all about aqua

established ’98

all about aqua


the home of fresh contemporary cuisine

The first Aqua restaurant was founded in Bristol in 1998 by our current proprietor, Richard Smithson, and it remains an independent family business to this day. Over the years, the family has grown to encompass an incredible team of talented chefs, managers and charismatic staff across several locations around the South West. While they each have their own unique charm, they all remain true to our family ethos: providing contemporary food made with the finest ingredients, served with care.

open all day

Our restaurants have been thoughtfully designed with relaxation and elegance at the heart of each interior space. Whatever the time of day, we strive to create a memorable experience with impeccable service and outstanding food. Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch or Dinner, we are open all day and you are more than welcome.

celebrate with us

Aqua is the perfect venue for celebrating those special occasions with our extensive a la carte menu. So, if you are planning a family event, a birthday party or even a wedding reception, let us do all the hard work for you! Get in touch to find out more.

Our food is all freshly prepared and sustainably sourced to ensure the finest flavours possible. So whether you fancy a light bite, an exciting sharing platter or a hearty meal, there’s sure to be something to tempt you. Mix and match our smaller dishes, such as calamari, grilled octopus, slow braised pork cheeks or tuna carpaccio. Or try our daily specials like roasted cod with dauphinoise.

Great value

Set lunch & early dinner menus

Our set lunch & early dinner menus offer great value at 2 courses for £14 and 3 courses for £17 – available Monday to Saturday 12pm to 7pm. And make sure you take advantage of our 2 for 1 sparkling Bellini’s between 12pm and 7pm daily!

Family owned

Family friendly

Families are welcome too, in fact as a family-run restaurant, we positively encourage children to come along and explore different flavours and textures, although we have plenty of family favourites on the children’s menu too! At 2 courses and a drink for £7, you can’t beat it.

our locations

Different styles, same signature

Each of our locations has its own unique style, designed to blend in harmony with its surroundings. Whichever location you choose, you can rely on our signature Aqua dining experience, which brings together exciting flavours and sustainably sourced produce, carefully-crafted cocktails, impeccable service and relaxed yet elegant comfort. Our carefully curated menus change seasonally, ensuring that each plate is fresh and well-balanced with all palates catered for.

Bristol - Welsh Back (BS1)

Bristol – Welsh Back (BS1)

Our first restaurant on the waterfront, Welshback in Bristol, is a great success of ours. It still remains at the top of the listings in Bristol and offers unique dining over the waterfront. It has a great city centre location and is perfect for all occasions. The light and stylish restaurant and bar opens onto the riverside piazza.

Bristol - Whiteladies Road (BS8)

Bristol – Whiteladies Road (BS8)

Our restaurant on Whiteladies road was opened in Bristol in 2009, following the successful opening of the restaurant in Bath. A grade II listed building that has been wonderfully restored to create a warm and inviting dining experience with high ceilings and dramatic architecture.

Bath - Walcot St (BA1)

Bath – Walcot St (BA1)

In 2007 Aqua went on to open its second restaurant in Bath. A beautifully restored church house, this restaurant offers magnificent dining experiences from the moment you walk through the door. Based in the city centre of Bath, it offers locals affordable dining on their doorstep.

Portishead - Harbour Road (BS20)

Portishead – Harbour Road (BS20)

2013 saw the opening of our restaurant in Portishead. The restaurant sits right on the marina and has a fantastic piazza for those long summer days – you can just sit and unwind with a drink of your choice watching the sun go down. Inside the restaurant is light and airy with great views of the marina.

Aqua Restaurants

our team

Without our talented and professional team we would not be able to do what we do today. We all like to work together as a family and this has stood us in good stead over the years as we have grown internally and externally. You need a great support network within to help you grow your restaurants and this is what Aqua has today.

We work very closely with all of our team members to help develop them as individuals so that Aqua can operate as a successful restaurant. We provide great training for all of our team, which in turn helps us achieve what we want to deliver. 

Our Senior Team

The dedication of the senior members of each restaurant helps us achieve the status we enjoy today.

Aqua founder and proprietor

Richard Smithson

A passion for the restaurant business ignited in Richard when he was just 14 years old, prepping and washing up at a local restaurant, he went on to Catering College with a dream of becoming a chef.

