Restaurant Review: Aqua Ristorante, Old Welwyn
Old town appeal with a modern flourish at Aqua Ristorante
WITH the watercourse of the River Mimram running along the length of one side of Aqua Ristorante the provenance of the restaurant's name clarifies. Located at the southern end of the High Street, a car park is conveniently next door.
Stepping down into the front bar area tables recede to the far end and the kitchen. With white walls contrasting black leather chairs, wooden flooring and colourful abstracts splashed across the walls the feel is definitely modern, so it was no surprise to later learn the restaurant opened in November last year.
Promptly seated by a smiling Italian waitress I was slickly offered the combined menu and wine list. A whole page of antipasti offers plenty of choice. Some of the Italian dish titles have limited descriptions but the waitress was more than happy to explain. To start I decided on the prosciutto con asparagi, with pollo Chianti to follow, which combined chicken breasts cooked in red onions, red pesto, red grapes and Chianti.
My starter was presented with panache - generous folds of Parma ham partially concealing four asparagus spears glistening with parsley butter. It was also a nice retro-touch to receive the giant black peppermill treatment at the table. The asparagus was tender, even though it is towards the end of the season, and the ham full of flavour.
My chicken was served as flattened breast smothered in a deep red sauce, dotted with halved red grapes. Accompaniments included roasted new potatoes and a side dish of freshly wilted buttered spinach. This was a spectacular dish, miles away from the formulaic menus of some of the better-known Italian restaurant chains. The red pesto and Chianti gave good depth of flavour and colour, while the grapes were an inspired touch, adding a little sweetness.
The service was excellent throughout the meal, with the waitresses giving the impression they are proud of and enjoy their jobs - hence the continuing, genuine smiles. Something as small as this gives heart to a restaurant and makes customers want to return.
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The dessert menu presumably changes frequently as it was recited rather than written down. I went for a delectable sounding white chocolate and hazelnut cake. Served as a wedge it had a sponge base filled with hazelnut mousse, all topped with a sumptuous white chocolate ganache. Whole almonds and hazelnuts dotted around the cake completed the nut theme along with a swirl of dark chocolate sauce. It was a superb, if filling, way to finish the meal and a single espresso made the ideal accompaniment.
It will be interesting to see how Aqua Ristorante develops, when a little more water has passed under the bridge.
Aqua RistoranteBridge Chambers28 High Street, Welwyn, AL6 9EQ01438 716 322