek, St. Martin’s Lane:

The Real Greek in Covent Garden

I love Greek food! I deliberately stayed away from The Real Greek as it always seemed like a restaurant where I won’t be getting proper Greek food (chain syndrome and all!) With the opening of their new branch on St. Martin’s Lane, I thought I need to put my assumptions aside and actually go try it out.

I love the interior of this branch as compared to their other branches especially the ones in Westfield. With signature branding of Greek phrases and laid back seating atmosphere- first impression was a good one!

In terms of food we decided to order a bit of everything! Between the two of us I think we ordered just the right amount of food. They also do a £10 pre-theatre menu which is great value for money.

Started off with the obligatory Greek flatbread with olive oil and dukkah. The spice and nuts mix added lovely texture to a plain flatbread and oil dish. The bread was warm and wholesome and not cold and stiff- always a good start!

starters at the real greek covent garden
GREEK FLATBREAD with OLIVE OIL & DUKKAH

One of my favourites on the menu was the watermelon and feta salad. Such a simple salad yet perfect for summer. It went perfectly with the other dishes we offered and served as a great palate cleanser.

salad at the real greek covent garden
WATERMELON & FETA SALAD

The flavours in the Bifteki were delicious however it was a bit dry so had to be doused in the yogurt sauce as well as the tomato sauce from the lamb meatballs.

homemade lamb burgers at the real greek covent garden
BIFTEKI

These guys manage the lack of table space really well. However, if you’re on a date it could work for or against you! The stacks of plate can either be a welcome addition to your evening (haha!) or a distraction. Play hide and seek while you’re at it! 😛

lunch at the real greek covent garden london

No greek meal is complete without the obligatory Souvlaki. We ordered the Chicken Souvlaki to share. The flavours were fresh, meat was tender and the bread thick enough to soak all the lovely juices from the filling. I will order this again!

souvlaki at the real greek covent garden
Chicken Souvlaki Wrap

If you love Halloumi as much as my friend, then order the Halloumi and vegetable skewers. The skewers were cooked well and complemented all the other food we had ordered Perhaps add more vegetables to the skewers as Halloumi can get a bit overwhelming in terms of flavour.

vegetarian dish at the real greek covent garden
HALLOUMI & VEGETABLE SKEWER

One of our favourites was the lamb meatballs! This, the watermelon salad, souvlaki and that greek flatbread- perfect meal! The tomato and yogurt concoction gave this dish a lot of personality and our taste buds- a joy ride.

lamb meatballs at the real greek covent garden
LAMB MEATBALLS

By this time, we were rolling on our chairs in a self-induced food coma, yet the thought of dessert kept us going. We thought to ourselves- no we shall not deprive ourselves of this. And so whilst browsing through the menu and ignoring the 1000+ calories dessert, we finally found the one that would annihilate our bellies- the caramel and pecan cheesecake.

I’m not a fan of cheesecake but damn, that cheesecake was good! The caramel top, perfectly positioned pecans and it was cold just to the right temperature. I don’t know what it was- but all I could say was damn girl!

dessert at the real greek covent garden
CARAMEL & PECAN CHEESECAKE

For more information on the restaurants, various venues and menu, click here my lazy friends (JK!!)

Vapiano, Soho:

The first Vapiano I went to was in Oxford Circus around 4 years ago. I remember walking in and being handed a card to top up with whatever I order and pay at the end. I thought it was a very cool concept as no other restaurant was doing anything like this, let alone accepting mobile payments. How times have changed!

However, what I also remember from my numerous experiences of eating here is how busy that place was, the live cooking stations were cool but the chefs were always rushed and the end product (apart from the fun of a live theatre) wasn’t always that great. And so, I fell out of love with Vapiano. I would reluctantly go as I did not want to queue up to order my food and then struggle to find a table. The whole experience was just tiresome!

I suppose Vapiano realised this and opened another branch near London Bridge and then one in Soho. I walked past the Soho branch a few times and met some friends there but never really ate there.

I took this opportunity to go check out their branch in Soho and see whether my opinion was still the same as before or had it changed.

A group of three very hungry girls headed to Vapiano in Soho. Everyone loves pasta and pizza- it’s a winning combination for anyone with varying dietary needs. There was a carnivore (guess who!!), a vegetarian and a gluten intolerant- Vapiano was in for a challenge.

