Let's first clear up the initial reaction of some: no, water menus are not a joke. With more attention being paid to the wide variety of natural bottled waters around the world, guests are starting to realize the importance of unique waters in fine dining settings. The trend of dedicated water menus continues to grow in Michelin Star and other top restaurants as diners increasingly seek specific waters to enjoy with their food choices. People are learning more about how water enhances and complements flavours when correctly paired with food and wine, and they want the choices to do so.
The 23 water menu venues in this article, click on the icons to see a snapshot of each.
Restaurants, hotels, and bars are also starting to see water menus and the competence of a water sommelier as a differentiating factor and something that attracts a trend-setting clientele. But where can you find a water menu? All around the world it turns out. Here are 23 worth checking out.
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What is a water menu and why does it exist?
Water has flavour and texture, and water menus provide an opportunity to explore them. They are analogous to wine lists and other premium beverage lists (whiskeys, teas, etc.) found at fine restaurants. Like those lists, they categorise waters by their defining characteristics and the source locations that provide them their terroir.
Besides for brand name and price, a proper water menu typically includes the country of origin, carbonation level, and most importantly the amount of minerals in the water. The mineral content, also known as TDS (total dissolved solids), is the key determinant of the flavour of each water which can vary greatly depending on the water’s terroir, much like wine. Some water menus also include other details such as flavour and mouthfeel profile (sweet versus salty, smooth versus heavy, etc.), pH (not much taste impact, but people often like it as they are familiar with the term), a short background story, or pairing recommendations.
Water sommelier Martin Riese has helped several restaurants create unique water menus. Photo: Martin Riese
As awareness of the unique qualities of different natural waters grows, there has been a corresponding increase in the number of certified water sommeliers. As they fill more positions in restaurants, create more water menus, and teach guests how proper water pairing enhances the dining experience, the water menu trend is becoming more established and likely to become a permanent fixture. “Still or sparkling” simply does not cut it anymore as consumers seek out new types of water the same way they do new types of other beverages.
Water menus are also proving to be an excellent way for restaurants and other hospitality businesses to increase their beverage sales. Ray’s and Stark Bar in Los Angeles reportedly increased their water sales fivefold after launching their water menu. Besides offering diners interesting new choices they had never been aware of, chefs and staff will create pairings to match seasonal menus and suggest pairings for à la carte dishes. If the restaurant has an on-staff water sommelier, they will often provide a flight of different waters to demonstrate the difference in taste between waters sourced from various regions of the world.
Look for a water selection next time you eat at a restaurant and ask for pairing recommendations when you order food. Photo: Reddit user
A pro tip: If the restaurant does not have a water sommelier to guide you through the menu, order several water brands that have a range of mineral levels to explore the best food and wine pairings on your own throughout the meal.
In contrast to the wine world, start with the highest mineral content water and end with the lowest mineral such as ultra-low mineral Svalbarði Polar Iceberg Water. This is because a high mineral water will open the tasting up with something different from what most people are used to. This will make your palate more sensitive to differences in lower mineral waters. And while “still or sparkling” may not be enough, do be sure to try varieties of both. These restaurants’ water menus will provide you with plenty of choices.
1. Ray’s and Stark Bar (USA - Los Angeles)
One of the waters on the Ray’s and Stark menu is Denmark’s Iskilde. Credit: Ray's &Stark Bar
In 2013, Ray’s and Stark Bar at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art unveiled their signature water program. Water sommelier Martin Riese came from Germany where he had been one of the first to introduce a water menu in 2006 at the Palace Hotel in Berlin. The water menu he created at Ray’s and Stark is 45-pages long and includes 20 waters from 10 different countries with a wide variety of prices.
Apart from the more typical Fiji, San Pellegrino, and Evian-types, it includes numerous waters rarely found in the United States. Printed in booklet-style, there are two full pages dedicated to each brand, complete with tasting notes, mineral content, price, and a photo of the bottle. They also offer a pre-defined water flight for $12 per person for those who wish to explore more waters in depth.
