Pop-Up: London’s Aqua Nueva Brings Meticulous Spanish Tapas to Statement

Aqua group’s international presence has led it to be one of the leading authorities in its regional F&B industries. Dominating some of the hottest locations in each city, including aqua in The Shard and Hutong at One Peking, it’s no surprise that gourmands were thrilled to hear of the multiple outposts at Tai Kwun, including The Chinese Library, The Dispensary, and Statement. With travel restrictions remaining on hold, aqua is bringing the best of its London restaurant to Hong Kong with its promotional pop-up menu. Showcasing London’s award-winning contemporary Spanish restaurant, aqua nueva has taken over the British eatery Statement in Tai Kwun, running for three months from October 22. Cha Siu Papers Times popped by Statement to taste the speciality dishes from the original aqua nueva menu, to see if the restaurant lived up to its reputation.

Hailing from London’s exclusive Regent Street, aqua nueva towers from its penthouse location on of the street’s esteemed Regency buildings. As the first London venture for the Hong Kong-born Aqua Restaurant Group, it marked the beginning of a new international era for its outlets, later expanding into New York, Miami, and Dubai.

Image courtesy of Mr Ping | Cha Siu Papers Times

Known for its contemporary Spanish tapas, aqua nueva brings the award-winning signature dishes to Hong Kong’s Statement restaurant to celebrate the London restaurant’s decade of success. We tried the pop-up menu which comprised cocktails, sharing platters, and the best of tapas in the colonial-style British venue. The menu, curated by aqua nueva’s chef Yahir Gonzalez, included highlights from the crispy croquetas to the Ibérico pork fillet—yet with the combination of factors making a local venture somewhat challenging in itself, we prepared for aqua’s imported menu with a positive mindset, and we weren’t disappointed.

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Hosting the pop-up at British restaurant Statement was a strategic decision, aligning with the flagship’s London location. Service at Aqua restaurants has proved to always be on point, an important consistency which remains throughout its branches, and Statement’s aqua nueva pop-up was no exception. Nestled within Tai Kwun, Hong Kong’s door to cultural heritage and the arts, the restaurant sits adjacent to its sister establishments The Chinese Library and The Dispensary. Gourmands can pop by at the bar for a drink prior to the meal just footsteps away.

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Honouring the surrounding rich heritage of the colonial-era old Police Headquarters Building, Statement exudes a sophisticated ambience thanks to its plush seating and decadent ceiling lighting which set the tone with a dim mood illumination. Interiors are subtle, with a colour palette of teal, soft grey, and deep woods. Outside, diners can drink on the balcony of the second-floor establishment and peer over to people watch the steam of passers-by beneath.

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Typically, the restaurant serves a mix of traditional and contemporary British staples, including Aberdeen roast beef and freshly-baked Yorkshire puddings—heartwarming music to some ears, particularly those familiar with a decent Sunday roast. aqua nueva’s pop-up, however, focuses on Spanish cuisine as its London counterpart is prized for. We sat at one of the moon-shaped booths, sinking into the plump sofa, ready to devour the best of what was to come.

Image courtesy of Mr Ping | Cha Siu Papers Times

To start our evening, we ordered the two cocktails (out of four) to try. Mi Casa Su Casa (HK$98) is a Spanish phrase referring to the act of “making yourself at home”, a welcoming start to the meal. Made from Grey Goose pear vodka with honey, lemon, pineapple juice, and a sprinkle of black pepper, the cocktail was refreshing and fruity without being overpowering.

The Catalan Sour took a subtle Spanish spin on the classic Whisky concoction, using Haig Club Whisky, chestnut liqueur, egg white, lemon, and honey to curate a sweeter, smoother curation of the original drink, but for me, tasted a little too honeyed. We recommend perhaps having one cocktail prior to the meal, followed by wine pairings for the set menu to keep the focus on the food flavours.

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Resembling well-adored bruschetta, the Rustic Tomato Bread was served on one plate next to its Ibérico Ham Bellot for an indulgent welcome pairing. Although it wasn’t the most intriguing dish on the menu, it was certainly a cult classic—and with good reason. Juicy, ripe tomato purée smothered over the freshly-baked bread lends a homey, hearty touch to the palatable side, served amicably with the thin-cut Ibérico ham, made the starting dish an obvious hand-in-hand combination.

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The star of the show was the signature croquetas—a line up of four unique flavours, allowing one each per table. Fillings included manchego and black truffle, Ibérico ham, Boston lobster and bisque, wild mushroom, and black seafood.

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Each bite-sized variation proved to be very unique in its own right—or at least, this was my first time to have a Boston lobster and bisque croquetas, but tell me otherwise—while paying total tribute to the concept of tapas. Prepared individually by hand, each croqueta is rich and creamy on the inside and crispy on the outside—a recipe which twice earned it the title of ‘Best Croquettes in the UK’. Highlights include the lobster and La Mancha-inspired manchego and black truffle fillings, however, the black seafood croqueta lacked flavour for me.

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Another tapas to be shared, the Beef Short Ribs and Potato Gratin with Chimichurri was also a winning feat—the delicate, tender short rib atop the potato gratin gave a richness to the overall dish without overriding flavour.

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No tapas menu is complete without the iconic speciality Patatas Bravas. aqua nueva makes it mille-feuille style with layers upon layers of potato topped with black garlic and tomato sauce, resulting in a tender, simple flavour which focuses on the technique rather than the taste.

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We tried two of the larger plates, including the Ibérico pork fillet with Pedro ximénez sauce, lentils and chorizo. The smoky pork was succulent and tender at every bite, complemented by the fine lentils coated in traditional Spanish sauce for a kick.

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Our next main dish was a seafood one—the Roasted Octopus, with Green Chilli Sauce, Potato and Chorizo Foam. We really enjoyed the sauce, infused with foam of savoury chorizo, the octopus was a bit rubbery for my taste—but as I’m not very familiar with the cephalopods, it proved to be an unsuccessful first-timer.

Image courtesy of Mr Ping | Cha Siu Papers Times

We had definitely reached our appetite capacity, but there’s always room for dessert. To finish, we tried the Burnt Catalan Cream (a Spanish version of the traditional French crème brûlée) served with blood orange sorbet.

Image courtesy of Mr Ping | Cha Siu Papers Times

Since the pop-up concept at Statement launched in October, it’s proved to be a successful venture given its often full capacity and bookings. Bringing in Spanish tapas from London’s flagship is an encouraging incentive to invite Hong Kong gourmands to try the best of Aqua Restaurant Group’s international victories. The tapas dishes were a hit for us, while the main dishes were less so—we recommend to perhaps place more focus on the bite-sized delicacies on a visit to the restaurant, a fair few are worth sharing—it is what aqua nueva are famous for, after all. We hope to see a possible permanent establishment rise from this in our very own city.

Aqua Nueva Pop-Up at Statement, Police Headquarters Block 01, Tai Kwun, 10 Hollywood Rd, Hong Kong, +852 2848 3000, statement.com.hk

Book your aqua nueva reservation at Statement

Faye Bradley the founder and editor of Cha Siu Papers Times, the luxury lifestyle magazine based in Hong Kong. She is a freelance writer and illustrator and focuses on topics from travel and wellness to fashion and dining. Her work has been featured in Vogue, Lifestyle Asia, Travel + Leisure Asia, SUITCASE Magazine, Compare Retreats, Time Out, LUX Nomade and Luxury Lifestyle Magazine.

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