Last Updated on September 23, 2021
Not Quite La Tomatina – Aqua Nueva Tapas
I’m only just beginning to travel again and I haven’t yet booked a trip abroad. One thing still on my personal wish list is to go along to La Tomatina, a festival in Valencia that is held every year to celebrate the tomato harvest. Inevitably, it involves a lot of tomatoes and the streets of Valencia running red! But, if, like me, you are not planning on travelling to Spain right now, the offering from Aqua Nueva, a rather special penthouse restaurant near Oxford Circus, is considerably more refined and their special Tomatina menu runs for another few weeks.
Chef Yahir Gonalez has produced a selection of dishes to complement an already vibrant menu of tapas, each offering an explosion of tomato flavours.
We went along to check it out – starting on the rooftop bar with a glass of crisp and refreshing Cava and a non-alcoholic passion-fruit mojito.
Back indoors we nibbled on salted smoked almonds and fresh-tasting green olives. Aqua Nueva has a slightly Moorish Spanish feel, with oxblood leather banquettes complementing the grey upholstered chairs and dark wood tables, mosaic tiles on the floor and Arabic styled screens. It’s a large space – a Tardis of a restaurant given the tucked-away entrance on Argyll Street.
We checked through the premium and predominantly Spanish wine list but left the waiter to pick wine for us; a delicious glass of 2019 Pazo Señorans, Albariño, Rias Baixas, Galicia which was crisp green and mineral. Meanwhile, a plate of Iberico ham had arrived, perfectly served at room temperature so the fat melted on the tongue and complemented the nutty meat. My companion is a pescatarian – so this one was all for me!
He got his revenge with the ultimate eggy classic Spanish tortilla with caramelised onion. It had a real wobble on the plate and once he’d cut into it, the yolky centre oozed perfectly. There’s a real art to making this dish well – it’s essentially just a mixture of onions, potatoes and eggs which are cooked to create a dish with a cooked egg and potato shell hiding a liquid middle and served hot or cold. Even someone like me who never orders eggs will enjoy a Spanish tortilla.
Croquetas de jamón Ibérico sat on a tiny bed of aioli. With a beautifully crisp outer shell, these morsels were filled with a delicate creamy bechamel sauce laced with Iberico ham. I’d come here again just for this and a glass of cava!
We loved the dish of grilled artichokes hearts, spicy aubergine and smoked paprika on crisp tortillas. The smoky soft aubergine contrasted with the piquant artichoke and the textural crispness of the tortillas. A really elevated tapas dish.
My companion seems to have something of a fetish;) We shared a sensational roasted Carabinero and white prawn on toast with saffron aioli. Yes, I know you are supposed to suck the head to get those deep rich flavours… My companion was delighted that I left him to enjoy what I see as a hedonistic fetish and I nicked an extra white prawn to make up for missing out on ‘the best bit’!
Stunning bacalao tacos with taramasalata were presented in a squid ink wrapper. Light and delicious, I loved this contemporary presentation of bacalao which can be a heavy dish.
The chargrilled octopus, saffron potato, tomato foam and a tapioca cracker was one of the hero dishes from the Tomatina menu. Order this stunning dish while you can – we loved the tender octopus and the contrast with a tiny portion of melting saffron potatoes and a crisp cracker.
Although neither of us really needed dessert, the lure of raspberry churros with Pedro Ximénez was too much for me. A deliciously rich chocolate sauce with just hint of raisins from the PX was complemented by fragrant and light churros.
Meanwhile, my companion enjoyed the burnt crema Catalana with a soft blood orange sorbet on the side to cut through the creaminess.
This is a great place to know about – perfect for a bite to eat when you are shopping – and I would imagine a fabulous place for drinks and food in the evening. We’ll be back – we’d love to try the neighbouring Japanese restaurant, Aqua Kyoto – and I can’t think of a better place to enjoy Tapas in Oxford Street
240 Regent Street (Entrance 30 Argyll Street)
London, UK W1B 3BR
Reservations :+44 020 7478 0540