With amazing views over Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour Aqua is without doubt my favourite restaurant in Hong Kong, and in my top ten in the world.
It was the first restaurant my husband booked on my first trip to Asia.
We went to Hong Kong in 2005 for a week to decide if we wanted to live there and I guess dining here contributed to us deciding 'YES' and making the move that changed our lives forever.
Over the last 10 years we have dined here many many times. We nearly always brought our guests here to enjoy the amazing views and and the equally impressive food. Now is has become a bit of a ritual and everytime we are in Hong Kong I book a table here.
When you arrive in the reception area the view is hidden behind the sliding doors that lead to the restaurant. When you are being taken to your table and the doors open the view is simply breathtaking. There is a bar upstairs too that is on a mezzanine over the restaurant with the same wow factor when you get to the top of the stairs.
There are two kitchens, Japanese and Italian. both are excellent.
Although we nearly always opt for the Italian we often mix it up a bit by having Japanese starters. Having to two cuisines in one restaurant is obviously great if you have a group of people with different tastes too.
On this occasion there was a small group of us for a business dinner with some of my husband's colleagues.
We managed to reserve a private dining room (there is a minimum per head spend I think) and everyone was impressed.
The room is like a glass box in the corner of the restaurant with the views of the harbour.
If you are dining early enough you can watch the Symphony of Lights on Hong Kong island which happens at 8pm every evening.
Food is actually quite reasonably priced. Of course you can spend a small fortune if you go all out and order champagne and top quality Japanese dishes, but you can also eat amazing Italian style thin crust pizza or delicious pasta dishes and not break the bank.
We had a plate of Japanese starters to share and then I had a scrummy ravioli with soft egg and truffle inside followed by beef cheek on a bed of mash potato. My husband also had the ravioli - it was truffle season and the waiter advised us that it was amazing - followed by pizza.
Our friends opted for a variety of dishes all from the Italian menu.
The dessert platter which we have had many times before is a great way to end the meal if there are a group of you. you get to try lots and nothing is too heavy.
Everything we had was beautifully presented and service was excellent - as always.
We have never had a bad meal in Aqua and I never hesitate when recommending it to just about anybody I meet.
In fact I just advised a small group of Americans I met in a hotel lounge in Singapore and they emailed me to say 'thank-you' saying that together with a trip on Aqua Luna (owned by the same people) it was one of the hi-lights of their trip.
I had been trying to get a table at Restaurant Story for over a year. Admittedly, Its mostly my fault as I am never sure when I will be in London but beware, Restaurant Story's tables fill up quickly. You need to be on the internet as soon as the new bookings open up to get a table on a Friday evening.
When the bookings opened in August I booked a table for December and was going to arrange a trip around it, that is how much I wanted to go here...
I've been on the waiting list before and never been lucky, until a Friday night in the middle of August. I received a call at 4.30 pm to say there was a cancellation and 3 hours later I was sitting at a table.
Restaurant Story opened in 2013 and within 5 months Chef Tom Sellers received his Michelin star. The restaurant makes use of seasonal British produce to create an amazing, innovative, exciting and incredibly beautiful menu.
Immediately after we sat down we received our first amuse bouche... the first of many.
They are all pictured below. I think the Rabbit and pineapple and the the razor clams were my fave, but they were all a very nice teaser for what was about to follow...
We chose the Full Story option from the menu which consists of 11 courses.
We had tried several amuse bouche before we decided on which menu we wanted, and they were amazing so there was no way I was going to miss out on anything that was coming out of this kitchen.
Everything we ate was absolutely delicious. There was a clever balance between flavours. the portions were just right, 11 courses need to be small enough to keep you wanting to continue eating but big enough that you can really enjoy the flavours and ingredients.
For me the most amazing course was the bread and dripping. Firstly its the first time I have seen dripping on a menu. It something I associate with post-war time poverty, but having become a new convert to bone marrow, I was happy to give it a try.
It was served as a candle (see the photo at the top of this posting). The candle was lit and the beef dripping melted into the candle holder where we dipped the bread. It was completely amazing. The concept was fabulous, the flavour was delicious and it was hard to stop eating it.
All the courses that followed were amazing. There was a bread course that was somewhere in the middle of the 11 courses and a couple pf palate cleansers too.
The whole evening was a foodie paradise.
If you love food, either eating or cooking, you will love Restaurant Story.
I'm already looking forward to going back when they change the menu.
Restaurant Story 199 Tooley Street London SE1 2JX
Aqua Nueva has had a re-vamp and the menu has completely changed and I was lucky enough to get invited to the 'soft opening'.
We were greeted with glasses of champagne, which is always a good start to the evening, and had a little time to wander around before being seated.
The interior is now a lot more open and modern looking without compromising on privacy for its diners. The bar is close to the entrance giving a better separation between the bar and dining area, and of course there are still the amazing roof terraces.
