So I recently attended the opening night of Aqua Italia: Milton Keynes’ newest independent to try its luck in The Hub. It’s fair to say that on my first encounter I was more than impressed. The staff were cheerful and falling over themselves to keep you fed and watered, the kitchen was efficient in churning out plate after plate of delicious morsels and the house cocktails were in full flow.
But it’s one thing to be good when all eyes are on you during your moment in the limelight, the true test is in maintaining that calibre when the theatrics are over and normality resumes. Aqua Italia enticed attendees of the party back for round two with 50% off, which I swiftly took them up on to find out just how good they were beyond the hype.
Let me start off by saying that I really love how they’ve designed the restaurant. Rather than seating everyone on one boring platform (horribly utilitarian in those monstrously tall Hub units) they’ve created little nooks and booths on 3 different levels. We were seated in the first floor nook, which I loved, it’s so cosy!
I sat down with my Aperol Spritz; after drinking glass after glass at the opening party I’m hooked! It’s very refreshing, almost like a bitter Pimms. The waiter behind the bar was very enthusiastic about it as well! After chatting with a number of the staff and spending far too long umming-and-aaahing over the menu, this is how our meals went…
Well, it’s not a proper meal unless you start off with some bread. I was expecting the bog standard bread & butter, but oh no! Along it came with a little pan of crushed tomatoes, peppers and olive oil, which tasted A.Mazing.
So good in fact that we jokingly asked for the recipe… which they gave to us! Love that personal touch that you just don’t get at chains.
The boys went for fried Calamari with garlic & lemon mayonnaise.
Mother dearest chose baked mushrooms with garlic & cream. (I do love these little pots they use!)
I went for goats cheese. I’m a sucker for goats cheese. Mega impressed by the portion size! This one was a more mellow variety, not as deep and tangy as I’m used to, but deliciously soft and best friends with that picked onion.
Tuscan belly pork. Always a dangerous choice when my mum makes some of the best belly pork known to man. Needless to say it didn’t top the chart, but was tender & tasty nonetheless.
Rich rabbit ragu.
Roasted lamb with onion mash. This wasn’t my first choice but they were fresh out of the pork cheeks, and a number of other things sadly. I guess some inevitable teething problems of a new restaurant. Lovely creamy mash – and look! – it’s another one of those pots! Filled with a tangy red wine & garlic jus. A hearty little dish but I did feel it was missing a vegetable or two.
God I love dessert. It’s just such a good way to end a meal! Give me a dessert over a starter any day… though I’ll gladly take both.
for those missing their sweet tooth there’s the cheese board of your choice. The cheeses picked were super fresh & creamy, great with big green crunchy apples!
A generous slab of sticky toffee pudding. This one tastes deep and comforting with a hint of cinnamon.
It had to be done, didn’t it? On this classic alone Aqua Italia passed the test. Absolutely perfect balance of luxurious coffee and chocolate with fluffy sponge and light cream.
I ended my meal with a lemon cheese cake. I kept spying it being served to people on the level below and had to have it. Not like any cheese cake I’ve had before, it was almost cakey. But a lovely, dense texture with dollops of crushed raspberries.
It’s clear that the staff at are passionate about what they do and have buckets of enthusiasm for the restaurant. Whilst Aqua Italia are still smoothing out some creases they were apologetic for any imperfections and remained friendly and helpful throughout the evening. Two visits in I can now safely say that for me Aqua Italia passes the test as a welcome addition to Milton Keynes dining. I’ll be back!