Bristol waterfront is alive with people from when the sun comes out until late into the evening. Your choice on a Saturday becomes more about which stag party you wish to avoid more than any other, rather than getting away from them all completely.
But Bristol also has its fair share of independent restaurants, cafes, and places to escape from fancy-dressed men.
Tucked away on Welsh Back, just a stones throw from the main waterfront area, and across the Queen’s Square, is a delightful Italian restaurant called Aqua.
On first approach, the restaurant frontage is across the cobbled street from the water, tables, chairs, and the obligatory heated parasols are scattered, it’s a slice of continental cafe culture and bodes well. However, one glance up, and you realise that Aqua occupies the ground floor of some classic brutalist office block and the Italian illusion is shattered.
Once inside the doors, and the atmosphere returns, there is a real buzz to the place, the restaurant is laid out in a way to cater for differing sizes of parties, and no one feels like they are too close or on top of the covers next to them.
The waiting staff were prompt, helpful, and pleasant in taking us to our table and talking us through the menu, and putting us at ease.
The menu was extensive, almost too extensive, I could almost hear Ruth Watson and Alex Polizzi critiquing the kitchen for setting themselves too greater challenge to deliver that number of dishes fresh and perfect.
The wine list was good, and reasonably priced, with enough choice to cater for a range of tastes and budgets. The Sauvignon Blanc was a little warm considering the ambient temperature of the room, but an ice bucket was quickly provided to prolong the enjoyment.
Starters arrived shortly after and were both attractive and delicious. The carpaccio was finely sliced and seasoned perfectly.
In classic Italian restaurant style, the main course options were pasta, pizza, or ‘other’, and we both selected from the pizza section. The waitress was happy to delay the course at our request, allowing us to take our time and enjoy the evening at our own pace.
Dessert was sadly disappointing, although the menus showed promise, and the portion size was spectacular, a few bites in and the Sicilian cheesecake was starting to taste more like sponge (and not sponge cake either).
The coffee selection was enticing, and repaired some of the damage done by the dense slice of Sicilian pie, however it was at this point that the attentiveness of the waiting staff became overbearing, and you got the impression that they would actually prefer you to leave so they could all head off home.
Overall the restaurant was good, despite my gripes, (and some overfilling of the wine glasses), and I would still recommend it, and I would definitely return… But be prepared to ask for more time, and in all honesty… go for the sticky toffee pudding.
Restaurant website: Aqua Welsh Back
Welsh Back, Bristol
Tel: +44 (0)117 915 6060