Early evening when the colours in the sky are changing the view over London is fabulous.
I've been a big fan on Alberto Hernandez since he won my heart with a braised oxtail dish several years ago. I have to say I was secretly hoping there would be a new version of the Oxtail on the menu again, but there were so many other amazing things to taste I quickly forgot about it. There were 6 of us at our table so we ordered LOTS of dishes. All the dishes were sharing dishes which I love as you get to try lots of things without committing to one single dish, This is especially good with foods that you may be unfamiliar with. You can be adventurous without the risk of going home hungry.
The food was amazing. fresh, well cooked, beautifully presented and more importantly, really tasty. I'll definitely be back again for more.
I'm not sure if all the items we tasted are still on the menu after we all gave our feedback, and you of course have to allow for seasonal variations but here were some of the dishes we tried.
The Slow Cooked egg was my fave dish, followed closely by the Octopus Salad, but since everyone at the table had different opinions and favorites - don't take my word, give Aqua Nueva a try for yourself.
There were of course some fabulous desserts and a cheese board too.
The staff were all very approachable, knowledgeable and full of enthusiasm for the new menu. (OH and VERY easy on the eye too!) The location just between Oxford Circus and Liberty is perfect for taking time out from a shopping trip or meeting friends. The bar is great for people watching, but get there early for a table, and of course there is always the outdoor terrace.
Aqua Nueva would work as a romantic date, but if you want to taste lots of dishes you need to take some friends with you. I would always prefer to have a small try of 6 dishes than a bigger portion of 4.
Don't be misled by the small plates. The ingredients are excellent quality and so the dishes can be quite rich.
Aqua Nueva, 5th Floor, 240 Regent St, London W1B 3BR
As much as I hate to say it, this French restaurant did an amazing Sunday roast....
My husband and I have eaten at Le Chapelle and loved it, so decided to give Galvin - Café à Vin - the bistro a try and were not disappointed.
The decor is very - well - bistro-ey.... Dark wooden furniture and lots of photos on the wall... The restaurant is broken up by the bar area.
The front of the restaurant also has a patio and was a little busy when we visited so we asked for a table in the back. This was accommodated and we had a very quiet spot to enjoy our meal.
Service was very good, although I did struggle to understand the heavily accented waiter. It comes in very handy sometimes having a multi-lingual husband....
I ordered oysters as a starter followed by the beef roast dinner and the chocolate pot for dessert. My husband had the cold cuts, roast beef dinner and tart tatin.
The roast beef dinner was delicious. The waiter also advised us that we could get extra helpings of anything. We didn't take up the offer of second helpings of the food as the first serving was very generous, but an extra helping of gravy was most appreciated.
They have a set price menu for 16.50 GBP and on Sunday the roast dinner is one of the main course options... its really a bargain.
I'll definitely be back here to try out some of the other items on the menu.
Galvin - Café à Vin 35 Spital Square, London, E1 6DY
We stumbled on this new Jason Atherton venue on our way to Selfridges.
We were offered a table or seats at the bar and opted for the latter. It's always good to watch the chefs preparing the dishes. We only visited for a glass of wine on a hot summer afternoon and so just ordered a meat selection to share from the tapas menu.
Our waiter Peter was hysterical . A huge personality. He joked with us and was very funny, highly amusing.
There is a small tapas menu - suitable for a small afternoon snack with a glass of wine, and a more substantial tapas menu for more serious dining. Social Wine and Tapas looks quite small from the street but there is a bigger space downstairs.
It's in the perfect location to enjoy a glass of wine if you are exploring Oxford street, but also its tucked a little out of the way so it's not overrun by tourists. I can see this becoming a regular spot for lunch.
Social Wine and Tapas 39 James Street, London W1U 1DL
One of London’s hidden gems….you certainly don’t stumble across this place, unless you live on the street, but 40 Maltby Street is at the end of Maltby Street market which is becoming more and more popular, and in my opinion is much better than the tourist flooded Borough Market.
Its TINY. I’m guessing they can accommodate 20 people and then they are full, but since they have a menu of small plates, many people either meet here or come for a quick drink at the start of their evening and then go on…. which is exactly what we did. We had 4 small plates and shared them with a glass of wine before we went off for dinner.
The menu changes daily as they source the ingredients locally and of course seasonally, so whilst I have taken a photo, its really just to give and idea of the prices and of course their culinary creativeness….. which is excellent. The flavours and the presentation were excellent. You can even see into the kitchen to see the chefs at work in their tiny space.
They don't take reservations, so its best to get here early.
40 Maltby Street London SE1 3PA 020 7237 9247
Wow, it the only word to describe my initial thoughts about this restaurant. We arrived by taxi and it wasn't easy to find, even with GPS, and our driver asked a coupe time if we were sure there was a restaurant at the address we had given him. He was as surprised as we were when a guy wearing a bowler hat came out to greet us.
