Aquila, Baldwin Street: Review

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Aquila - Exterior

 

Around Corn Street and Baldwin Street, we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to Italian dining options. Europa is this year celebrating its 25th anniversary, San Carlo has been on the same site for almost 20 years…and now there’s the new kid on the block in the form of Aquila.

“New” probably isn’t a word that the Aquila team would use to describe their 160-cover restaurant, though, after it took them two years to finally be granted the planning permission that they needed for their Baldwin Street site.

With its floor to ceiling glass frontage and tasteful outdoor lighting, the Aquila premises is certainly a sight to behold. Step inside, and the wow factor continues: there are some seriously impressive light fixtures, massive booth-style seating for up to 10 people, an open-plan kitchen so that you can see and hear all the action, and dining space spread across two floors, with wheelchair access to both.

Head chef Emilio was at the pass when we arrived, ensuring that his all-Italian team got the job done. We were seated at a table for two with a perfect view of where all the action happens, enjoying the atmosphere as the chefs shouted instructions to each other across the room.

We chose not to order from Aquila’s extensive wine menu, but opted for tap water that was refilled regularly throughout the meal. Once our food choices had been made and our menus cleared, we were almost immediately presented with an amuse-bouche: a single profiterole filled with Parmesan cream and topped with capers. This salty little snack was a great way to whet our appetites for the meal to come.

 

Aquila - Profiterole

 

This was followed by six beautifully oily, toasted slices of focaccia with plenty of salt and rosemary – the bread was so good that the small bowl of oil and balsamic vinegar that accompanied it was not needed at all. We also enjoyed some incredibly large and meaty olives from Puglia, their flavour mild but the olives nice and juicy.

 

Aquila - Focaccia

 

For my starter, I chose the portobello con caprino (£7.95): a portobello mushroom topped with goats’ cheese and baked, served on a bed of rocket and topped with truffle oil and pine nuts. The earthy mushroom was cooked well, its flavour enhanced by the truffle oil, while the tangy goats’ cheese still featured its rind, which encased a centre that got gradually gooier towards the outside. My only complaint would be that the rocket salad was far, far too salty.

 

 Aquila - Portobello

 

Chris opted for the capesante (£8.95): three plump and beautifully seared fresh scallops on a fantastic salty olive pâté with a lovely coarse texture. Finished with flaked toasted almonds, fresh pea shoots and a spear of crispy pancetta, this truly was an outstanding starter.

 

 Aquila - Scallops

 

I was pleased to see veal on the Aquila menu: the choice of vitello alla Romana (£16.95) was a no brainer. While it may not have been the most attractive plate of food, the three thin strips of veal were perfectly succulent and full of flavour, topped with sage (I would have liked a little more…), Parma ham and mozzarella. The white wine sauce was the perfect pairing, and the accompanying baby new potatoes were lovely and fluffy in the middle, but again, far too salty.

 

 Aquila - Veal

 

I also ordered a side of zucchine (£2.95): a generous portion of wafer-thin courgette shavings in the lightest of batters. Delicious.

 

Aquila - Zucchini

 

Chris’ choice was the roasted monkfish (£19.95), meaty chunks of the white fish still firm to the texture and served in a herby tomato sauce. Small cylinders of fondant potato, fresh rocket and some fantastic mussels finished a fantastic dish – but unfortunately, his side of peas and pancetta (£2.95) was again far too salty.

 

 Aquila - Monkfish

Aquila - Peas and Pancetta

 

I’m a sucker for good cannoli, but here in the UK, they’re often made with cows’ milk ricotta, which creates a texture that just isn’t right. It’s sheep milk ricotta all the way for the Aquila cannoli (£6.45), the filling tangy, dense and mousse-like, studded with chocolate chips throughout. The cannoli themselves were full of flavour and perfectly crisp – it was obvious that they’d only just been filled – and the accompanying citrus sauce provided a tartness that worked well with the tangy ricotta. So good.

 

Aquila - Cannoli

 

Chris, meanwhile, ordered the chocolate fondant Emilio (£6.45) – Aquila’s signature fondant that is named after their head chef. The fondant itself was presented in a mini saucepan, the texture perfect and the flavour dark and rich. The limoncello crème anglaise packed just enough of a punch, and the vanilla ice cream (served in a separate bowl so it didn’t melt and slide off the slate) was made more attractive by an upturned mini cone. A beautiful dish.

 

 Aquila - Fondant

 

Aquila was incredibly busy on the Friday night of our visit – and it’s easy to see why. The menu is varied and authentic – and it’s great to see an Italian restaurant with more focus on the desserts, not just sticking to the standard tiramisu and gelato options. Service throughout was professional and faultless: our water glasses were refilled regularly, our napkins folded whenever one of us left the table to use the restroom. It’s a real shame about the overly liberal use of salt in a number of the dishes that we chose, as without this, it would have been an incredibly enjoyable evening.

 

Please note: our meal was received free of charge, but this in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the venue did not see this review before it was put up on the site.

 

One Response to Aquila, Baldwin Street: Review

  1. Hi Emily,

    Many thanks for visiting us and your subsequent review. We pride ourselves on our authentic freshly made food but also on how we use feedback constructively to make sure we improve day in day out.

    We have taken on board your comments and are now monitoring the seasoning of the foods quite strictly, as the level of seasoning has obviously varied depending on the regions of Italy our chefs are from.

    The chefs we have from the south of Italy seemed to season slightly more than the chefs from the north and we want continuity across the board so this has now been addressed.

    It is obviously all a matter of taste, and although we wish to bring a taste of real Italy to Bristol it is imperative that the boys take on feedback to ensure the food hits the mark in Bristol.

    Glad you enjoyed the experience overall and we hope to see you again soon!

    Pete

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