Much relaxed atmosphere than their Oxford Circus branch and the staff is super helpful. Luckily, no race to grab the first table available unless you come at peak dining times where Soho comes to a stand still and the only place left to sit and eat is the road outside. Thankfully that didn’t happen!

I find the high table seating is not that great for big groups as you can’t have a proper conversation or share food if you are sitting across from each other (especially for a shorty like me!). However, they have other tables that don’t have the obtrusive lamps or basil and rosemary plants 😀

interior seating Vapiano soho

Starving and ready to devour the food, we headed up to the chefs’ stations.

vegetarian pasta at Vapiano Soho London
AGLIO E OLIO £6.95 Garlic, chilli, parsley & olive oil (with spelt pasta)

My vegetarian friend had no issue in ordering the food as there is a lot of vegetarian options where as my gluten intolerant friend opted for the Aglio e Olio with gluten-less (not to be confused with gluten free) spelt pasta. In her own words:

“This dish had a lot of potential but there were two glaring mistakes: the spelt pasta strands were all glued (fused?!) together and you could lift all of them at once with your fork; and the dish was very dry [sadface]. I semi-saved it by dousing the pasta with olive oil and throwing in bits of the strawberry spinach salad. This salad makes EVERYTHING taste better!”

Talking of THAT strawberry and spinach salad- it was gorgeous– not only in looks but taste wise! Pretty much made everything taste great. The warm goats’ cheese on top- yummy! 😀

salad at Vapiano Soho
STRAWBERRY, SPINACH SALAD £6.75 Fresh spinach, strawberries, goats’ cheese, red onions, pine nuts and home-made raspberry maple dressing

Chef making pizza vapiano soho

We chose two vegetarian pizzas to share which were cooked to perfection. Perfect accompaniment to our pasta dishes.

pizza at Vapiano
DELL’ALPE £9.95 White pizza (no tomato sauce) with Gorgonzola, Grana Padano D.O.P, smoked cheese, figs, dried tomatoes, rocket, mozzarella
vegetarian pizza at Vapiano
RUCOLA £7.95 Rocket, Grana Padano D.O.P, tomato sauce, mozzarella

Sadly not many options for anyone with a gluten-free diet so my friend went for the Prawn Risotto off their Specials menu.

“Would I order this again? No. It was technically, a well-executed dish, but the (tomato) flavours failed to generate much interest…. until I added some strawberry spinach salad, of course!!! What a fantastic combo!” That strawberry salad- don’t take it off your menu guys!

special risotto at Vapiano Soho
Prawn Risotto

I wanted to try the Ravioli as it’s something I cook a lot at home whenever I can (store bought of course, I am not a seasoned Italian chef…yet!) It has a hearty ricotta cheese filling and the really nice chilli kick to it! Personally I would’ve preferred less sauce but my friend loved it so really depends on your preference. You can always tell the chef what you prefer and they are happy to accommodate where they can.

ravioli at Vapiano Soho London
RUCOLA RAVIOLI £8.95 Homemade ravioli with ricotta cheese filling, butter, rocket, pine nut

Another pasta dish I was recommended to try was the Scampi e Spinaci. I’ve had this experience of the pasta getting stuck together by the time you push through the horde of diners and find a table! Luckily, this time the pasta was cooked really well and the light cream sauce gave it the right consistency without drowning. I would definitely order it again and recommend it! I also love the swirls of cheese on top! dreamy… haha

seafood pasta at Vapiano Soho London
SCAMPI E SPINACI £9.95 King prawns, basil pesto, cherry tomatoes, spinach, light cream sauce

All in all- had a great evening at Vapiano after AGES!

Is it the best pasta I’ve had?! Not really but I did enjoy the dishes I had so that’s saying something.

Also, you can’t end your meal without a LARGE Tirimisu…that would be simply wrong. It was divine!#foodcomagalore

dessert at Vapiano Soho London
Tirimisu

Check these guys out here!

Next up is my feature on the ‘Light’ bites around London- what’s that about? Well stay tuned for more and don’t forget to tell your friends…SUBSCRIBE!! 😉

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