With various successes and ventures running restaurants and hotels, a notable highlight was the transformation of a gothic pile in Warwichshire into the nationally acclaimed Ettington Park Hotel. Ettington won three national awards for its excellent food and luxurious accommodation for three years running.

As Richard turned his attention to developing a private members’ dining club in Kensington, a move which happily led him to meet his wife and partner Emelia and it was their mutual love of fine dining that sparked the vision for Aqua. Together, they opened the first Aqua on Bristol’s Welshback in 1998.

“When walk into any of my restaurants I can immediately empathise with every member of the team working there. Why? Because whatever their role, be it the chefs and the kitchen team, the bar staff, the waiters and even those who wash up and clean – I have at some time in my long career done the same, so I understand the importance of their different roles. I understand how every one of them makes a major contribution to our customers’ dining experience. Anything from a dirty glass, to poor attention to service or an imperfectly prepared meal will ruin that experience and spoil our customer’s memory of us. For me, there is always one clear goal – to deliver great value food and wines in hospitable, stylish but relaxed surroundings, and to leave customers feeling that both their time and money have been well spent!”

Operations Manager

Ben Smithson

Like Richard, Ben learnt the restaurant trade from the bottom up, throwing himself into every challenge and embracing the experiences, good and bad. Mastering his cooking skills at Bristol College, then moved to the Savoy Grill Hotel, London which gave Ben vital experience of fine dining culture and cemented his love of the restaurant industry.

Now, many years later, Ben puts all of that hard work, and passion into operating all four Aqua restaurants. Alongside his father and with the endless patience of his loving wife, Annie, son Ralph and daughter Florrie, Ben’s main focus is overseeing the constant evolution of Aqua.

“What I enjoyed when I was young was watching how the hotels and restaurants evolved throughout the day. It’s one big organism, constantly moving, living and breathing 365 days a year. You have to have eyes in the back of your head!

These days, my love for the industry is almost an obsession. I’ve never lost that initial adrenaline and passion to succeed and pass on to people that same excitement. Food and drink have developed so much over the years and experiencing each new flavour and pairing is what I love so much, I am still learning all the time.

I would not be where I am without my father. I am extremely proud to be working closely with him. He has guided me through my ups and downs and points me in the right direction at every turn. We have a great working relationship and seeing what he has achieved throughout his life gives me all the encouragement and motivation I need to make the restaurants a great success.”

Area Manager

Yazmin Salt

Aqua relies on the hard work and energy of our vibrant Area Manager, Yaz. She has an instinct for the restaurant business that comes from living and breathing the industry from a very young age. Her family have always owned restaurants and she has no less than six chefs in amongst her close relatives! So it was a natural fit for Yazmin when she finished University in Cardiff and went on to work in hospitality all over the city. In 2013 she joined the Aqua family and now we don’t know what we do without her.

“What do I love about my job? Everything about this industry! The people, the teams and bringing people together. Aqua feels like home, it is like working with my own family.” 

Food Development Chef


Liam joined us nine years ago and he is the creative soul behind the scenes. His passion for flavours developed at the tender age of 15 and when he wasn’t out surfing or fishing, he was in the kitchen experimenting. He went on to become a head chef at just 21 after working alongside Michelin star chefs in restaurants along the Devon coast. Now he brings his individual flair for flavour into every new dish and wine pairing here at Aqua, making sure that we have ever-changing, ever-exciting menus for you to discover.

“My main reason for working with Aqua was its heart and soul. Being independently run by the family means it is a very close and personal relationship with Richard and Ben. Every day is an adventure!”

Aqua at home

Cook book

Emelia Smithson’s passion for food began in early childhood; her enthusiasm encouraged by an already culinary-adept family. Her abilities and knowledge were further honed in some of London’s most prestigious hotels and restaurant kitchens.

Today, alongside her husband Richard, Emelia is involved in the development of the ever-expanding Aqua restaurant group. Emelia takes you on what has been a sixteen-year journey through one of the West Country’s most popular and revered restaurant kitchens. Disclosing the recipes, techniques and skills acquired along the way.

Her informed, relaxed, yet concise approach enables you to achieve professional results, effortlessly.

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