Along with Spanish restaurant Aqua Nueva, which sits on the same floor, Aqua Kyoto is part of the glamorous Aqua Shard/Hutong family, and a recent restaurant refurbishment by award-winning international designer Robert Angell has created a new beautiful space to enjoy executive head chef Anthony Garlando’s (former Zuma and Harrods) contemporary Japanese cuisine.
Set high above the bustle of Regent Street (with an outdoor terrace to really make the most of the view), the dining area has been opened up to create a moody and elegant Japanese-inspired space that uses a red and black colour scheme and dark marble to sultry effect. Large square stacked canvas ceiling lights create a central focus, while back-lit triangles of mirror zig-zag across the wall, adding a modern touch to the booths along it (and lighting diners rather flatteringly). Rimless, uneven earthenware plates mix with beautiful dipping bowls and raised wooden planks, while weighted chopsticks make for easier eating. An open kitchen area along one side allows you to stare into the embers of the robata grill, or watch chefs expertly assembling sashimi and nigiri.
Garlando has created an extensive menu of contemporary Japanese dishes divided into appetisers, maki, nigiri, sashimi, salads, tempura, robata, wagyu beef and large dishes, and everything comes out as it is ready. Black cod gyoza with mizuna miso arrive and have a wonderful crisp coating – one look and we know we are about to eat something delicious. A pair of mid fatty tuna nigiri is fresh, tender and flavourful, while the chargrilled octopus, yamagobo & sesame maki is a row of perfectly prepared rice topped with pleasingly sweet grilled meat. For something a bit adventurous, the softshell crab with yama gobo slaw, katsuobushi floss and tentsuyu broth goes down well, crunchy claws and all. Dessert is a triumph of flavour and presentation. For something almost too pretty to eat, the forest floor is a delicate balancing act of yuzu oba leaf cream, almond praline, chocolate and azuki with sour cherry sorbet, while the smoked chocolate delice with miso ice cream and sesame wafers melts theatrically into a rich and decadent delight, and is just as we had hoped.
This wouldn’t be a Japanese restaurant worth its salt without sake, and the drinks menu doesn’t disappoint. It’s been curated by the Aqua Kyoto sommelier to showcase how sake makes a great food pairing, although there’s also an extensive selection of wine and champagne, as well as cocktails. The Sweet Escape (Pampero Blanco rum, Chambord, peach liqueur, bergamot, passion fruit liqueur, vanilla, cranberry) is just that, and is topped with a slice of passion fruit for good measure, or for something more Japan-inspired try the Hatsuga (Toki whiskey, genmaicha, supasawa, bitter, orange water, soda). Genmaicha tea is a brown rice green tea and has notes of toasted genmai rice to enhance the taste of the Toki whisky.
A variety of courses, dessert and cocktails for two, £130.
A sophisticated setting paired with fantastic food makes Aqua Kyoto perfect for when something a little bit special is required – whether celebrating with friends, colleagues or impressing with a romantic dinner for two. The terrace is also worth making a note of for when the summer sun arrives.
Aqua Kyoto, 5th Floor, 240 Regent Street (entrance 30 Argyll Street), London W1B 3BR; aquakyoto.co.uk