On top of the world | Aqua Shard, Level 31 The Shard, Joiner Street, London SE1 9SP
Sometimes it’s nice to go and have a proper grown-up meal. After two nights on the trot of satisfying our ‘dude food’ cravings, we sat down for something a little more refined.
We didn’t give Aqua Shard much of a chance, they had only opened the day before. But we knew a group like this would have things sorted out from day one and it was an invitation too good to miss. We loved the Spanish Aqua Nueva off Regents Street and the Shard branch offers suitably appropriate British fare, but of course with that Aqua twist. The menu has been devised by owner David Yeo and executive chef Anthony Garlando (protégé of master chef Pierre Gagnaire) and is inspired by the British Isles, but with a French influence.
Things started off well with the magical slimming mirrors in the Shard lifts, if only the mirrors surrounding us in the restaurant were quite so forgiving. I had to squint every time I turned around, no one wants to watch themselves eating, do they?
The space is vast, sprinkled with Prince style purple plush comfy chairs, and of course being a glass building – it’s full of light. The blinds can be lowered if asked, although the whole side of the restaurant is affected so a risky ask. Tip: if coming here on a date, wait for sunset. Unless you have no flaws of course, and if that’s the case, I hate you.
We were seated facing the window with our backs to the restaurant, I don’t think I’ve ever sat like this in my life. My dad always plonked me where I can ‘see what’s going on’ and I still follow that advice to this day. Ade told me that Anthea Turner was on a table behind us but I couldn’t subtly peer round to gawp at her. Still, it added to the experience as the view isn’t to be scoffed at. A soundtrack of chill out music played on a loop, this was pretty much the only thing that went wrong, not bad going for day two.
The cocktails we chose were both fresh and light. Ade’s Stinging Tommy’s £11.50 – Tequila with St. Germain Elderflower liqueur, stinging nettle agave nectar, Citronge, lime juice and coriander seed tincture was so refreshing, like a pimped up Margarita… My Finsbury Punch £11.50, was equally rejuvenating. The Belvedere gin and Stone’s ginger wine and an aperitif wine bounces off the plum and peach bitters and grapefruit juice.
To begin Ade went for Poached veal tongue – wild asparagus, smoked beef shin, lentil dressing, herbs and sprouts £10. The tongue was unbelievably tender and the shin had that perfect texture. The dressing was magic, layers and layers of flavour ending with a burst of crisp citrus.
My Grilled octopus and Scottish mackerel with tomato sorbet, pickled shallots, aubergine dressing and crispy potato £10 was beautiful, but perhaps the words octopus and mackerel need to be reversed on the menu as there was a minimal amount of octopus. The fish was so very gently cooked and the spicy tomato sorbet was crying out to be mopped up with the bread.
Ade went for the Rhug Estate salt marsh lamb saddle with aubergine, goat’s cheese, red pepper, young garlic, fondant potato, lamb jus £26. Butter-soft meat with melt-in-the-mouth fat, a translucent thin disc of sweet red pepper and a goats cheesed wrapped in charred aubergine. A side of Grilled sweetcorn, spicy lime butter and Bermondsey hard mousse £4.50, added some crunch to the dish. Ade also loved the spicy lime butter too, I just know that he’s going to try to recreate it next time we have a BBQ.
Roasted wood pigeon with blackcurrant, tenderstem broccoli, caramelized golden pear, cognac and pepper jus £29 was such a great combination, the blackcurrant and game a top idea, a burst of freshness from the pear. The little confit nuggets added another level of richness. We love how intricate the dishes are at Aqua, hidden surprises and flavours leaping out from every layer.
For the first time this week my stomach hadn’t swelled to the size of someone five months pregnant after eating. This meant I had more than enough room for dessert and more importantly, to appreciate it. Eton Mess 2013 with guava sorbet, fresh raspberry and vanilla Chantilly £7.50 was deceptively filling, but gorgeous. A perfect white dome crammed with soft Chantilly and a suspiciously naughty looking berry perched on top. I think someone had fun with this dessert…
Ade’s Hot apricot rice pudding with spiced pineapple and sugared pecans £7.50 was possibly the prettiest rice pudding I’ve ever seen and definitely the best he’s ever tasted. The sugared nuts and spiced pineapple pieces added texture as well as looks, he loved the secret layer of sweet apricot puree hidden under the pudding.
As we sat watching the sun come down whilst finishing off our wine, I looked out and spotted Ade and I’s work terrace where I sit at lunchtime. Sat on a Teletubbie style mound of damp grass, eating a cheap sandwich admiring the beauty of the sparkling Shard in front of me. When it first started shooting up I doubted its future, I can’t believe that I ever hated this building. Now I know what’s in it I love it even more and cast a knowing glance at it every day when I get my morning coffee. Especially after a sneaky peek at Aqua’s other restaurant Hutong upstairs on the way out – simply stunning, London is very lucky indeed.
Level 1 The Shard, Joiner Street,
London SE1 9SP
Telephone: 020 7478 0540
Opening hours: 12pm-12am.
Lunch/dinner served 12-3 and 6-11.
Breakfast and afternoon tea imminent.
Nearest tube: London Bridge