FROM the 31st floor of the Shard, where London Bridge station looks like an ever-pulsing muscle pumping passengers in and out of the City, and where you are looking down at even the fanciest hotels around, London is everywhere. Gaze towards Canary Wharf and Beckton hovers on the horizon; walk around to see the BT Tower, and west London lies infinitely beyond.
It’s a commanding panorama – far more so at night, when the Thames looks more like an anaconda than a frayed and filthy hawser. This might be Aqua Shard’s strongest suit: a glassy melding of insular Jazz Age decadence with the giddy heights of corporate hedonism.
The Aqua Shard
You might come for the views, but you stay – if you’re feeling deep-pocketed – for the drinks. Aqua Shard has introduced Pop from the Past, a new range of oh-so-British concoctions anchored by Tanqueray No. Ten and drawing on early 20th-century cocktails (they’re served in artisanal bottles for a start). Classic with a contemporary twist is the order of the day.
This is perhaps best illustrated in the most seductive of offerings: a mandarin and lapsang cocktail that, mixed with the gin and some sparkling wine, pits sweet against smoky only for smoky to emerge victorious. The scent, of course, arrives before the taste, and the strange oblique relationship between taste and smell here gives the drink a depth lacked by, say, the Manuka and sauvignon blanc, which somehow seems too eager to please. With its muscovado sugar and lemon zests having been vacuumed and sealed for a day, the Manuka cocktail’s syrupy undertow is not best served by the sauvignon tonic, which tries to stay out of the way but ends up throwing the drink off balance.
Pop from the Past: Manuka and sauvignon blanc
The apple and cedro is more successful. Refraining from excessive sweetness despite a heady anise tea infusion, it is perhaps the most conventional of the cocktails, a simple pleasure that nonetheless feels well-conceived and perfectly executed. Likely more divisive is the mint and chocolate cocktail, which attempts to make After Eights potable by treating Tanqueray to cacao nibs and blending it with peppermint tea. Perhaps a shade too rich to be had after a heavy meal, it works well on its own. Some, of course, might fairly say it tastes too much like mouthwash, but I was partial to its darker tones.
Pop from the Past: Mint and chocolate
Aqua Shard’s setting, however, provides its own high (no pun intended). When the Beast from the East was in town, being on the 31st was like being in a snow globe; and on a clear night, you can see forever. In such a setting, even the best cocktails are just the cherry on the cake.
by Arjun Sajip
Aqua Shard, The Shard, 31 St Thomas St, London SE1 9RY