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aqua shard

    Aqua Shard Floral Five Menu – Summer Teas, Cocktails and Desserts

    I’m going to keep this short and sweet. The days are lengthening, the Royal London parks are heavy with blossom and there is that indescribable feeling of summer in the air. To celebrate this – and as an ode to the Chelsea Flower Show – Aqua Shard have launched their Floral Five menu. Disclaimer: We were guests of Aqua Shard – but I visit often on my own dime. (I think this is really important for authenticity!)

    Aqua-Shard-Cocktails-Adventures-of-a-London-Kiwi

    They’ve collaborated with the botanical maestros at Camellia’s Teahouse who have created five unique tea blends featuring British flowers, which have in turn been incorporated to accompanying cocktails and desserts. 

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    The Mary Poppins Afternoon Tea at Aqua Shard: Above the London Chimney Pots

    In the words of London’s most famous Nanny herself, the Aqua Shard Mary Poppins Afternoon Tea was practically perfect in every way. With breathtaking views of the London skyline, the fabulous Angie and Binny by my side and the time-worn pages of PL Travers’ tales setting the scene, we knew from the start it was going to be a sumptuous afternoon.

    Luxury Afternoon Tea Mary Poppins Aqua Shard Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Disclaimer: We were invited guests of Aqua Shard but my (very many) thoughts and all misappropriation of quotes can definitively be laid at my boots.

    Launched to celebrate the re-release by HarperCollins Children’s Books of the 5 fabulous Mary Poppins books and to herald the new movie coming out nearer Christmas, we couldn’t wait to see what the inventive Aqua team had devised for this childhood classic.

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    Aqua Shard: Brunching in London clouds

    The Shard and I have a tempestuous on again, off again relationship. On our first rendezvous this bastion of the London skyline was moody and somewhat icy, our second dalliance was a touch more blue sky and secretive (an unbloggable lunch at the Shangri-La), and the third a cheeky twilight drink – but on this particular date, we managed to enjoy an early brunch cementing our liaison as an everlasting London romance.

    Aqua Shard Brunching In London Clouds Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Disclaimer: We were invited guests of Aqua Shard but my (very many) thoughts are only ever mine and more repeat visits on lovely days are going into my diary.

    After a flurry of activity organising a secret trip in honour of Aftab’s birthday, 3 of the self-named Angles (sorry, random insider joke) gathered around a table with one of our American favourites (she is definitely not square, I promise) to breakfast and gaze over the London skyline full of anticipation for our incipient journey. Laden with weekend bags full of mischief and a train booked for 11am, early on the Sunday morning we checked in with the restaurant front staff (who didn’t even blink an eye at how much clothing we had packed) and took our seats over the London city skyline.

    Unfortunately with my camera packed at the bottom of my bag (such a #bloggerfail) and not wanting to share my wardrobe with the sleepy diners around us, it was iphone photos that morning, but actually being able to enjoy the view without fiddling with lenses was an unusual treat.

    Best London view brunch Aqua Shard Adventures of a London Kiwi

     We began with coffee, classic pastries and teasing our birthday Prince. Having no idea of our destination until we pulled into the castle drive – unlike almost everyone around us including Christina (we had told him to pack a suit and a baseball cap for the pub dinner before a night camping) we all grinned from ear to ear with anticipation.

    Best London view brunch Aqua Shard Adventures of a London Kiwi

    As we were celebrating, a round of cocktails magically appeared on the table (did that work? Was it convincing? It was only 9.30am and admitting to ordering a round of cocktails seems indulgent in the extreme. That’s the thing about brunch dates, goodness knows what can happen on them…) one for each of us. Undecided, my eyes alit on the Pear and Cinnamon Bellini and Binny chose had appear the Peach and Thyme Bellini for a herbed twist, whilst Christina and Aftab enjoyed Vanilla and Blackberry bellinis.

    The table was completely split on ordering mains –  Aftab & Binny enjoyed a vegetarian full English; flat Portobello mushrooms, white bean home-made baked beans, avocado, crisped potatoes, grilled skinless tomatoes, wilted spinach and with two poached eggs served on brown toast. Christina and I couldn’t resist her favourite; the Lobster Eggs Benedict. Colchester Blue lobster poached in a spiced butter, then used to make the hollandaise sauce and crowned with poached eggs. The ratio of each simple, but delectable ingredient was sublime. And I am rather fussy about my Eggs Benedict – going so far as to write a ranty diatribe one year.

