Honestly, there is nothing worse than British rain in the dead of winter. It feels like all of the joy in the world has been leeched out – and that’s before the chilly wetness gets into your bones (and under your collar. Yeech.) As well as booking flights for a sunshine holiday, when an invite landed in my inbox to try the a la carte menu at Aqua Nueva, you know I hightailed it to Oxford Circus (quicker than those ice-cold droplets can wriggle beneath my favourite scarf). All thoughts and Patatas Bravas obsessions are very much my own as ever.
People always ask me how I can bear to live in a country famed for inclement weather, but honestly, with such amazing access to the Mediterranean, that’s how.
Not only that, there are delicious restaurants in London that I can transport myself to sunnier climes with a wave of my Oyster card, like the ‘prettily opulent’ Aqua Nueva brimming with Spanish flavour, just around the corner from Oxford Circus.
Seriously convenient (especially for dinner when you’ve been shopping nearby and have worked up an appetite).
So I grabbed one of my favourite people to reminisce about our trip to Valencia seeking winter sunshine and we set about perusing the extensive a la carte menu at Aqua Nueva. Vanessa, the restaurant manager tipped us off about her favourite dishes (something I really love when it’s done from the heart) and I’m so glad she did – making a decision was exceptionally hard. It all sounded so good.
Whilst we were still exploring the menu, she helped us to choose a glass or two of wine from the mostly Spanish wine menu – with notable additions of an Argentinian vino, a New Zealand wine (YASSS) and a mouthwatering selection of Champagnes (a few of which we visited whilst in Epernay last year.). We chose a Rioja Crianza from Sierra de Cantabria (ranked among the very best in Rioja 2020) and a glass of Albarino by Pazo de Señoráns (note to self: do not Google research the beautiful wineries when writing blog posts – I’ll end up distracting myself by booking flights).
We were advised to order 2 or 3 dishes each, and I cannot stress this enough – MAKE SURE YOU TAKE SOMEONE THAT YOU LIKE because they are all delicious – I wanted to keep every single one for myself. Our sharing may have been a bit of half-hearted ‘this is yours’ ‘oh, no, you can have it’… the barest minimum to be socially polite.
From the classic plates array, we chose the Pan con Tomate (rustic tomato bread) which was sunshine on a plate, the Selección de Quesos (cheese board) each cheese of which was explained to us, a level of detail which I love…
…the Plato de Embutidos (the cured Iberian meat selection) and the amazing Patatas Bravas. It’s with an Aqua twist, and they’re served in laminated layers with daubs of the requisite spicy tomato sauce and a mouthwatering aioli – the secrets of which we tried to pry out of the team, but they remained tight-lipped.
From ‘The Land’ section we chose Costilla de Ternera con Patatas y Chimichurri (beef short rib, potato gratin, chimichurri) and Tuétano Asado con Setas y Castañas (roasted bone marrow, black trumpet mushroom and chestnut) – both of which were rich and heavenly – not to mention…
… the Brochetas de Pollo Marinado con Patatas y Yogurt (spicy chicken and potato skewers with yoghurt dressing) perfectly seasoned with pops of rock salt.
We also ordered Tostadas de Txangurro (spiced crab tostadas) in the ‘From the Sea’ section. If you can count far better than we can, we ordered more than the recommended amount – but every single bite was heaven and I would do it all again. It was not only excitement at the menu, but the deep-seated mistrust of teeny tiny Tapas portions that you have to share – it definitely isn’t the case at Aqua Nueva. Oh goodness no.
For dessert (we just about had room, only just) we chose the Pistachio Churros (obviously – when in Rome and all that) served with a rich chocolate sauce for dipping, and a mango Bavarois which was a perfect ray of sunshine to finish our meal with.
Will I be back? Absolutely without a doubt. Delicious, generous and with a level of provenance that makes my foodie heart sing, you’ll definitely find me lurking there again – definitely with a friend just as inclined to sharing.