Aqua Nueva, Oxford Circus
I’ve been on dates where things get a bit frisky – usually at the end of the night after a few cocktails. But at Aqua Nueva things kick off straight away. Not, however, with my date.
No sooner does one step into the vast building on Argyll St, a stone’s throw from the chaotic Oxford Circus underground, does one get directed to a lift by the suited and booted security, and whisked up to the 5th floor’s impressive roof terrace.
When the doors open, you are met with sultry mood lighting and a grand circular bar oozing with luxury. With three sleek enterprises on the one gargantuan floor – aqua nueva, a modern take on traditional Spanish cuisine; aqua kyoto, contemporary Japanese cuisine; and aqua spirit, a cocktail bar – if it weren’t for a friendly waitress, I doubt I’d have found my way through the gaggles of suited and booted city slickers to the right bit, or indeed to my very first Tinder date.
In traditional Spanish form, the menu is comprised of sharing plates – ‘tapas’. Conveniently separated into Meat, Fish and Vegetarian categories, and all around the £12 – £15 mark, we tried a variety of each. Sharing plates never fail to make great date-food. Highlights were the Galican Octopus stuffed pastry, which was tender not rubbery; and the 24 hour marinated Oxtail, which was rich – and comfortingly warming at this icy time of year.
Warning: Aioli frequents many dishes, which though tasty is quite pungent – and garlicky breath, should a first-date snog be on the agenda, is best avoided.
NB: Aqua Nueva is also currently offering a La Matanza menu, which is based on an ancient Spanish tradition and incorporates delicacies from an entire hog within each dish. £8 per dish, £24 half hog (3 dishes), £45 full hog (6 dishes).
Get your make-up sorted before you enter the restaurant, top ups whilst in the premises are off the cards due to the low-lit mood lighting.
Grab a cocktail at the bar before being seated. The atmosphere there is great for date small-talk; soft music and the gentle chatter of other diners. Background noise, but not loud.
You can sit anywhere and be guaranteed date privacy (aka, not worry about neighbouring guests hear your awkward ‘get-to-know-each-other’ chat) – as the tables aren’t packed in. And after supper, there’s no need to leave the building…just head back to the bar.
General ambience is definitely sexy. It’s smooth, it’s slick, there’s leather…Only sex factor fear is that once you leave the restaurant your date might not look anything like they do indoors due to aqua’s mood lighting.
Mind you, if you’ve tucked into a sufficient amount of their delicious and punchy cocktails that might not be a problem anyway. Got to love a good set of beer goggles.