AquaEight must be one of the few restaurants in Ipswich I’d yet to frequent (until the other weekend) and I can’t believe it’s taken me so long. It’s definitely up there as one of the best. The owners also have sister restaurant, Mizu, which has branches in Brentwood and Ipswich. Although we only went for lunch, I need to return for dinner and drinks, or even with a large group to sample their tapas-style ‘small eats’ menu.
Evenings are definitely the highlight at AquaEight as they have the Eight Bar and Aqua Garden on the ground floor – and there’s often live music and entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights. We enjoyed a drink outside before heading upstairs to the restaurant and it’s really beautiful, with patio heaters for those colder nights, rattan furniture and cute little features.
At lunchtimes, there’s a set menu, well priced at £12.50 for two courses and £14.50 for three courses. Of course I went for all three, because there was so much on the menu to choose from! There are eight options for starters and main courses, with three choices for dessert. To start, there was only one winner and that was the pepper squid – lightly tempura’d squid, served with ribbons of spring onion and chilli and a chilli pepper sauce. I love squid and this was the nicest I’ve ever had; the batter was incredibly light and so well-seasoned. The dipping sauce luckily wasn’t too hot. This, like everything else served to our table – and others’ for that matter – was beautifully presented.
For my main course, I chose the sweet & sour pork, while Jake went for his favourite, beef fillet in black bean. Main courses from the lunch menu are served with egg fried rice or fried rice noodles and we had a portion of each. The noodles were very good – I much prefer rice noodles to egg, or even udon – and both portions were more than enough for two. My pork dish easily rivalled what I had at Hakkasan in Mayfair (in terms of quality, rather than how it looked) and was packed full of flavour and crunch. The sauce wasn’t too thick and definitely wasn’t gloopy.
Despite struggling to eat all the food in front of us, we managed to save room for dessert. I went for the green tea ice cream, as it’s something I’ve never had before. It was served with adzuki beans and I don’t even know how to describe them, the texture and flavour was unusual and not something I could explain. The green tea ice cream was a lot more delicate than I was expecting; the flavour of tea is normally quite pungent, this was much the opposite. It was a lovely ending to a lovely lunch.
The restaurant is beautiful and I’d be inclined to describe it as Chinese Fine Dining – the decor is so upmarket and it’s perfect for an intimate meal for two as well as catering for large groups and special occasions. The tables are quite close together, although this wasn’t problem when we were eating, as it wasn’t overly busy. It was lovely to have those additional touches like tooth picks and moisturised tissues on the table too. The staff couldn’t have been more friendly and efficient – they really know their stuff. On the whole, it was excellent and I thoroughly recommend AquaEight if you’re after a change from your standard Chinese.