    Best London view brunch Aqua Shard Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Clearing our plates and not able to take another nibble, as giddy as couples in the flush of first love (or bloggers about to stay in a luxurious castle) we popped upstairs for a quick look over the atrium where afternoon tea is held…

    Best London view brunch Aqua Shard Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Best London view brunch Aqua Shard Adventures of a London Kiwi

    …and a quick recce through a still closed Hutong which was setting up for a busy day. Tastefully decorated with authentic Chinese epherema, my appetite was only whetted by the stories behind each carefully curated item and the beautiful views of my favourite beau.

    Best London view brunch Aqua Shard Adventures of a London Kiwi

    I definitely need a return visit. Perhaps not to the intimate Hutong tables for two so beloved of couples getting engaged (Mr Kiwi might not be so impressed, though I understand in English law that marrying the same person multiple times is legal?) but for a twilight feast as London lights up.

    Best London view brunch Aqua Shard Adventures of a London Kiwi

    This is the problem with the dizzying tango of blogging – always finding more scrumptious locations to explore. #firstworldproblems

    Glorious views from a restaurant usually equate to insipid fare from the chef’s bench. It’s an unfortunate equation that has proved true time after time in my disappointed experience, but luckily, the mile-high club 31-storey Aqua Shard delivered a glamourous brunch alongside the jaw-dropping panoramic views on the riverside.

    (Pin me for later inspiration)

     What is your favourite meal to enjoy with a beloved?

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    Hutong at the Shard: A 5th Birthday Taste of Northern China

    Every time that I’ve written about Hutong at the Shard, I’ve always started off with the amazing views of the London skyline, and actually, that isn’t fair. There are so many restaurants that bank so much on their views that they let their menu quality slip, but Hutong (part of the Aqua group) isn’t like that. 

    Hutong Shard Luxury Restaurant Review Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Disclaimer: We were invited guests of Hutong at the Shard,
    but my palette and misuse of ancient Chinese proverbs are all very much my own.

    I feel like I’ve said it before: breathtaking London views, incredible flavours from Northern China, elegantly arrayed surrounds and a beautiful Wishing Tree – every branch perpetually hung with lucky red wishing cards. 

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    Hutong at the Shard: Luxurious dining with a London vista

    Breathtaking London views, incredible flavours from Northern China, elegantly arrayed surrounds and a beautiful Wishing Tree, every branch perpetually hung with lucky red wishing cards. Hutong at the Shard is both everything that you think it will be, and yet nothing quite like your imagination.

    Luxury dining with a London View Hutong at the Shard Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Disclaimer: We were invited guests of Hutong at the Shard (part of the Aqua group)
    but my palette and misuse of ancient Chinese proverbs are all very much my own.

    Invited to try out the newly launching menu courtesy of Head Chef Fei Wang’s home province of Sichuan (the home of giant pandas and Asia’s longest river, the Yangtze), Shandong (known for its Taoist and Confucian heritage) and Beijing (known as much for its modern architecture as its ancient sites such as the grand Forbidden City complex) we toasted our good fortune with crisply poured glasses of Veuve Cliquot and much laughter.

    Watching the sun set over London is something I’ll never become sick of, and yet all settled around the beautiful wooden table of the private Beijing room (the largest in the restaurant) was a special treat indeed. From the 33rd floor, it is practically a game of spot the London landmarks – the Thames river surging through the metropolitan sprawl, the Tower of London’s dark history, office blocks that encase memories of long days and train lines snaking through the urban dreams past iconic buildings.

    Luxury dining with a London View Hutong at the Shard Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Luxury dining with a London View Hutong at the Shard Adventures of a London Kiwi

    博学之,审问之,慎思之,明辨之,笃行之。 礼记·中庸

     To learn [from a variety of places], To ask [until you satisfy your desire to learn], To reflect [meticulously], To distinguish [clearly between truth and lies], To manifest [that which you have learnt].

     I do have a confession to make – I usually really struggle with communal dining. You know, that whole ‘family style’ in the middle type of situation. The heavily tension of the first forkful, the politics of taking the last bite, the angst when your favourite dish doesn’t quite make it to your side of the table.

    Luxury dining with a London View Hutong at the Shard Adventures of a London Kiwi

    But, if every meal was a delicious as our recent feast at Hutong in the Shard, I would buy a Lazy Susan (you know, those rotating turntables/rotating trays placed on a table or countertop to aid in distributing food. Thanks Wikipedia!)

    We began with platters of crispy prawn rolls and vegetarian spring rolls that disappeared in a clicking of camera lenses and polite nibbles.

    Luxury dining with a London View Hutong at the Shard Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Bamboo mounted lengths of freshly steamed dim sum made their way from the kitchens next, heavenly jewelled morsels of tiger prawn with black truffle, and cod and seaweed dumplings with Tobiko (flying fish roe). So delicious, I struggled to photograph them both, wrestling with the twin pull of blogging and appetite.

