Every monumental expedition should be celebrated with a victory feast.
Sir Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay as they summited the jagged peaks of Mount Everest, Susanoo-no-Mikoto (the Shinto god of the sea and storms) defeating the eight-headed dragon Yamata no Orochi, and, er, me conquering the shoeaholic shopping crowds that crest the busy shops in Oxford Circus and Regents Street – we all had reason for jubilation and a touch of bacchanal merrymaking.
Disclaimer: We were invited guests of Aqua Kyoto but my (very many) thoughts are only ever mine and my repeat visits, I mean victory feasts attest to simply how much I enjoy their cuisine.
But, I wasn’t alone. Luckily, after an epic Saturday journey battling through the rising tide of jubilant shopaholics, a resplendent crew of brave* bloggers gathered high above the famous fashion draped crevasse** of Londonium, metaphorical swords pens at the ready.
However, unlike our striving heroes of yore, we didn’t have impossible journeys on horseback to conquer before we made it to our bottomless brunch, instead we daintily stepped into a beautifully appointed lift that whisked us to the fifth floor and a welcome cocktail in Aqua Spirit. My inimitable Angie, lifestylin’ Lauren, charming Christina, the gastronomic goddess May and I joined delectable Danielle fresh from London Fashion Week, instagram interior queen Geraldine and Adrienne scribing for Mondo Mulia in the weekend sunshine.
But, before settling ourselves into the brunch mood (and onto our light-bathed table) we quickly nipped around to Aqua Neueva, the Spanish sister of Aqua Kyoto. Having spent (too) many an evening here but never being able to snap any blogger pics, I’ve never restaurant less than full on a weekday evening and it was lovely to see the beautiful room in repose (then accidentally play #spottheblogger)…
…and the secret terrace view isn’t so bad, huh?
Our fill of the London skyline taken, we trooped back to our sushi altar table and clinked our first glasses of boundless Veuve Cliquot champagne over bowls of salt crusted edamame. If only every Saturday was this fun.
Bottomless brunch addicts, we embarked on the seven course menu with Viking-style gusto. Having nibbled at the moreish edamame beans and sipped our opening bowls of Miso – made from 3 different white miso and a special dashi stock base which gives it an extra level of flavour – we settled in for a leisurely catch up.
Fellow Kiwi and Group Executive Chef Paul Greening has been at Aqua for four years (his CV is a veritable gourmet who’s who, having worked for Pierre Koffman, Marcus Wareing and Pierre Gagnaire all over the globe) and he introduced himself to our excited group before sharing an insight into his passion for gastronomy. Strangely enough Paul and I attended the same New Zealand Unversity, though he studied a Microbiology degree that continues to influence his flavour adventures at every level of creativity.
As the champagne flowed on, to say we cooed when presented with our gorgeous omakase platters overflowing with sushi and sashimi would be an understatement.
I miss good sushi so very much, but the Aqua Kyoto kitchens never fail to make my heart happy. Nestled on specially commissioned earthern ware, we had our fill of classic nigiri, salmon and tuna sashimi and a delicious selection of maki rolls, often served with a twist. My favourite was the shrimp tempura maki – that perfect combination of texture – but the crowd pleasing salmon and avocado was excellent, not to mention the soft shell crab with avocado wrapped in unique mango “nori” made only in their restaurant kitchen.
Taking a breather mid-feast I popped out onto my favourite section of Aqua Kyoto – the terrace overlooking the regency rooftops of Oxford Circus. Using my blogger telepathy, I managed to find a quiet moment between cocktail enjoying guests and just enjoyed the skyline.
To my delight I arrived back to our table just in time for our tempura course. Enormous, succulent prawns (as big as babies arms – bonus points for naming that reference), discs of courgette and an array of vegetables (including nettle leaves) graced our table, alongside homemade kimchi and a special katsuboshi dashi dipping side.
So good. (Ps. note the wasabi plant resting on our table #onlyfoodbloggers)
My favourite dish of the day surprised me. Containing delicate homemade matcha soba noodles,
Japanese Mushrooms, wakame, pickled vegetables, edamame and slivers of rice crisps served with a light soy sauce and mirin dressing, we all insisted that this be added to the main menu post haste…
..though other diners probably won’t be able to avail themselves of Lauren’s patient hand modelling. Sorry team.
By this point we were all stuffed and only on the 6th course – a selection of yakitori skewers. Appearing as if by magic (the same way that our glasses mysteriously never emptied) we sampled the sweet and sticky robata chicken and sesame seed sprinkled mushrooms. I adore the slightly charred mushrooms and spring onion slices but didn’t quite feel the Wagyu beef skewers.
Heroically we all gathered as Paul showed us his (off brunch menu) specially deconstructed a la carte dessert simply called Fuji Apple. An ‘apple’ shell is blown with Isomalt (instead of more usual sugar) and filled with a mixture of apple mousse and apple with nitrous oxide. Accompanying the plate are caramelised apples, meringue and a tart sorbet that I adored enough to swoop seconds.
Finally, a Japanese brulée and the welcome aroma of fresh mint tea. The brulee is the dessert crown of an epic bottomless brunch in beautiful surrounds. What more could you ever need? Oh, and it is rather spiffing value for a luxury brunch served with seemingly endless Veuve Cliquot Champagne.
* Brave should probably be replaced with hungry
** Crevasse = Pavements of Regents Street