2. Patina Restaurant (USA - California)
The top offering at Patina before it closed was the $150 iceberg water from Svalbard. Credit: Patina Restaurant
From Ray’s and Stark, Martin moved over to one of Los Angeles’ most storied Fine Dining restaurants, Patina Downtown LA on the ground floor of the stunning Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall. Unfortunately, after 31 years they had to permanently close as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Still, the restaurant remains worth mentioning as they offered a splendid water menu with 25 interesting water choices that Martin used to put the venue at the forefront of the water menu movement. They received a fair amount of media attention for their $50 water tasting session and their most premium offering of $150-per-bottle Svalbarði Polar Iceberg Water which was the only brand they kept stored in their wine cellar.
3. Petit Ermitage (USA - Los Angeles)
Credit: Petit Ermitage
Martin has continued to seed his water menus, with his third California stop being this eclectic West Hollywood hotel where he is the Food and Beverage Director. They not only offer beautiful bespoke rooms, but a dining experience to remember that includes Martin’s latest well-composed water menu.
They have 18 water brands on the menu and were recently featured on the second episode of the Netflix series Down to Earth with Zac Efron. Martin ran a water tasting that convinced Zac, Anna Kendrick, and Darin Olien that water does indeed have a wide variety of tastes, with Australia’s Three Bays mineral water (previously called Aqui-Live) coming out as one of the favourites.
4. Victoria & Albert’s (USA - Orlando)
Croatian water is rarely found in the United States. One way Victoria & Albert’s makes its water menu unique. Photo: DisneyTripsAndTripResorts
Water menus are not reserved for restaurants where Martin has worked. The five-star restaurant Victoria & Albert's, located within Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, has created a solid water menu of European brands.
While some such as German Gerolsteiner (an extremely high mineral sparkling water) are not too difficult to find in the US, others such as Tau from Wales and San Benedetto from Italy are rarer. Both for their taste profiles and uniqueness, these waters help complete the dining experience at a restaurant consistently ranked among America’s best.
5. La Pergola (Italy - Rome)
Moving over to Europe, Rome’s La Pergola restaurant has a well-established water menu with 55 different varieties to choose from. They were the first restaurant in Italy to achieve three Michelin stars back in 2005 and have become a virtual temple of international gastronomy. Being just as proud of their country’s water heritage (the Romans were known for their love of unique waters from the different aqueducts into the city) as its cuisine, the menu has a dedicated section for Italian waters.
Separate sections cover foreign-sourced brands, “truly special”, and “the most luxurious bottles”. But we would argue the most important section is at the front with a full-page educating the diner on why different natural waters are unique and their impact on the culinary experience.
6. AOC, Aarø & Co (Denmark - Copenhagen)
A simple but elegant water list at AOC
Under tall cellar vaults from the 17th century in Copenhagen, Restaurant AOC has proven a leader in new Nordic cuisine under the guidance of head chef Søren Selin and award-winning sommelier Christian Aarø. Christian has long had a fascination and refined palate for unique waters and established a menu of 4 different brands with 8 different types, all from Scandinavia.
If you want to go all-in on the water experience, you can order their water pairing package of six waters for €70. Christian has told us that some customers enjoy a bottle of Svalbarði on a regular basis to match the unique tastes, sights, and scents of their innovative cuisine. He also goes one step further for those who want non-alcoholic options and has developed a juice pairing that is popular and highlights yet another beverage type with terroir.
7. Claridge’s (UK - London)
The restaurant at 5-star luxury hotel Claridge’s in the UK welcomes its guests with delicious food, great wine and tasty waters. They introduced their water menu way back in 2007 which can be combined with an interactive dining experience offering an inside look at their culinary traditions.
The list features more than 39 mineral waters from around the world and when we say all over the world, we really mean it. Some of the places Claridge’s have imported waters from include Hawaii, Japan, Argentina, New Zealand, Denmark and even India. Just Born Spring Drops from the Nilgiris Mountains in India is a lesser known brand, but surely an exciting option for the adventurous.
8. Florie’s Four Seasons Palm Beach (USA - Palm Beach)
The carefully curated one-page water menu at Four Seasons Palm Beach.
Jessica Altieri is the Director of Beverage at the Four Seasons Palm Beach resort and its five-star restaurant Florie’s and is a certified water and wine sommelier. After successfully establishing the WineChannelTV digital network, she realized the importance of water’s impact on wine and traveled to Germany to receive her water sommelier certification at Doemens Academy. Naturally, she has pushed her enthusiasm for water to the resort’s top restaurant and curated a refined water menu consisting of 11 fine waters that go perfectly with the chef’s menu.
