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aqua kyoto

    Ukiyo Brunch Review | Aqua Kyoto

    It doesn’t matter what the weather is like outside,  especially when you’re cozily tucked away from the rain and enjoying a brunch feast. This weekend in particular a few of us gathered at Aqua Kyoto to try their newest brunch offering; 

    Luxury Brunch Japanese Aqua Kyoto Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Disclaimer: We were invited guests of Aqua Kyoto but my (very many) thoughts are only ever mine – repeat visits on my own dime time and time again attest to simply how much I enjoy their cuisine.

    The Japanese say, “If the flower is to be beautiful, it must be cultivated.” (Lester Cole) So it is at Aqua Kyoto – the chefs are ever innovating, creating and crafting beautiful dishes that are almost too beautiful to eat.

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    The Ikigai Menu at Aqua Kyoto | Restaurant Review

    You know that indescribable moment, that subtle bliss when the sun shines after an unexpected snow storm? The Ikigai menu at Aqua Kyoto is a sliver of that; a light, delicious 3-course selection of delicacies, served with a cocktail and petit fours sweetbox that will surprise and delight. No storm necessary.

    Japanese Ikigai Menu Aqua Kyoto Oxford Circus Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Disclaimer: We were invited guests of Aqua Kyoto but my (very many) thoughts are only ever mine – repeat visits on my own dime time and time again attest to simply how much I enjoy their cuisine.

    Ikigai (生き甲斐) is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being,” similar to the French phrase Raison d’être.

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    Aqua Kyoto – Reviewing The Go Zen Lunch Boxes

    What a difference a year makes. Roughly 365.25 days ago I was sat in Aqua Kyoto, surrounded by my workmates in a job that wasn’t challenging enough, hiding my blogging obsession and being teased about having a raging travel addiction. Funnily enough, our big group were seated at the very table that I took the below photo on. So many things have changed, though the raging travel obsession (obviously) hasn’t subsided.

    Aqua Kyoto Luxury Japanese Restaurant Review Adventures of a London Kiwi

    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.

    This time around, I’m becoming an established freelancer with clients who seem fairly happy, I’ve written articles for all kinds of places and I’ve been to New Zealand and back, but I still love to schedule in lunchtimes of indulgence and zen because goodness knows I’m only a human-bean. But, that’s more than enough rambling about me.

    The last time we were in to review at Aqua Kyoto (for the bottomless brunch – and just for the record I’ve been back twice since on my own dime), and as I wrote then, every monumental expedition should be celebrated with a victory feast.

    Aqua Kyoto Luxury Japanese Restaurant Review Adventures of a London Kiwi

    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 shoe-aholic 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.

    This time we were in fledgeling festive spirits, and Angie, Mina, Angie’s lovely nephew (blog to come, kidding), her sister  Jen and I settled around the table on a Monday mid-morning to chat all things kittens, kids and canines for a few hours.

    Aqua Kyoto Luxury Japanese Restaurant Review Adventures of a London Kiwi 

    Aqua Kyoto Luxury Japanese Restaurant Review Adventures of a London Kiwi

    We began, as all good Japanese meals do with rock salt sprinkled edamame and a cheerful Christmas cocktail that reminded me of Christmas Eve celebrations.

    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.

    Aqua Kyoto Luxury Japanese Restaurant Review Adventures of a London Kiwi

    So after our warming Miso soups were cleared away, we were super excited to explore the Go Zen boxes with our eager chopsticks. Unable to choose between the fish/meat or vegetarian offering of a dozen delicate servings, we went for both. Because, bloggers with appetites.

    The idea of Go Zen boxes is that they are special occasion Bento selections – and to borrow another cultural idea, they are my kind of Tapas. Presenting each diner with a variety of delectable dishes of varying flavours, textures and experiences, each beautiful dish has twelve carefully selected unusual yet harmonious dishes. The dishes include a melt in the mouth wagyu beef, delicious tempura prawn cubes, Oshizushi of salmon, avocado and tozazu, a sliver of black cod and ‘aqua style’ vegetable sushi, featuring mango skin which is made in-house.

