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Review: Aqua Welsh Back
Year round Al Fresco Dining has arrived in Bristol – whatever the weather!
After being invited to experience Aqua’s brand new terrace, we have to admit that after looking at the weather forecast we weren’t overly enthused! Visions of being layered up and having to wolf down our food to stop it from getting cold sprung to mind.
As soon as we arrived though, we realised we had been way off and immediately had to de-robe. We felt like we were on holiday!
Aqua’s Welsh Back Restaurant is beautifully situated on the harbourside so it really lends itself to a terrace, which until now, could only be enjoyed on a warm summer’s day.
The new terrace includes six heaters and a covered area which means you can still watch the world go by and enjoy the full Al Fresco experience without being affected by the weather conditions.
We were greeted with a very warm welcome from our host Noemi and waiter Carmine, and shown to our table which was dressed in a really tasteful nautical theme – set off beautifully by the backdrop of the river.
The menus and drinks orders swiftly followed; a visit to Aqua always calls for a Bellini to kick off the proceedings. From their array of flavours, two of us chose cherry and the remaining two went for the peach.
With the warmth and nautical décor, we felt in a Mediterranean mood and decided that to start, the four of us would share the tasting plates. Which, at £20 for 5 dishes, is superb value and the dishes which were totally unique from your standard tapas fare.
Our selection included; Creamy lentils braised in a tomato, red pepper & mascarpone sauce, Whitebait with Aqua dressing, Salami picante sausage & black pudding, Kale, leeks, broad beans and pesto and Roasted beetroot, pear & goats cheese.
Our joint favourites were the Salami & black pudding; the strong combination of flavours melted in your mouth, and the Roasted beetroot tasted as good as it looked. Tapas can normally be rather rich but with the mix of ingredients and seasonal vegetables, the mix of flavours, textures and aromas really got our taste buds going without being too overpowering or filling.
Carmine then cleared the dishes and asked if we were happy for the mains to follow shortly or if we’d like to wait; this was really impressive and having such a choice is a rarity. The terrace area isn’t enormous but we certainly didn’t feel like they wanted to hurry us along so they could fit another group in. We chose to wait a little so we could enjoy our second round of Bellini’s and stretch out our ‘mini holiday’ for as long as possible.
After a pleasant wait of 20 minutes, our mains arrived. The Smoked Haddock Risotto which was beautifully creamy and had a very generous helping of fish. The Seabass with chilli, Sicilian lemon with tomato & zucchini risotto had a perfectly moist centre and crispy skin accompanied by a zesty risotto. I opted for the Rump of Lamb served with spring onion mashed potato, whole roasted garlic cloves & red wine jus. The generous cut of lamb was cooked to perfection; slightly pink and beautifully succulent. The garlic really accentuated the rich flavour of the lamb. I found the jus more to be more of a gravy than a jus, but this isn’t a complaint; for me this worked better than a jus as I love to smother potatoes with a rich gravy and because of the spring onion in the mash, it didn’t dim the flavour. From the specials menu, my guest chose the Swordfish steak with oregano, lemon & chilli served with green beans & courgettes. The flavours were perfectly balanced and not too overpowering and the vegetables were perfectly cooked and beautifully presented. Carmine recommend a side of garlic spinach with this particular dish. Spinach can all too often be wet and soggy but Aqua managed to achieve a well cooked spinach with nice crunch – we still want to know how they managed this!
With only a little bit of room left for pudding, two of us ordered a mini pudding with a cappuccino. I opted for the mini Fig & Almond tart and my guests had the mini Crème Brule. Those able to go for a full sized desert went for the Fig & Almond Tart and Tiramisu. The tart was a perfect depth with a buttery pastry which flaked in your mouth and the very generously portioned Tiramisu was light and creamy and my guest chose very well with an Amaretto coffee to set the flavours off!
Although we had an early booking of 7pm, it was 11pm before we knew it. The setting was so warm and relaxing we could have happily sat there and watched the world go by for a few more hours.
A special mention has to go to Carmine, our waiter; he was friendly, knowledgeable and extremely attentive without being overtly so. Our drinks were frequently replenished and we didn’t once feel rushed.
The service coupled with the superb quality of the food and unique setting made this one of our top dining experiences in Bristol so far. The prices are more than reasonable with the most expensive main only costing £13.95! And with their new heated terrace you can relax and you watch the world go by on Welshback’s pretty harbourside no matter what the weather’s doing.
Grazie Aqua, we will be back!