    Sitting down we were introduced to Head Chef Tei Wang, who at the tender age of 36 has been honoured with the title of ‘Sifu’, the Chinese word for master, a title bestowed to few at that young age. As he shared his inspirations with us, our table was laid with tranches of Chinese asparagus heart brushed with the chef’s signature hula dressing – chilli, peppercorn and hot oil, pan-fried fluffy wagyu beef buns and scallop and prawn wontons with a hot and deliciously spicy sauce.

    Luxury dining with a London View Hutong at the Shard Adventures of a London Kiwi

    人有悲欢离合,月有阴晴圆缺,此事古难全。 但愿人长久,千里共婵娟。

    People will experience sadness and joy; as the moon will appear round and sometimes incomplete (referring to crescents of the moon) – things like these have been prone to imperfection since the days of the old.

    Hand carved table side with a skilful flash of knives, the classic roast Peking duck – marinaded for twenty four hours and then roasted in the restaurant’s special oven – was beautifully tender and counterpointed with mouthwateringly crisp skin.

    Luxury dining with a London View Hutong at the Shard Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Luxury dining with a London View Hutong at the Shard Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Served with steaming pancakes, cucumber slivers, spring onion matchsticks and rich hoisin sauce, we danced a polite two-step, sharing our plates in a communal harmony with a touch of ‘no, no, I insist’ right at the end.

    Luxury dining with a London View Hutong at the Shard Adventures of a London Kiwi

    子曰:“吾十有五而志于学,三十而立,四十而不惑,五十而知天命,六十而耳顺,七十而从心所欲,不逾矩。”《论语》

    Confucius says, “When I was fifteen, I was focused on my studies; when I was thirty, my understanding of life [as it stands] was set firmly; when I was forty, I no longer hesitated about making my life decisions; when I was fifty, I understood the origins of all; when I was sixty, I could hear all – the positive and the negative – and not be upset; when I was seventy, I had the freedom to do whatever my heart desires, within the rules of this world [that I have observed throughout all of my life].”

    With the beautiful, signature red lantern crowning our group, it was only right that our next dish of red star noodles came out to much excitement. Served in a rich and spicy Sichuan broth, the crowd pleasing presentation of red peppers hiding halibut morsels warmed the cockles of our world weary hearts.

    Luxury dining with a London View Hutong at the Shard Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Luxury dining with a London View Hutong at the Shard Adventures of a London Kiwi

    We watched as London came alight, the twinkling buildings flickering over a picture perfect evening sky.

    Luxury dining with a London View Hutong at the Shard Adventures of a London Kiwi

    与其]临渊羡鱼,不如退而结网。汉书·董仲书传 

    Rather than approaching the edge [of the waters] admiring the fish, it’s better to take a step back, and prepare to cast a net over the waters [and catch the fish]. (Edit: Or, book a table at Hutong, and let the chefs prepare a pescatarian feast for you – no heavy lifting required.)

    The fiery spices of Northern Chinese cuisine really revealed themselves in the next two dishes – Sichuan-style deep fried lobster tidbits served with red and green chilli, not to mention salty black beans found in the street food markets of China.

    Luxury dining with a London View Hutong at the Shard Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Luxury dining with a London View Hutong at the Shard Adventures of a London Kiwi

    My absolute favourite dish of the night was a surprising one – Ma La crispy eel. derived from two Chinese characters ‘Ma’ – numbing and ‘La’ – hot describing the mouth sensation created by the dish. Following this impressively delicate dish, we were further treated to aromatic beef rib braised in lotus leaf and aromatic Chinese broccoli steams. Bliss.

    Luxury dining with a London View Hutong at the Shard Adventures of a London Kiwi

    君子之心不胜其小,而气量涵盖一世。格言联璧 

    The heart of a gentleman cares not about his own (selfish) desires, but of all that it encompasses from his breadth of heart.

    Our evening was an indulgent, wonderful medley of flavour and spice, rounded out as Big Ben struck the witching hour. We couldn’t bring ourselves to leave the beautiful, beautiful space that had so kindly treated us so well.

    Second confession: I did lift the above Chinese translations from the internet, so I really hope they don’t actually translate to ‘Soup is brilliant’ like a summer holiday tattoo occasionally does. It was a risk I was willing to take though in the name of blogging amusment…

    Luxury dining with a London View Hutong at the Shard Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Luxury dining with a London View Hutong at the Shard Adventures of a London Kiwi

    So, to summarise, Confucius said it best when he spoke about music – at the commencement of the piece, all the parts should sound together. As it proceeds, they should be in harmony while severally distinct and flowing without break, and thus on to the conclusion.

    It was like he sat at our Hutong table with us.

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