Aqua Eight is one of the best Asian restaurants I have eaten at. I would easily put in the same bracket as London’s Hakkasan and Nobu. Unlike those two eateries, Aqua Eight is based in Ipswich, not London. Luckily for me, it is my local, and one of the best restaurants in Suffolk.
One Of Suffolk’s Finest…
Tucked away in a corner, Aqua Eight Ipswich comprises of a funky bar downstairs with an award-winning restaurant upstairs. Revelers are welcome at just the bar, and on busy nights you can expect the very buzzing restaurant to be packed!
Lead by Co-Founder Vince, Aqua Eight combines elegant interior style with fantastic food and service of the highest regard. I think that one sign of a truly great restaurant is a loyal staff, and Aqua Eight is fully supported by a team of top people we have known now for 6 or 7 years.
The well-stocked bar offers a superbly wide range of beers, wine, and hard-to-beat cocktails. The Pink Mojitos are served with a curly, flamboyant straw in what can only be accurately described as a jam jar and is my current go-to tipple.
What’s On The Menu?
Upstairs, the dishes are Pan-Asian fusion. Their menu is wide in scope and style with plenty of options for vegetarians, and very importantly, also support allergies and gluten-free diners.
The starters are just out of this world. Our favourite small bites include the wonderfully light crayfish and vermicelli California rice rolls or vegetable rice rolls with a peanut dip, and Thai chicken lemongrass skewers. The skewers are sticks of lemongrass championing a succulent piece of delectable chicken that makes it look like a lollipop! We usually overorder on starters because they are just so tasty and so effortless to enjoy. The Mixed Hors D’Oeuvres (meat, seafood or vegetarian) include a wide variety of dishes on one large platter. For instance, the centrepiece of ‘Salt & Pepper Deep Fried Squid’ is just so immense. I don’t think we have ever eaten there and not ordered mixed Hors D’Oeuvres of some description – highly recommend.
Main courses include plenty of meaty, carnivorous choices. ‘Standard’ Asian dishes like Sweet & Sour Pork are supported by more innovative dishes. The Honey Glazed Roast Pork presents sweet, thick strips of dazzling pork laid across batons of fresh asparagus. Above all, it’s definitely worth the wait as we salivate!
Fishy dishes include the Alaskan Black Cod with Miso – a fine piece of fresh fish, gently draped in a thick and sweet Miso dressing. To me, this dish equals if not betters a similar dish at Hakkasan (and I’d have to go all the way to the Capital for that one!).
Alternatively, meat-free options are available. Not to be left out, the veggies are well supported with vegetable and tofu mains. The Braised Aubergine and Morinaga Tofu in black bean sauce with chili is definitely worthy of a mention. And that’s before I’ve even started on the wonderful steamed rice, fine egg noodles, and supporting Monk’s Vegetables, Pak Choi and more culinary goodies.
Do you know, I am writing this the morning after our last meal and I am already salivating for a return trip!
Where is Aqua Eight?
The restaurant is just off the main Cornhill, and a five-minute cab ride from the Ipswich train station. Additionally, there is a large, well-lit car park on Elm Street, just three minutes walk.
It is advisable to book ahead as the restaurant is full most weekends. Furthermore, you can book online through their site (using Open Table) or call them direct.
What Do I Wear To Aqua Eight?
Smart casual is definitely the way forward, but dressing up smart never looks out of place does it really… You can get away with jeans and a shirt but equally, as Aqua 8 is so brilliant, shirt, trousers and shoes will amplify your experience. This one of the few places in Suffolk, that Katherine can throw on a beautiful frock and enjoy!
The History of Aqua Eight Ipswich
Aqua Eight opened in 2006, set up by brothers Patrick and Vincent. Their family, the Wing Chungs, introduced some of the first Chinese restaurants to East Anglia. Their father had built up a chain of successful Chinese restaurants in the UK, including a branch in London’s Old Brompton Road.
Patrick is in charge of the menu, with Vincent in charge with the ‘front of house’ and guest experience. Since their grand opening, the restaurant has won many accolades, including, Suffolk Food & Drink Awards “Best Restaurant” only a year after launching. In 2011, Aqua Eight was voted UK runner-up in the Observer Food & Drink Monthly Awards, in both categories of “Best Place to Eat” and “Best Place to Drink”, and the ‘Open Table Diners’ Choice Award. Overall, the restaurant is rated “Excellent” on Tripadvisor.