Last week I had the pleasure of attending Aqua for a Japanese lunch. Primly positioned atop the former Dickins & Jones department store on Regents Street and with sister restaurants in Hong Kong and Beijing, Aqua London has an esteemed reputation to live up to.
From the street, the restaurant looks sleek and not overly inviting. The discrete entrance on Argyll Street reeks of exclusivity – if you have no booking, you are not getting in here. Upon entering into a gloriously dark, minimalistic and very large room, I was courteously guided to the elevator where I was taken to the fifth floor. The place is overwhelming in size and the dim lighting permeates the mood. Two hosts greeted me from the elevator, and I was greeted by another another at the restaurant entrance. Finally, and thankfully, I saw daylight at the other side of the restaurant.
Just like that, any misconceptions I may have had on arrival about Aqua vanished like the sunlight had done on my arrival. I had reached a little rooftop nirvana situated high above the roaring streets of London. As I sat and waited for my guest, I observed my surroundings. My first contemplation was that this would be a place even more seductive by night than it is by day. The balcony is spacious, but small enough to feel exclusively private. In true Japanese simplicity, the décor relied only upon wooden decked flooring with ivory-coloured wicker chairs and small cushioned stools. The seating was a little low, but diners around me sat next to each other and sank into the deep, cushioned bench positioned along the restaurant wall, casually cradling bowls of miso soup and positioning dishes of tempura on their laps. Of course, tall stools accompanied high tables that gazed out across the London skyline. The ambience was that perfect combination of elegant and chic fused with a laid-back attitude, the sort of place that was born to provide relaxed lunches to discerning diners. At one end of the balcony stands a fully equipped bar offering some of the most sumptuous cocktails I have ever tasted from the restaurant’s Aqua Spirit cocktail menu. Whilst I went for the refreshing ‘Kyoto Breeze’, a delicious and fruity mix of Tanqueray gin, St Germain Elderflower and dry sherry combined with fresh apple and cranberry juice, my guest indulged in the truly exquisite ‘Rose & Li’ – Veuve Clicquot NV with rose liqueur and lychee, adorned with flowering rose buds. Certainly, if the food at Aqua Kyoto isn’t enough to tempt you, Aqua Spirit is the perfect destination for evening cocktails and soirees.
The service was impeccable. As we sipped our cocktails and basked in our Japanese sanctuary in the glorious midday sun, we were brought salted Edamame beans to nibble on. We decided to make use of the Donburi express set lunch menu. Ordering teriyaki beef and seabass sashimi, respectively, when our food arrived we were greeted with a wooden tray complete with ordered dish, a bowl of delicious miso soup, pickles and a small slice of chocolate torte. The food was fresh, precise and presented with finesse; all you could want for a quick and delectable lunch.
The definitive selling point of Aqua London? Its fantastic location and sky-high allure. In a city full of rooftop bars and eateries, this is one of London’s finest. The food was delicious, perhaps not enough to stand up against London’s finest Japanese cuisine, but the ideal place for an express business lunch or casual rendez-vous with friends with just a little hint of indulgence.
240 Regent Street
City of Westminster
(entrance on 30 Argyll Street)
Call 020 7478 0540 to make a reservation.
Written by Rebecca Atherton – 17/8/12