Test Drives

Modern British at the Shard with Aqua ShardWhat can you tell us about Aqua Shard?

This is the last of the three restaurants centred around the 32nd floor of the Shard. We've already taken in both Oblix and Hutong and this is the second from the Aqua group (who are also behind the adjoining Hutong) 

What kind of food can I expect?

In a departure from the spice and fire of  Hutong, this is a first for Aqua as owner David Yeo takes a fine dining approach to seasonal British food.

Where is it?

This restaurant is actually on the 31st floor of the Shard - right next to London Bridge station - but it still has that amazing view.

So it's pretty impressive?

As we mentioned in our Test Drive of Hutong, the Shard isn't short of a good view or two but of all of the three restaurants, the Aqua Shard bar probably has the most impressive of them all. Ostensibly situated on the 31st floor of the building, in reality the entrance opens into atrium spanning floors 31-33 offering an incredible view of the City. You probably can see your house from here.  

Who's it recommended for?

Perhaps more than Hutong, we can see Aqua Shard being a particular draw for anyone needing to entertain clients or host private dinners. There are some large circular booths in the main restaurants but it's the individual private, glass lined rooms on the far side of the building that ought to be a huge draw for businesses. We're also looking forward to them introducing breakfast and afternoon tea later in the year. And when that happens (they're currently aiming for September) Aqua Shard will be open from 8am - 2am every day.

Where should I meet up with friends?

As we've mentioned, the bar really is the place to meet and it's somewhere we'd definitely head for if we're in the area. There isn't a cover charge, as there is with Oblix later in the evening, so if you want to meet up with others before or after your dinner you've much more of a chance here. Because the bar takes up such a large floorspace it also seems a lot calmer than the bar at Oblix. When the light goes down, there's nothing better than looking out over London with a good strong cocktail in your hand. 

Where should I sit?

Obviously by the window if you can. There are plenty of tables for two, looking out the window. Unlike Hutong, these chairs are much, much more comfortable (we forgot to mention the rather bizarre furniture at Hutong that makes sitting down to eat a complex operation) and the restaurant looks lovely as a result. Plenty of booths and private dining rooms means there are plenty of options here - with few looking like "bad" seats. 

What should I eat?

Perhaps befitting of a restaurant in what has quickly become one of London's most recognisable landmarks, Aqua Shard features a British menu with seasonal, local (ish) ingredients being the order of the day here. It's mostly successful in its approach - but we do have to admit that it doesn't quite hit the culinary heights of Hutong. One thing that this place does have in its favour is a simpler menu, and one that's quite compelling too. It's always gratifying to take a first look at a menu which makes you pause simply because you could see youself happily ordering anything from it.

Of the dishes we ordered - full details in the gallery below - there are a few worth focusing on. First off, the "hand-cut rose county beef" (£13.50) which had a great spicyness due to whatever was in the "spicy mayonnaise" mixed in and the slightly bizarre addition of a "Shard Scotch egg", which eschewed the usual pork for salmon coating a quail's egg. The tartare won over both of us - although the egg was ever so slightly divisive. The Confit Lock Duart salmon with Dorset crab, avocado, pepper puree and Oscietra caviar (£12) was another winner - an exemplary display of the freshness of the produce on offer here. We also tried the Green Pea Custard  (£14) - which was more a green pea pannacotta -  which worked well, mainly down to the huge slab of seared foie gras that came with it - although it could have benefited with a stronger hand on the seasoning.

Mains were good - while not quite straying into "great" territory - we did stick to "the land" category for this section of the meal. The salt marsh lamb - with aubergine, goats cheese, red pepper and fondant potato (£26) looked great - but the meat should have been just a little more tender. The pork belly with buckwheat pancake, fruit chutney, black pudding and tomato (£18) was a much more successful offering - the belly perfectly cooked and matched well with the heritage tomato. 

Desserts were decent too - the best being a generous Eton mess with raspberries and vanilla Chantilly (£7.50).

As we mentioned - breakfast and afternoon tea are on the way later in the year - and as the chef trained under Pierre Gagnaire, we're expecting big things from afternoon tea.

What about drinks?

Wines are from £22 - and the list is similar to Hutong's.

As with Hutong, the cocktails at Aqua Shard are worth travelling to the 31st floor for alone. A simple cocktail list delivered good and strong drinks (strong enough that our memory has been slightly wiped of the details...). 

Overall thoughts?

If we were going to recommend any of the restaurants in the Shard based on food alone, we have to say that Hutong would end up in the lead. However, we won't be at all surprised if Aqua Shard ends up being the most successful of the two Aqua restaurants in the long run. Factor in the much more comfortable seating, plus the addition of breakfast, afternoon tea and the spectacular lounge bar and we can see this place being a big draw for the nearby city crowd not to mention tourists and visitors. At the very least, we highly, highly recommend you make it up there for a drink in one of London's most impressive bars.

Aqua Shard is at Level 31 The Shard, 31 St. Thomas Street, London SE1 9RY. Find out more about Aqua Shard

Prices were correct at time of writing. Hot Dinners were invited to eat at Aqua Shard.

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