Paella at noon: brunch goes to Spain at Aqua Nueva

I’ve always been a fan of arbitrary eating.

As a child,  so loud was the little voice in my head telling me to just put it in your mouth that my mum was forced to restrict my playdough intake. I also sparked a PSCHE lesson on what we should and should not eat following an incident with a particularly delicious-looking copy of ‘The Jolly Christmas Postman’.

As I grew older, my pica peculiarities faded, as did any chance of having a Vice documentary made about me. But I never grew out of the desire to eat the wrong thing at the wrong time. Cereal in the morning? Fine. Cereal at midnight? Divine. Chinese takeaway at 7pm – move over! I’m saving the chow mein for the next day. And the day after that.

You can imagine my delight at the new  ‘Feasting Brunch’ menu at Aqua Nueva, artfully curated by head chef, Yahir Gonzalez. Originally from Mexico, he has carefully crafted a selection of tapas style dishes available every weekend. For brunch.

Set in the heart of Oxford Circus, it turns out I have walked past Aqua Nueva several times before, thinking it was a very high end gentleman’s club. But after entering I quickly see the tables were fairly flimsy and not at all suitable for dancing on. The room itself is cavernous and carefully decorated in leather and brass (wipe-clean, very sensible). The lighting is also perma-set to somewhere in between ‘romantic’ and ‘Medieval cellar’; a real boon for any untidy eater.

We were greeted with a delicious Cava, along with an explanation that, although the British prefer Prosecco, it is not Spanish and was therefore eschewed from the menu. Crisp and dry, who knew it was the perfect mid-morning drink.

As we sipped, we’re brought our first dish: croquettas. A perfect balance of textures, they are crispy and smooth. The chorizo croquettas, with a subtle sweet smokiness are a particular hit. Be warned: in polite society, each croquetta is probably two-mouthful job, lest you end up resembling a bothered hamster.

Next up was the Pan de Tomate. It relies solely, and quite rightly, on excellent ingredients. Tomatoes are the worst ingredient to scrimp on, and, happily, these ones were jewel-red and outrageously sweet.

I’m forever getting full on bread, so I’m relieved that the next dish, Ensalate de Aguacute, arrives almost alongside the Pan de Tomate. Another hit. The texture of the creamy avocado alongside crunchy interjections of corn and crisp salad leaves created a beautiful balance. But my companion and I both agree that the balance of flavours is far less successful. It’s incomplete; an acidic element would have helped to lift a salad from nice to fantastic.

Tortilla de patatas is, for me, a revelation. Having previously only encountered Spanish omlette when I had left over roasties and eggs on the turn, it’s been something I’ve previously eaten hesitantly lest I end up with salmonella again. Aqua Nueva’s tortilla was a welcome change- again, a wonderful balance of textures, and seasoned perfectly.

Next up are brochetas, with a side order of confusion. We are told they are lamb, but my partner and I are sure they are beef. Ever so slightly overdone, they are a disappointment comparative to the rest of the slick menu.

By this point, I’m starting to feel a little full, but our next course is a seafood paella. True to form, the ingredients are excellent quality. Seafood is often a let down when you’re far from the coast but the assembly of mussels, shrimp and squid are all squidgy with freshness. However, once again the issue of balancing flavours crops up. Without an acidic element, the paella fails to wow. We ask for a squeeze of lemon, and suddenly everything is knocked up a notch.

We end with churros, and what a fantastic way to finis a meal. They’re sweet, doughy and thanks to a sprinkling of crushed pistachio, deliciously nutty. They are complimented with a passion fruit sauce which tarts things up with a sharp burst of fruitiness.

I leave Aqua Nueva disoriented and blinking. It is 2pm and the sun is blazing. I’m opposite a Wok to Walk.  My stomach is happy. I might be drunk. Yep, Spanish or not, this is what brunch is all about.

Aqua Nueva

5th Floor
240 Regent Street (Entrance 30 Argyll St)
London
W1B 3BRTel: 020 7478 0540

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