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|Address:||31st & 33rd floors, The Shard, 31 St. Thomas Street, London SE1 9SP|
|Tel:||020 7768 3416|
|Price: £60.00||Wine: £22.00||Champagne: £55.00|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Sun 7-10.30am 12N-3pm 6-11pm (Sat-Sun 8.30am- )|
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The restaurant has one very positive feature – the view is incredible.
Beyond that, the story is disappointment and missed opportunity. It feels like the owner is cashing in on that glorious view – people will come for it regardless of how much effort is put into the restaurant itself.
The initial impression is good. A buzzing atmosphere, smartly dressed staff, dark and sexy decor plus an open backdrop from the expansive glass panorama running floor to ceiling for three floors.
However, it starts going wrong almost immediately.
The staff at the door and inner reception are uncoordinated, although friendly.
Step away from the well lit threshold and the decor no longer seems dark and sexy. Its just dark. Very dark. Dark and a bit dingy in fact. It is so dark that I don't feel comfortable finding a path through to my table. It is so dark that I don't think I will be able to read the menu. There are actually small spotlight beams over each table but you have to find a seating position that illuminates the menu.
You soon also realise that the atmosphere is less buzzing than just loud. Really loud. Too loud for a comfortable conversation at the table unless you want to shout at your companions. We gave up on conversation and resorted to nods and gestures. It is a big space and the sound seems to hang in the air. It felt more like a bar or a club than a restaurant. In fact it would probably make a better bar than restaurant.
Then there is the service. Some of the staff were very friendly. Others seemed to believe that an air of arrogant detachment (although not rudeness, they were still polite) was the suitable tone. All were hopeless. I am sure that all, even the arrogantly detached staff, were well intentioned. However, the staff didn't seem to know much about the menu or the wine list and did not know how to wait a table. It took about 15 minutes to order an aperitif and the waiter seemed surprised that we did not want to go straight for a bottle of wine ("an aperitif, so you don't want wine then?" as the waiter tried to take the wine glasses from the table). We mostly poured the wine and water ourselves because none of the staff could seem to remember to do it. I actually felt sorry for the staff because I think they were doing their best and just lacked training or supervision. However, at £150 per head including the wine (and aperitif) I do expect good service.
The other thing I expect at that price is good food. So I was disappointed on that count as well. A starter of beet broth tasted like a bowl of warm water. I forget what my wife ate for a starter but I do remember her commenting that it was utterly forgettable. The mains were better but nothing special. I had a ribeye steak and my wife had fish. Plain and simple, not bad but no better than good pub fare. We both had a rice pudding dessert which was reasonable.
If you want a restaurant with a view that serves great food and had fantastic service then my suggestion would be to try Galvin at Windows or maybe the Oxo Tower Restaurant. They cost about the same as Aqua, have fantastic atmosphere, feel light and airy, have excellent staff and serve amazing food. At Galvin and Oxo you are paying for the standard of service, the quality of the food and the excellent experience. Unfortunately, it feels like Aqua are just taking your money and laughing at you because you let them do it.