I believe it is important to read a review before heading out to the actual place. Doing so, you avoid going to the wrong establishment on the wrong occasion… I mean why take your first date to a sophisticated underground gourmet, and vice versa take your best mate to a romantic Oriental club in Mayfair.
And this exactly what you should keep in mind before approaching Aqua Nueva. It is not a place to impress your gourmet friends, yet if you are trying to get some action with a lady well, this is it! So for your first date needs, this venue tick all the boxes. Probably the most stunning interior and location (especially on a sunny day) around Oxford Circus, however the glamorous bar does not actually serve food, so perhaps I should not get myself influenced by the bar in the restaurant review
Anyway the restaurant: First of all do not confuse aqua nueva with aqua kyoto, as the 2 experiences are completely different.
Let’s stick to topic, aqua nueva… it is made of the tapas bar and the more formal dining restaurant. I' d avoid the restaurant, I didnt eat there, but it feels like it could easily consume you £200 for a good but not excellent experience…So if you are looking for top class upmarket food go somewhere else…
I decided to sit at the tapas bar – here is where it gets more funny; closer to the ladies, closer to the bar, more enjoyable and less formal. And I have actually enjoyed my night at the Tapas bar. Why? Ok ignore the service, (quite sub-standard and not the sort of warm attentive service you'd expect from your local tapas bar) – yet if you have a passion for food it is interesting to observe how the chef prepares and composes the plates. Very tidy and well organized open air kitchen, that feels almot like a laboratory. Anyone with the slightest experience in a restaurant kitchen would appreciate that
And what about the actual food? The results are good (yet places like brindisa or el pirata de tapas deliver better value for money). My selection included a toast with cured meat (not the best spanish saucisson, but a very innovative flat pizza or tomato bread as bruschetta) skew of cattlefish (good to look at, slightly too hard to eat) a plate of Spanish cured meat (good selection of meats for the affordable price), pancetta wrapped scallops with saffron onion (probably the best plate) a sous vide cooked lamb with finely cut root vegetable (simple but perfectly executed) chorizo and quail egg (simple dish, yet not too convinced by the choice of sausage on the plate)
All the plates are fairly priced (remember that it s not an east London venue in a warehouse, but the most sumptuous central London location). In conclusion go on a date, sit at the bar, be prepared and finally, to thoroughly enjoy the experience, look at, and engage with the chef standing in front you methodically preparing the tapas… You will be going home feeling that “ok it was enjoyable and i have even learnt some cooking skills