    Aqua Kyoto Luxury Japanese Restaurant Review Adventures of a London Kiwi

    The shojin go zen is the vegan option, with dishes including kimchee pickles, sakura rice (scented with salted cherry blossom, topped with nori and sesame) and kenji rolls with daikon sauce –  vegetables rolled with enoki mushrooms and ginger. To our surprise, the box also contains pickled crow garlic, picked annually in June and then double fermented and used throughout the year by Chef Greening.

    Aqua Kyoto Luxury Japanese Restaurant Review Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Aqua Kyoto Luxury Japanese Restaurant Review Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Compartments of joy I’d call them or よろこび の くかくif I were any better at the Japanese skills I should have had from High School lessons.

    The interior always reminds me of the lush restaurants we visited in Japan, with sumptuous dark lacquer, undulating etchings and vibrant red accents.

    Aqua Kyoto Luxury Japanese Restaurant Review Adventures of a London Kiwi

    The last time I had such a lovely array of tastes were at our New Year celebrations in Kyoto, on the tabletop of our Japanese friends who had kindly arranged for their favourite local chef to put together an array of his time-won skills.

    Aqua Kyoto Luxury Japanese Restaurant Review Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Aqua Kyoto Luxury Japanese Restaurant Review Adventures of a London Kiwi

    We split two desserts around the table (and you can get smaller, quicker versions of the boxes if in a hurry or you want to leave more room for the crowning course); a bowl of “Forest Floor” made with yuzu oba leaf cream, almond praline, chocolate and azuki bean paste with sour cherry sorbet which was perfectly matched as a cornucopia, and the chocoraito delisu which as the name suggests is lovely – a smoked chocolate delice with sesame praline, kaki fruit sorbet and ginger wafers.

    It was such a lovely lunch, and I suspect I might just have to take a few clients there as an excuse to pop back into Aqua Kyoto before the festive season is out.

    Aqua Kyoto Luxury Japanese Restaurant Review Adventures of a London Kiwi

    If only I could have told my year younger self how tasty the future would look…

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    Bottomless brunching at Aqua Kyoto

    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. 

    Ps. there is a reader special if you make it all the way through this sushi treatise…

    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.

    Bottomless Luxury Brunch Aqua Kyoto Oxford Circus Adventures of a London Kiwi

    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.

    Bottomless Luxury Brunch Aqua Kyoto Oxford Circus Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Bottomless Luxury Brunch Aqua Kyoto Oxford Circus Adventures of a London Kiwi

    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.

    Bottomless Luxury Brunch Aqua Kyoto Oxford Circus Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Bottomless Luxury Brunch Aqua Kyoto Oxford Circus Adventures of a London Kiwi

    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.

    Bottomless Luxury Brunch Aqua Kyoto Oxford Circus Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Bottomless Luxury Brunch Aqua Kyoto Oxford Circus Adventures of a London Kiwi

    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.

    Bottomless Luxury Brunch Aqua Kyoto Oxford Circus Adventures of a London Kiwi

    So good. (Ps. note the wasabi plant resting on our table #onlyfoodbloggers)

    Bottomless Luxury Brunch Aqua Kyoto Oxford Circus Adventures of a London Kiwi

    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

    Japanese Cuisine Bottomless Brunch Aqua Kyoto Adventures of a London Kiwi

    ..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.

    Japanese Cuisine Bottomless Brunch Aqua Kyoto Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Japanese Cuisine Bottomless Brunch Aqua Kyoto Adventures of a London Kiwi

    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.

     Japanese Cuisine Bottomless Brunch Aqua Kyoto Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Japanese Cuisine Bottomless Brunch Aqua Kyoto Adventures of a London Kiwi

    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.

    As a very special treat, the person booking a bottomless brunch at Aqua Kyoto receives theirs for free when they bring three or more friends – simply click this Booktable link. Do you need any better excuse to organise a catchup before the 28th May?

    * Brave should probably be replaced with hungry
    ** Crevasse = Pavements of Regents Street

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    A week of Birthday Shenanigans

    I have a rather naughty habit of extending my birthday well past 24 hours. Initially it was stretched out to 36 hours – using the excuse of expat time differences. 

    Restaurant Birthday Shenanigans Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Then, it became a weekend, which was still fairly reasonable. A few years later when I turned 30 it extended out into six weeks (I blamed the Mandarin Oriental hotel for their refurbishment works schedule) but I’ve since reeled it back into a very reasonable week(ish) of celebrating.  Read more

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