La Tomatina is a festival that is held in Buñol, a little village near Valencia, Spain, where the whole area has a huge tomato fight. This year, Aqua Nueva have launched a menu to celebrate this wonderful tradition; Chatting Food reviewer Erica Pilavaki went to join in the fun.
What makes a great restaurant? Maybe it's the location? (tick) Maybe it's its popularity? (tick) Or maybe, after a great many years in operation, it still feels as fresh and relevant as ever? Another tick for Aqua Nueva.
Aqua Nueva is so centrally located it’s only a hop, skip and a jump away from Oxford Circus tube station. As you enter the restaurant you are instantly relocated from the hordes of shopping crowds to a moodily lit and dramatic open dining room. The décor is baronial with oxblood leather seating, lashings of gold accents and atmospheric music to nod along to.
We were greeted with a 'Tomatini' cocktail which was created especially for this menu: Tanquray gin mixed with apricot brandy, sugar syrup and tomato water, garnished with a dehydrated slice of tomato. I must announce over loudspeaker that this was a smash hit. Refreshing yet untypical for a welcome drink but one I would order again and again.
We started the meal off with the black seafood croquettes with alioli. These tidy, deep-toned balls were small enough that they went in whole, soft and bumper full of booming seafood flavour.
Next up were the bright red Carabinero prawns, coveted for their giant size. The meat is more comparable to a small, delicate lobster than a simple prawn. Sucking the head is a must, the flavour sucker-punches your mouth; these were arrestingly good and one to savour.
The suckling pig tacos with grilled baby corn landed on the table next and I was pleased to see them. My carnivorous grin stayed put as I took a bite; delicious, full of flavour and oh so succulent. However, the best was certainly left till last. Beef short rib on a potato gratin showered with chimichurri. The meat just collapsed as I put my fork in it. The word tender doesn't do it justice, maybe the word unctuous is more appropriate. Anyhow, the sublime combination of taste and texture makes them one of the tastiest dishes on the menu.
Even some of the most top end restaurants have let me down with lacklustre desserts so I'm relieved to say that Aqua Nueva did not fall at the last hurdle. Raspberry churros with lavish Pedro Ximénez chocolate sauce alongside the second dessert of burnt Catalan cream with biting blood orange sorbet? That would be si, muchas gracias, and damn the calories.
You can tell that Aqua Nueva has settled nicely into its role in London, servicing post-work crowds with cut-above servers who are both switched on and personable but without being intrusive and that this is a place that has been well-oiled, and runs like clockwork. The food, though relatively expensive, is attractive and of high quality. And when London's weather is playing nice, there’s no better place to be than on a rooftop sipping on cocktails and enjoying some tapas, am I right or am I right?
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Chatting Food Contributor: Erica Pilavaki
Growing up with the aroma of meat grilling over open coals, views of vine wrapped mountains and surrounded by the abundant seas of Cyprus, Erica has food and drink in her heart and soul. Contact Erica about London restaurant recommendations and the latest products in food and drink.
Follow Erica @erica_eeeats