Aqua Shard: cocktails, tongues and Anthea

The-ShardVery imposing. Beautifully sculpted. So tall. Dazzling from all angles.

But that’s enough about Hugh Wright, communications manager for Aqua Shard.

Hugh, the “Gayest Man on Twitter” (and one of London’s most accomplished manscapers, a fact he omits from his CV), literally begged me to run the rule over Aqua. Well, he sent an invite.

Hugh has been my Twitter bitch for some time. We met in the world of social media in the usual way – he slagged off one of my reviews so I did what any self-respecting restaurant critic should do, and let it get personal. It’s pretty much carried on that way, the archetypal love-hate relationship. He loves me, I hate him.

It is now a few months since I took up the invite so apologies for the delay in posting this blog. The thing is, it all got a bit hazy, in the nicest possible way, and I have only recently emerged from the fog. The lovely people at The Dorchester’s sister hotel, 45 Park Lane, forced me and my old friend, Mr Purple, a veteran of Whitehall subterfuge, to try out virtually the entire cocktail list (hold on for upcoming feature) before releasing us from the mezzanine Bar and ushering us into a taxi bound for the south bank.

The ShardFloors 31 to 33 of the big glass pointy building are home to three restaurants: Aqua (“contemporary British”), Hutong (North Chinese) and Oblix (rotisserie).

Once we were ensconced in the restaurant, I couldn’t help but notice  Anthea Turner was on the next table with a gang of friends. Anthea appeared to be enjoying herself. Maybe she had popped in to Bar 45 on her way, too.

The last time I met Anthea she was at the Hyatt in Birmingham, a few years back. I introduced myself and took a picture of her. It’s one of the great moments of a glittering career in journalism.

Anyway, it’s taken until now to come down from the natural high of meeting Mr Wright and seeing Ms Turner on the same night. Then there were the cocktails, the Champagne, the New Zealand gooseberry juice…

The-ShardInevitably, everything is very new and shiny inside the restaurant. The views, everywhere, are stunning although the tables that look down over London Bridge and the Thames are obviously the premium spots. If you’ve got vertigo, go with a bag on your head.

The overriding impression is: bloody hell, it’s big. The bar and dining room cover the footprint of Dudley, only it’s up in the sky. Sadly, there is no mild on tap, not a whiff of pork scratchings.

The menu goes big on provenance and is packed with things that you might want to eat. There’s no jumping through culinary hoops, which some will find a relief. Essentially, this is not over-madly expensive comfort food for people with a bit of loot, like Anthea.

The dishes are simply listed and cleanly executed. A fresh starter of grilled octopus and Scottish mackerel is served with tomato sorbet, pickled shallots, aubergine dressing and crispy potato.
Mr Purple went out on a limb with a tongue, veal tongue to be exact.
Miley Cyrus’s favourite muscle came with smoked beef shin but wasn’t as “meaty” as you might think, lightened by wild asparagus and a lentil dressing.
The-Shard-Rhug-Estate-salt-marsh-lamb The-Shard-Dover-sole
There’s a lot of meat asking to be eaten, including saddle of Rhug Estate salt marsh lamb (with aubergine, goats cheese, red pepper, young garlic).
A kilo of longhorn beef sirloin (£67 for two) is matched with roast bone marrow, burnt onion cream and braised gem lettuce.
Fish is also strong and we tried Dover sole on the bone, jazzed up with Iberico ham, cuttlefish and cider sauce (yes, cider) and an accomplished hunk of roasted halibut with cockles, grilled langoustine, pumpkin and Swiss chard.
We finished off with some British cheeses from Neal’s Yard before giggling our way back to terra firma.

 

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