As the Four Seasons North America Beverage Ambassador, she has also helped spread awareness of unique natural waters and the water menu concept throughout the Four Seasons chain. Whenever you visit Miami, be sure to stop by and check out the luxury waters on this comprehensive and well-done water list. Jessica may even give you her best water and wine pairing advice if she is there.
9. Remy (Disney Cruises)
Photo: Disney Cruise Line Blog
Remy is an adult-exclusive French cuisine restaurant on two Disney Cruise Line ships: Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy. Remy offers guests the choice of two different set menus, one crafted by the chef from Victoria & Albert’s at Walt Disney World, which also has a water menu. As both the ships and Victoria & Albert’s are supplied by our friends at water specialist distributor Aqua Maestro in Fort Lauderdale, that is no coincidence.
Remy’s dynamic sea view can only serve as inspiration for its list of 13 water brands - all from Europe except one from the US. They have several waters from Great Britain, but surprisingly not a single one from France. Well, Evian will have to wait until we get back to shore. Bonjour!
10. The Great Room (Northern Ireland - Belfast)
A short but diverse water list at The Great Room. Photo: Merchant Hotel
This Victorian styled restaurant is undoubtedly one of Northern Ireland’s most extraordinary, offering a comprehensive selection of menus to suit all tastes. The Great Room is a part of the Merchant Hotel. They don’t have a separate water menu per sè, but the last page of their wine menu has a curated water section including 11 diverse brands.
Their top offering is Iceberg Water from Canada at £25.45 per bottle. It is a bit of a difficult water to google given its generic name, but is sourced from Greenlandic icebergs that float south and are gathered off the coast of Newfoundland. The Great Room also includes a local Northern Ireland water, Deep River Rock, which is little known elsewhere but produced by Coca-Cola.
11. Hilton Miami Dadeland (USA - Miami)
Hilton Miami Dadeland is the home of the ‘International wall of water’. Photo: Hilton Group
In 2019, this hotel launched their unique ‘International wall of water’ to many people's surprise. They had good help from water maestro Brett Spitalny, the founder of Aqua Maestro, to develop an ideal water collection for their wellness theme. The hotel has focused on offering a variety of waters, each with very distinct characteristics such as the extremely high mineral Spanish sparkling water Vichy Catalan, Danish Iskilde with exceptionally high amounts of oxygen, and ultra-low minerality iceberg water Svalbarði from Norway.
These water bottles from all around the world range in price from $10 to $150 but the exact list is not available online. You will have to visit yourself to see their full collection, but we can reveal that the top offering, the true gem of their collection, is Svalbarði.
12. Biltmore Coral Gables (USA - Coral Gables)
The perfect place to enjoy brunch and crisp water in the sun. Photo: The Biltmore
Another great water experience awaits you at The Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida. This storied hotel was built in 1926 as a place to host glamorous events including water shows in what was then the largest pool in the world. They have since expanded the water element by creating a water menu to enjoy while dining by the pool.
The menu has a fairly expansive selection of premium waters, all from natural sources, supplied again by our friends at Aqua Maestro. Can an outdoor dining experience be more complete than with a perfectly paired natural mineral water to match your meal and wine? We don’t think so. Bon Appetit!
13. Yui (UAE - Dubai)
A full page dedicated to H20 at YUI Dubai. Photo: TimeOutDubai
Yui, a ramen restaurant in the Dubai Design District, offers diners a wide choice of 17 different water brands ranging from the familiar such as Evian to rarer options like Waiwera from New Zealand. I say rarer, but in reality, the further east one heads from the Atlantic, the more common New Zealand waters become. The country is home to a staggering array of unique waters (Antipodes from Whakatane being one of our personal favourites) and exports many of them.
Besides listing the total amount of minerals in each water, the restaurant has helpfully listed values for sodium, magnesium and calcium as well. This is an excellent addition of detail that most water menus don’t include and which we hope will spread. It gives guests a better understanding of the flavour nuances, as sodium gives a salty taste, magnesium is metallic, and calcium gives a milky or chalky texture and flavour.
