Aqua Kyoto, Oxford Circus

International jet-set

The Vibe

If you’re a sucker for glam dining destinations, restaurants posturing as nightclubs, shiny surfaces, dark lights and an ambitious number of covers, Aqua Kyoto is your place. Comparisons to Nobu and Zuma fall by the wayside once you realise that this is one of two restaurants in a mega complex of epicurean indulgence- Aqua Neuva (a Spanish restaurant) and Aqua Spirit (the cocktail bar) are but a tipsy stumble away. Part of a Hong Kong restaurant group, the interiors are very much in the smart, up-market and hotel-esque international style. Interiors are complete with oriental touches and dark tables, with a love seat banquette table in the corner for dates. Despite the ‘mega-restaurant’ vibe, you can’t call this place tacky- it’s immaculately done and, once you get over the slightly surreal proportions and unashamed bling, it’s nothing but sexy.

The Order

You’ll be pleasantly surprised if you think this place is style over substance. The sea bass sashimi (an occasional chef special) is a delicate and flavoursome slither resting on a raised plate, well matched with sesame-seasoned broccoli that is sweet and crisp. Whilst Aqua does a decent black cod with miso, unlike other high end Japanese joints the sushi selection manages to eclipse it. The chef’s special has an excellent selection and quality of sushi, beautifully presented, and a more economical option than typically leading with Wagyu beef and cod. Other items from the charcoal grill are equally tasty; simple and smokey.

The Game

Whatever you do make sure you ask for the two-man banquette by the terrace. If it’s sunny, you can start with a cocktail on the rooftop overlooking London and then move to the table to finish your aperitif with a side of salted edamame. You’re pretty much seated side by side so there’s some opportunity for affectionate petting and intimate chat. If you’re at all nervous about the fanciness of the place, this seating arrangement puts you at ease and also opens you up to take the whole place in, avoiding the awkwardness of sitting interview-style. At the end of the meal skip the Spirit Bar, as there are few places to sit and it might take a fraction too long to get served. Just hail a cab to one of the neighbouring hotel bars to balance the international glitz with some Anglo-American elegance.

The Faults

It’s expensive and it may be a bit ‘mega-restaurant’ for some.

Sex Factor

5. If you are being taken here, money is being spent and outfits have been thought about. The cocktail bar vibe will get you tipsy and willing; the hotel bar will seal the deal.

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