‘Shall we do brunch?’ ‘We must get brunch.’ This culinary buzz-word has become almost as much of a ‘thing’ as dinner on London’s restaurant scene in years of late. Late weekend risers flock to the city’s restaurants for their fix of runny Burford Browns and avo, sourdough and flat whites, artisan full Englishes, and the rest. Aqua Shard, however, found on the 31st floor of London’s instantly recognisable glass-splinter building, is mixing things up a bit, offering a 3-course menu filled with crowd-pleasing yet adventurous dishes.
A trip to one of The Shard’s restaurants has obviously earned itself a reputation: it’s one of the capital’s ‘must dos’. What with the jaw-dropping vistas of some of the world’s most famous landmarks: a real life monopoly board seen from above. Diners snap the views from every angle, and the food is impressive enough to ensure it gets a look in on Instagram, too: basically, Aqua is a destination restaurant, and would be views or no.
Aqua’s weekend brunch menu is contemporary British: a multi-course journey through some of the nation’s finest produce, with a zingy amuse bouche and pre-dessert acting as divine little extras.
We start with cocktails which set the tone for uniqueness: a chic and sweet ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’, complete with Holly Golightly rice-paper topping, which gave a satisfying wibble as you sipped. Delicate rose liqueur mixed dreamily with punchy vodka and tart raspberry, with a frothy egg-white lightness. Next, a ‘White Lady’ saw Tanqueray 10 shaken with cointreau and cheek-smarting lemon. Making a note to pop back for more of the mind-bender cocktails (pear and cheese being top of the list), we pressed on.
First we sipped on an espresso cup of green-hued tomato gazpacho, with another punch of vodka and garlic, this silky-smooth blend was refreshing yet indulgent: a luxurious little tonic.
Next up, starters included beetroot carpaccio with whipped curd: crisp-thin circular slivers were topped with pickled golden beets with a gorgeous vinegary tang, light and fluffy curd, crunchy walnuts and spiralised swirls of deep purple beetroot. A goodness-giver if ever there was one.
A nod to the traditional brunch plate came in the form of lobster Benedict: I’ve had the full version as part of aqua Shard’s breakfast (available on weekdays), and this miniature version saw half a toasted muffin topped with a (obviously) perfectly runny, orange-yolked egg, smooth and creamy hollandaise, and chunks of juicy lobster meat.
Crispy cod cakes contrasted fluffy potato with flaky fish, lapped up with mini blobs of aioli. A crisp, zingy salad of cucumber, lemon and salty samphire sparked the freshness and vibrancy of the seaside.
Next, crispy-skinned-yet-juicy chicken breast, and golden-hued, crunchy layered slices of potato arrived with dinky pots of bread sauce, jus and creamed leeks with chanterelles. This was a next-level take on the classic British meat-and-two-veg offering.
Palate cleanser supreme: cleansing, creamy frozen yoghurt with the crunch of freeze dried strawberries.
Raspberry fool & sea buckthorn posset
For the main-event dessert, bijou little treats included a delicate, springy raspberry fool, sprinkled with chopped pistachios.
Next was texture and flavour galore: a velvety, sunshine-shade posset was dotted with miniature meringue kisses, bitter orange pieces and the herby, aromatic release of sea buckthorn. Neither were showy (unlike, it can’t be denied, the building we resided within), but simply perfect little ways to round off a decidedly different, breath-of-fresh-air brunch.
In short? I love my drippy eggs, but Aqua Shard’s take on brunch will have me back quicker than you can say Instagram filter. I’ll be doing my Burford Browns at home.
Level 31 The Shard, 31 St. Thomas Street, London, SE1 9RY