14. Fusion (Saudi Arabia - Al Khobar)
All blue and water at Fusion. Photo: Marriott Group
Contemporary sushi restaurant Fusion at the Le Méridien Al Khobar hotel in Saudi Arabia lets you enjoy their elegant fusion cuisine while overlooking the warm waters of the Middle East Gulf. Not only do they serve the finest sushi and seafood, but they have also created a water menu to go along with their ocean theme.
In a country where alcohol is not permitted, replacing the wine chart with a water menu is a logical move. Water, much like wine, has different terroir and taste profiles, making it possible to create food pairings that enhance the dining experience. Fusion displays their water offerings around the dining area, tempting diners to order from the top shelf. Together with the blue chairs, the water tank and the Gulf view, they have successfully created an experience tightly connected to H2O in a dry country that values the liquid more than most.
15. Water Bar DC (USA - Washington DC)
The menu at Water Bar DC. Photo: Water Bar DC
In 2019, a Washington DCentrepreneur recognizing the growing appreciation of water decided to not just try and introduce a menu at a restaurant, but to start a bar focusing specifically on water. Water Bar DC received a fair amount of press the year it opened and was designed as a unique sort of social hang out.
They have 39 brands on their menu, supplied by our friends at Salacious Drinks. Almost half of the water brands they carry are imports, while 21 are US domestic waters. Besides for pure mineral water, they also serve water-based cocktails promoting health and purity. They only list the name, country and pricing on their menu, so if you are curious about the water source, terroir and mineral content you will have to ask the bartender.
16. Water Library (Thailand - Bangkok)
Photo: Jake Nicolsen Instagram
In Thailand, Bangkok’s Michelin Star restaurant Water Library has a water menu with more than 30 labels of premium still and sparkling varieties to go with your meal. Water Library’s focus on water is not a coincidence, as it was started by wine and water importer Mr. Pote Lee.
The restaurant - which is part of Mr. Lee’s Water Library Hospitality Group chain - is known for its impressive collection of imported waters showcased in a giant cylindrical wall in the middle of the bar. Besides the main restaurant, the group also has two brasseries which both enthusiastically display their waters on a massive wall right next to the guests’ tables. Besides water, they also tempt with French and Thai-French fusion cuisine. Complemented by premium beverages from water to wine to cocktails crafted by one of their many sommeliers who are experts at pairing drinks to food.
Photo: Water Library
17. I Du Matt (Italy - Parma)
Photo: I Du Matt Parma
This Italian restaurant in Parma not only has a 1500 bottle wine cellar, but its own water menu. Not with 1500 waters mind you, but it does feature 6 carefully selected labels to go with their wines, all from different countries.
The restaurant focuses on the importance of educating their guests on gastronomy, carefully explaining the source and background story of each brand on the water list. Make sure to ask if they have any cooking classes coming up, as I Du Matt also has a cooking classroom with 30 workstations. It’s an excellent opportunity to refine your culinary skills and discover new Italian recipes. I Du Matt also offers wine courses in their restaurants, so maybe they will even do water tastings in the future? Let’s hope.
18. I Doria (Italy - Lerici)
Photo: Lou Moore Instagram
Restaurant I Doria in the port of Lerici boasts more than its romantic dining view from the terrace up on a hill overlooking Lerici bay. They also provide the opportunity to perfectly pair exquisite Italian food to a set of luxury waters from their dedicated water menu. It’s not the longest water menu but it definitely offers something to everyone's liking. Somewhat surprisingly, they don’t offer well known Italian brand San Pellegrino, but then we prefer less mass market selections anyways.
This is definitely a place for beverage enthusiasts. After enjoying your pasta with a bottle of premium water, why not pair your dessert with a handcrafted cup of coffee ordered from their dedicated coffee menu. They don’t yet offer the ability to choose a specific mineral water to brew your coffee with, but given their dedication to both beverages, maybe they will see the potential in the future?
19. The Kingsley Spa (Ireland - Cork)
Photo: The Kingsley Instagram
The spa at The Kingsley Hotel in Cork has introduced a Detox Water Menu for guests to enjoy while rejuvenating body and spirit with their treatments. An important part of being at a spa is hydrating sufficiently, especially if doing a detox treatment that aims to flush out body toxins. If you are trying out their sauna, you have to compensate for the water loss in your body from the extensive sweating, and doing so gets much more fun when you can choose from a range of waters.
