One of three very swish areas under the Aqua umbrella, this glamorous restaurant serves up Spanish fare that’s every bit as rich as the gaudy guests that sashay and saunter through its impressive innards.
It certainly looks the part, and visitors are certainly made to feel the part as they’re gently caressed to their table by a succession of attentive staff along atmospheric corridors and past ceiling high fabrics billowing beautifully in the breeze. A huge and formidable bull guards the door to the bar, suggesting that this place means business, but the restaurant itself is a lighter affair, bathed as it is in an attractive amber glow from judiciously placed lighting.
Intricate Moorish ceiling ornaments look like an absolute bugger to hang, but they work nicely with the smattering of tiles behind the bar to give a hint of Spanish authenticity to somewhere that could otherwise look just a little too garish. A stunning outside area attracts a wealth of the well-to-do in the summer, all looking very chic and sophisticated as they prop up the alfresco bar.
You can certainly expect plenty of glamorously garbed folk – in fact, they have to be to get past a picky and pedantic doorman who patrols the entrance, kindly offering very helpful advice on sartorial elegance in the process. This does help keep up appearances inside though, with a well-heeled crowd either tottering around in impossibly high heels or generally looking pretty swish in tailored suits. Some might find it naff, others will love it.
Staff are everywhere, and clearly very good at their jobs. They know the menu inside out and are adept at dealing with even the most demanding of creatures, usually with an admirably deft hand. They help to maintain an atmosphere that, overall, feels ever so slightly exclusive without getting snooty, even if one or two of the clientele don’t seem to agree – you’re not in Mayfair yet, sweetie pie.
A relatively lengthy menu is divided into tapas and mains, allowing plenty of flexibility – which is probably what many of the clientele are used to. There are certainly enough tapas options for you to go solely down that route (which is probably advisable), but two or three smaller plates to share between two work well as starters.
The tapas dishes really are excellent, with a clearly well-sourced selection of Iberian sausages being just one of the highlights. The grilled tuna belly (cooked exquisitely) is also very impressive, complemented nicely by avocado, sweet roasted red peppers and a smidgeon of sorrel. Crostini with tomato is perfectly adequate, even though it’s not ordered, and it suddenly becomes completely redundant anyway when a fantastic (and requested) crostini with sardines and a sun-dried tomato and creamed cheese terrine is delivered. It’s beautifully balanced and looks gorgeous.
Those ladies looking all svelte and sassy in their natty little numbers should probably steer clear of the mains – they’re pretty heavy. Whereas the smaller plates showcase the delicate hands in the kitchen, the mains are definitely big and butch, especially the secreto de Iberico - a sought after and expensive cut, taken from behind the shoulder blade. The intense depth of piggy flavour shows that it’s beautifully marbled, and it works really well with a carefully constructed, feather-light potato mille-feuille. There is though, a huge amount of meat, which is obviously very kind of the kitchen but not to one’s belly. A gorgeous fillet of hake is slightly less bold but just as rich thanks to a few mussels, some sweet crab meat and a few intriguing strings of squid ink jelly that don’t really taste of much. Still, they look great. Steamed vegetables are nice and al dente, it’s just a shame they are drowning in butter.
Desserts are the weak link, with a passion fruit ice cream in a sangria coulis suffering from too much tartness – it would be a whole lot better without the grapefruit. The raspberry coulis with fresh cheese ice cream and biscotti is definitely worth a try, not least for that strange and moreish ice cream.
If you fancy sampling a selection of what nueva serves up then you can also head down for their Infinity Brunch on a Sunday. It boasts an an extensive selection of the tapas options, with dishes either cooked to order (including a really good paella) or laid out on the long bar (cured meats, empanadillas, ensaladilla rusa and much more). The quality is, again, impressive, and you can order as much as you like for £65. Oh, and there's unlimited Louis Roederer champagne and live music from Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, just in case you need any more persuasion.
They can mix a mean Martini, quite a few of which are sipped and supped in the bar, and there’s enough choice on a bulging cocktail list to keep even the most demanding of divas happy. The wine list is actually surprisingly short, which could suggest where the emphasis lies at this place. There is, though, a cracking Albariño that works impeccably well with the tapas but isn’t quite strong enough to take on the mains - there isn't much that could. There’s a decent number of sherries that will stand it in good stead for the burgeoning fad, and there’s a couple of very good ports to finish, if you’re so inclined.
The Last Word
It’s probably a bit showy for some but this place is still definitely worth a visit. Tuck into some early evening tapas and retire to that incredible terrace and you should have a very nice night indeed.