A couple of weeks ago Aqua S opened up in Regents Place opposite Chanoma Cafe in the CBD. I’ve been keen for months to see what would pop up in this little spot. Regents Place over the last few years has been transformed from a dark and gloomy alley way to a really cool, hip, and affordable hang out place, with plenty of new restaurants and cafes like Chanoma Cafe, Miss Chu, Sedap, Tenkomori and other awesome places. For a few months now, a small store space within Regents Place had been boarded up with a massive sign that said ‘Aqua S, ice cream’ on it. When I saw ice cream I got excited.
I wasn’t really sure what was installed for us but anything to do with ice cream could only be awesome. Time passed and I headed back to living my day to day life in Canberra, I kind of forgot about Aqua S to be honest, until the other week. Suddenly our Instagram feed was bombarded with these amazing looking soft serves. There was fairy floss, popping candy, pastel colours, hipster flavours like sea salt and other awesome things like that. When I saw those awesome and cute pictures nothing else mattered, I didn’t care if it tasted good or bad, I had to get my hands on one. Luckily for me and a bit of a spoiler alert, Aqua S isn’t just a gimmick, it is actually quite tasty!
The concept at Aqua S is pretty simple. There are three different soft serve flavours at any one time, the staple which should always be around, sea salt and two other flavours which changes every week. In Aqua S’ first week they had biscotti and lemon tea, this week they have strawberry cheesecake and salted dark chocolate. You can combine some of these flavours but not all as Aqua S only has two soft serve machines. When you’re in store, there’s a screen which highlights which flavours can be combined and which can’t. Once you’ve picked your flavour, you can choose to either get it in a cone or small cup for $3.80 or large cup for $4.30. Then it’s time to add the toppings. Right now there are four different toppings; popping candy, fairy floss, caramelised popcorn and toasted marshmallows. One topping will cost $1.50, two toppings will cost $2.50 and all four toppings will cost $4.20. I know it seems a little steep but what can you say, it’s the hipster age plus it’s not overly expensive when you compare it to Messina’s dessert bar which will set you back $0.80 per topping and $7.50 for the base and soft serve. So when you think about it in that respect, it isn’t too bad.
Anyway, lets talk about these amazing looking pastel ice creams!
I opted for the a Sea salt soft serve with popping candy on a cone ($5.30). I originally wanted both fairy floss and popping candy but I was told that there would be a 20 minute wait on the fairy floss and this was 12.30pm on a Monday. The shop had quite a few people but it wasn’t busy or anything. If I wasn’t in a rush to get to another appointment I would have waited, I guess this gives me an excuse to come back in two weeks during Lunar New Year.
For my soft serve, I chose straight sea salt, I’ve read a couple of negative reviews about it, stating that pure sea salt can be too overwhelming and most people recommended combining it with one of the other flavours to balance it out. Being a rebel, I of course didn’t listen and got the full sea salt hit that I always wanted. I’m so glad that I’m terribly stupid and try things regardless of what others say because I actually really enjoyed pure sea salt. I love ice cream and I like soft serve even more. However, normally about half way through I’m normally over it, I find it too sweet and too much for me but here with this sea salt, I managed to eat the whole thing and I even wanted more afterwards. The idea of sea salt might sound really weird but it’s actually completely normal and tried and tested in Asian cooking. I didn’t know that adding salt to sweet things was weird until recently when a friend saw me add salt to watermelon. I’m telling you, it’s amazing. Salt does this thing where it kind of mildens and rounds off the sweetness of sugar and takes it from sickly sweet to pleasantly sweet. I guess that’s why salted caramel works so well, caramel by itself gets way to much but add a bit of salt and it’s just pure enjoyment from there on in.
Anyways, this was how the sea salt soft serve was at Aqua S. It was sweet, super creamy and had this lovely salty ending. It wasn’t salty to the point where you feel like you’re eating something savoury but enough to help overcome the initial sweetness of the soft serve and round everything off really well. The addition of popping candy was pretty cool as well. The candy popped away as you licked away at your soft serve cone. However, I must say for $1.50 it wasn’t a lot of popping candy by any means. I mean I could have crossed the road and got a whole bag of popping candy from McDonald’s or 7 Eleven for $1. I think outside of the fairy floss, people have complained a bit about the lack of toppings, I think someone was saying that you only get like half a marshmallow. I reckon, if you’re charging me $1.50 at least be a bit generous! But cost aside, great soft serve, flavours and toppings! Oh also, the cone looks like chocolate but to me it just tasted like a normal cone. Not a bad thing at all, it was really crunchy and waffle like.
I really enjoyed my ice cream at Aqua S. I know it’s got some pretty mixed review but it’s definitely still worth checking out either for the hipster and gimmicky side of it or for the love of all things sweet with a hint of salt. I’ll definitely be coming back to get the sea salt soft serve again and to try out some of the new flavours and fairy floss topping as well. I think what Aqua S has here is an awesome idea and I really hope to see Aqua S expand in the future with more bases and toppings once they’ve become more established and what not. It would be great to have something similar to Messina’s dessert bar closer to the city, plus the Asian influence is pretty awesome too. Absolutely cannot wait! I might have to try and recreate sea salt ice cream in Canberra for the next two weeks to fight off the craving! I wonder if sprinkling salt on store brought vanilla ice cream will work?!