Highlighting their collection of 5 different water brands is a clever way to remind their guests to drink water and makes it more fun and interesting to stay hydrated. One of the reasons why cucumber water is so popular to serve at spas is because it improves the taste of tap water and gives the water a more refreshing touch. With The Kingsley’s water menu of premium labels, there is no need to cover up the taste of water with cucumber, as all of these waters have their own balanced flavour.
20. Enoteca Pinchiorri (Italy - Florence)
Photo: Water Selection
The extensive water menu at Italy's three Michelin star Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence includes over 30 mineral waters in their collection. Even though they focus mainly on Italian waters, they have included a few international water brands, such as Bling H2O from the United States for €150 per 750ml bottle and Germany's Gerolsteiner for €15. You should be able to find something of your liking at any price range.
Another unique experience at Enoteca Pinchiorri is their amusing dessert cart covered with handmade chocolates wheeled around in the restaurant for guests to choose from. Different waters pair uniquely well with chocolate desserts. Danish chocolatier Peter Svenningsen has even made non-dairy water ganache chocolates with €85 Svalbarði Polar Iceberg Water? Chocolate and natural waters go hand in hand.
21. Paris 1930 (Taiwan ROC - Taipei)
Photo: Water Selection
Paris 1930 is the top restaurant at the Landis Taipei Hotel in Taiwan and is led by world-renowned Japanese Chef Hideki Takayama. With the help of Taiwanese water sommeliers and distributors Yvonne Wu and Howard Hsia of Water Selection, Paris 1930 has curated a water menu with ultra-premium labels that pairs perfectly with their dishes. They carry 11 types of still water and 17 sparkling varieties. The menu lists the country of origin, hardness, and carbonation strength of each. The latter two characteristics are rarely mentioned on water menus, showing that this restaurant makes a serious effort to educate their customers about the nuances of water.
Yvonne and Howard have long experience in the fine dining and water worlds. Besides distributing international water brands, they work with the Kai Ping Culinary School, and train new water sommeliers in a joint program that has brought Germany’s Doemens Academy certification to Asia. Getting expert help from outside when creating a water menu has proven to be a clever move for this restaurant, raising the quality of their collection to the next level.
22. Sabrage Champagne Bar (New Zealand - Auckland)
Photo: Maria Giorgio Instagram
The French word sabrage means to slice open a champagne bottle with a sabre. But despite the name, this bar in Auckland, New Zealand, goes beyond just champagne. They also have a water menu filled with premium options to compliment their champagne selection.
The water list is divided into general mineral level categories from high to medium to low. Providing a somewhat more intuitive way for the guest unfamiliar with the nuances of water to find something to their liking. Surprisingly, this award-winning bar features only one New Zealand produced water brand, the aforementioned Antipodes. More broadly, they have adopted a fairly balanced selection of mass market waters (such as Fiji, Evian and Perrier) and rarer brands such as French Puits Saint Georges and Italian Santa Vittoria Azzurra.
23. Fellow (USA - Los Angeles)
Photo: Martin Riese
Fellow in Westwood, Los Angeles is one of the most recent restaurants to implement a water menu. The 12 waters brands on their menu are a mixture of well known brands and rarer creatures such as Finland’s Vellamo. They even include Aur’a Gold from Romania which is very rare in the US and has naturally occurring colloidal gold and silver in it.
We’re not sure if our friend water sommelier Martin Riese has been involved, but the selection would seem to bear his fingerprints. In addition to their water menu, they have an award-winning wine program, so this restaurant is a treasure for thirsty diners looking for quality.
The next time you head out to appreciate a fine meal, ask the restaurant if they have a water menu or a designated water selection to pair with your order. Getting a water that fits your meal can really enhance your over all experience when dining out and is a great chance to discover new water brands.
If they don’t have a water menu already, encourage them to offer more extensive water choices and ideally to develop a water menu. Name drop some of the places you have read about here to let them know it will be profitable for them and a better experience for you and all their customers.
If you find a water menu you really like or a restaurant that is not included in this article, post a photo of it on Instagram and tag us @svalbardiiceberg to let us know.