A beautiful fairy-light lit terrace hugging the shores of a quiet lake, the aroma of freshly roasted coffee beans seeping into the air and sitting in a big tank is a giant lobster threatening to blurt out The Little Mermaid’s “Under the Sea” – this was the sight that welcomed me at the new lavish restaurant aptly named Aqualand.
Situated a mere minutes walks from exit C of the Sanyanqiao metro stop in Hankou, Aqualand is located in the new Backyard 后院 development on the Lingjiaohu lake. With dandelion-shaped chandeliers adorning the 5.5m high ceilings, a snazzy bar kitted out with shelves of well-lit bottles of alcohol and a 12 m2 LED screen, the restaurant is spacious and elegant with seating either indoors or outside on their lakeside terrace.
Aqualand officially opened its doors on 15 March 2017 as a western dinner and cocktail bar by passionate food and beverage industry veterans: Michael Zhang, Bruce Lee and Yang. The 3 business partners all met while working together at the Marco Polo Hotel and decided to pull their 14 years worth of resources and experience to start up the trendy restaurant. All the staff are trained at Aqualand’s Coffee and Mixology school nearby and with the chefs, having been poached from the Westin and Shangri La Hotel, you know that the service is going to be of high-standard.
Michael has curated a menu that highlights his passion and supply of live seafood; and being the Hubei supplier and distributer of the UK based seafood company, Ocean Fleet, his fish tanks are well stocked with only the best the ocean has to offer.
Diving Right In
If you go to Aqualand for the seafood, you won’t be disappointed. The fresh Canadian Wild Oysters are served plain on a bed of crushed ice with slices of lemon, so you can enjoy the natural flavour of this meaty shellfish.
The restaurants most popular dish is the sweet and buttery Curry Bread Crab which is stewed in a coconut based Japanese curry with potatoes and carrots and then garnished with fresh chilli. The Grilled Blue Lobster, fished off the shores of Brittany, is grilled to perfection with garlic, butter, lemon and black pepper and then garnished with fresh parsley and sea salt before being served on a large plate with a fresh side salad. The seafood dishes are simple, flavourful and not overly spiced: the way fresh fish should be.
Glancing over the menu, who wouldn’t be tempted by a starter called a Gorgeous Chef Salad? As far as house salads go, it hits the spot. With black pepper crusted pastrami, a soft boiled egg, shaved parmesan and sweet cherry tomatoes on a bed of mixed lettuce, this understated salad is a perfect starter and comes with your choice of dressing.
The Chicken Caesar Salad, was heavenly with the tiniest crispy pieces of bacon scattered over a bed of Romaine lettuce, grilled chicken, croutons and the perfect amount of creamy caesar dressing, adorned with a sliver of radish.
The menu at Aqualand changes according to what is in season and as chef specials are created. One of those specials that will be added to the new summer menu, is Michael’s signature pasta dish: Spaghetti Bolognese topped with Grilled New Zealand Scampi. The meaty Bolognese was the perfect complement to the giant white wine and lemon grilled scampi, a dish that will go down well with a glass of chilled Chardonnay.
The lakeside location, the neatly dressed mixologists and the well stocked bar, make Aqualand the perfect venue for an afternoon sundowner. With their day starting out wielding razor-sharp Japanese ice-cutting tools, hacking and shaping giant ice cubes by hand, the mixologists will certainly wow you with unique cocktail concoctions. Whether you like sipping on a Monica Bellucci, an ice cold beer or mulling over a glass of 13 year old single malt, Aqualand is a perfect place for those lazy sundowners where you never want to leave.