We were escorted into a lovely bar area where we waited for our friends and enjoyed G&T's.. When our friends arrived instead or rushing us to our table, we all had aperitifs with small welcome canapés.
A our table for 5 was in the centre of a beautiful room. The room which had a lovely vaulted glass ceiling, had originally been the life drawing room of the art school we were told by our charming waiter.
From our table we also had a great view of the activities in the kitchen, which is always good as a talking point if you are out with people for dinner you don't know very well.
The food was amazing, everything was beautifully presented and tasted amazing. The menu was creative without being chaotic. There are several set menus to choose from and these change so you should check them out on their website.
I can not recommend this restaurant enough. I'm just sorry we weren't in Liverpool long enough to justify another visit.
The Art School 1 Sugnall Street, Liverpool L7 7EB 0151 230 8600
Fabulous service from the moment we stepped in. There is a small bar that you need to walk through to get to the restaurant area, and so you have no idea quite how big the restaurant is until you are inside.
There are two rooms, one quite long and airy and one smaller and darker, but with views of the kitchen. We were offered a choice of tables, despite it being a very busy evening, I guess we were a little earlier than the other diners… it always pays to be on time.
I love the menu, its not fancy, fussy food, its good solid dining.
The Bone Marrow starter is always my favourite, but my dining friends enjoyed the Potted beef with Bacon and Yorkshires, Evesham Asparagus with ducked hollandaise.
For the main course there is a choice from Chicken, fish and lobster, but steaks are the obvious choice. There were also different sized cuts on a specials board, which was good for me as 350g fillet is just too much. I opted for the 250g which was perfect with an accompaniment of triple cooked chips.
Desserts were also uncomplicated, and my husband loved the rhubarb while I opted out as I had eaten far too much already.
Our waitress was charming, with a good sense of humour, but very professional and efficient too.
We loved out evening so much I booked for the following week and took some relatives there.
The Hawksmoor 184 Deansgate Manchester 0161 836 6980
What a great little spot, emphasis on the word ‘little’. It’s just off Piccadilly Circus in a bit of a culinary desert, so during lunch and dinner it gets BUSY.
I was introduced by a friend and we went for late lunch around 2pm, so breezed in, got a table and fairly speedy service too. There are a 6 option for lunch. Hakozen Bento Box, 11 pieces or 14 pieces, Vegetarian Bento box, Kobe Beef Katsu Gozen, Kobe Gyu Don or Kobe Teppanyaki Kaiseki.
We both opted from he Hakozen Bento box with 14 pieces at 40GBP. and were blown away by the presentation. The box had 14 beautifully presented tiny dishes…. on tiny dishes, accompanied by barley and endgame rice and Kombu Dash soup.
Both my friend and spent the following minutes ‘ooh-ing’ and ‘mm-ing’ as we declared each item to be better than the last one. My fave pieces were scallop sashimi and the kobe beef (this is what they are known for)…. however everything I ate was DELICIOUS.
The waitress did give us a very nice explanation of what everything was but we were so distracted by the presentation that I confess we didn’t actually pay enough attention.
If you get a chance go here, Its amazing, you will not regret it. I can’t wait to go back again……
Engawa 2 Ham Yard London W1D
Generally I would avoid restaurants in shopping centres like the plague as I have had some dreadful culinary experiences in them, but in Singapore that rule doesn't really apply. Here the restaurants benefit from the fact that most people in Singapore spend a HUGE amount of time enjoying the air conditioning in the shopping centres......and so the range of cuisines in the centres along Orchard Road is quite staggering.
I was introduced to Tonkichi by a friend when we still lived in Singapore and I went back many times, so on this trip I was pleased that it was still there and as good as ever.The decor is typical of an tonkatsu restaurant in Japan. Nothing swanky, as you can see from the photos here, but why distract from the food ?
The Sapporo was served chilled to about 2 degrees above frozen...... but after a long day in the heat of Singapore the speed by which it was served and the temperature were both welcomed.Both my husband and I had Katsu Don, which is one of my favourite Japanese dishes. It was delicious. It was as good as and Katsu dish I have had in Japan. I would of liked the sauce to be a bit thicker and a bit more flavour, but that is just because I am VERY picky !!
I guess Japanese food isn't on most tourists list of things to eat during a tip to Sinagpore, but if you are over Laksa, chili crab and Rendang and find yourself in Takashimaya seeking refuge from the heat, then I would definitely suggest a lunch break in Tonkichi. If you live in Singapore or visit regularly, then there are no excuses. Give this place a try. They also have great set lunch bento boxes…
Tonkichi - Takashimaya #04-24, 391 Orchard Road Ngee Ann City, Singapore +61 6735 7522 Website
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