Last night, Hubby Dearest and I were invited to the birthday of one of my best friends, and decided to make it into a date night and go out for dinner beforehand...
I had heard about Aqua Nueva a while back when it opened but we never got round to trying it out, so this was the perfect opportunity, with my girlfriend's birthday at Home House just round the corner on Portman Square for the second part of our evening.
Frankly, I wasn't too impressed at first, as the "front desk" was shambolic and pretentious, with receptionists who were a combination of snobby and slightly out of it... Customers pour out of two lifts and are made to queue at the same place to check in their coats and ask for their table; when it's finally your turn, you have to explain what restaurant you have booked for, Spanish or Japanese, even though Nueva and Kyoto are one and the same so you'd think they would merge the bookings records? No... It all felt a bit like arriving at JFK from South America. When they finally got round to it, we were walked to our table, by a young lady who seemed to have decided to test my ability to run in Tribtoos, tsk tsk.
Thankfully, everything changed from the moment we sat down, at least service-wise!.. Our waitress and the Maitre D' were professional and friendly, and we were served promptly.
I was a bit disappointed by the tapas menu, seeing as this is a restaurant that sells itself as a Tapas Bar, there were at most ten tapas on offer, including the very classic croquetas (not as nice as I've had them in much lower-profile restaurants, more a ball of fried bechamel...) and some razor-shells with asparagus and almonds which were the star of this course for me. The pan con tomate tasted a bit too much of stale bread and not enough of garlic, despite the thick tomato layer on it and the calamares was delicious if a bit too "meaty". Time for mains...
If the starters were a bit hit and miss, the mains were totally divine. I had hake with a sauce of ink rice, and Hubby Dearest opted for pigeon. Both were perfectly cooked and really brought the taste of Spain to a very cold and wet London.
As I am a bit obsessed with Creme Brulee (Crema Catalana in Spanish), I was very intrigued by the deconstructed version in the menu, and I have to say it was a delicious dessert, but didn't remind me in any way of my favourite sweet dish. I thought it was a bit closer to a deconstructed lemon cream cake.
So, what did I make of Aqua Nueva? It has a nice buzz for a night out and the decor is really lovely (check out my blurry self-portrait against the cool metallic tiles of the corridors). If you can get past the silly antics of reception and choose with care, you're in for a lovely meal. The clientele is, just like London, a mix of financiers, young bright things, cool cliques, old and new couples on date night, and some pretty desperate ladies exhibiting vast amounts of flesh... I wore a vintage YSL dress with my Tribtoo slingbacks, accessorised with my Mombasa hobo, it was a 100% Yves night!
One last word, if you're lucky to be out on a dry night, make sure to check out the roof terrace, the views are unbelievable, although I can't attest of that myself seeing as I didn't want to end up drenched half-way into our meal...
240 Regent's Street (entrance on Argyll Street)
0 207 478 0540