I wanted to take my dad and his wife to see the Shard in London as they had not seen the view of London from that side of the river. I booked brunch at Aqua as I really didn’t like Hutong. My friend Claire mentioned she didn’t like Aqua and I got confused as I recalled we had both been to Aqua and liked it. But when I actually walked in the building and saw signs for Aqua and Oblix, I suddenly realized how much of an idiot I am as I realized that both Claire and I had previously been to Oblix, not Aqua, and had liked it a lot. I am blaming my stupidity on my brains still being on holiday (I have become more British haven’t i? Using holiday versus vacation…). Anyway, it was too late to change and I had some hope that Claire had bad luck at Aqua and that we would have a good meal.
I always think that restaurants with a view tend to deliver mediocre food as people are willing to go and pay for the experience. Oblix (https://samstewartetc.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/london-oblix/) and Duck &Waffle (at the Heron tower) are exceptions and I’ve had very good meals at both places.
The meal at Aqua was ok, but for £48 for a three course brunch (only available option), I wouldn’t go back. To be honest, none of the dishes were good enough to make me go back, even if it was a la carte. But the view was still lovely and we all enjoyed the experience. The restaurant’s décor is also plain and not as pretty as Oblix which is way more modern and interesting.
They have four types of Bloody Mary’s and we thought they were very tasty. We didn’t dare try the bacon washed vodka version…..
What we ate
On the menu, you have around five options for each course and there are three courses per person.
6 Colchester Oysters: very fresh and large oysters with a lovely dressing.
Beetroot cured salmon with aromatic jelly, trout roe: probably the best dish of the entire lunch, both when it comes to taste and visually. The salmon was sliced thinly and had an aioli on the border and some dollops of the aromatic jelly which were hard to spot exactly. The roe was sparse (good news in my book) but added a fun dimension to the dish.
Game terrine, toasted sourdough, redcurrant jelly, pickles: looked grey and tasted ok as there were hints of truffle, but I am not a terrine person so have a hard time loving any of them. Plus, the somewhat grey tint was a bit off putting.
Butternut squash soup, chestnut cubes, grilled ceps, truffle popcorn: sounded great but was the biggest disappointment. The soup was extremely watery and tasteless, the chestnut cubes irrelevant and the popcorn brought on the side was soggy and not very truffly. My dad’s wife left almost the entire thing on the plate.
Grilled swordfish, heirloom tomato salad, rocket salsa, lemon caper dressing: I think this was the best main course. The swordfish was a beautiful perfect piece and was cooked perfectly. The tomato seemed more like cherry tomatoes vs. heirloom but were still tasty and the rocket salsa was vibrant and good.
Gammon steak, poached Clarence duck egg, Cumberland sausage, land cress salad, onion marmalade, English mustard: the gammon (pork) was thinly pounded and dry but the sausage was very tasty. The egg was well poached and the mustard added a nice touch but it was average and didn’t impress us.
Corn mill gnocchi, stilton cheese, plum tomato & basil salsa: the corn mill added a very grainy texture to the gnocchi and made us dream of the traditional pillowy potato ones. The sauce was good but the stilton was MIA.
Winter forest of red velvet cake, bitter chocolate mousse, cranberry and maraschino cherry compote: this dish was a total snooze fest. Felt like we were eating a dessert from the 70s……red velvet cake +mousse +whipped cream galore. And none of the components were particularly tasty and the cake was dry.
70% pecan tart with butterscotch ice cream: this was the best dessert. Nice tart with rich chocolate and just some pecans on top. The ice cream didn’t taste like butterscotch and was more a very mellow hint of it but worked well with the tart.
British cheeses: nice and generous portion but not particularly outstanding. Maybe that’s because we were at La Fromagerie (www.lafromagerie.co.uk ) the previous day and had a phenomenal cheese plate.
In Sum: Aqua Shard is alive because of its stunning views but neither the food nor the space have much soul or personality. The food seems dated and the decor is plain so if you want the view, go to Oblix instead.
Level 31 The Shard
31 St. Thomas Street London, UK SE1 9RY
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