I’ll admit it: I’m a bit of a cynic. That is, I’m of the view that you can’t have your cake and eat it, so to speak, when eating out in London. It’s all well and good to visit that unmissable landmark that’s on everyone’s checklist, but maybe don’t anticipate eating well while you’re there. This is more than likely borne from a youth of quick-pitstop, questionable-source fast food, pre-made packet sandwiches, maybe a local ice cream if you’re lucky. But, as London’s buildings and vantage points have grown taller, so has the standard of restaurant you’re likely to find when you go to drink in the view, meander round the garden, ponder the priceless artwork, and the like.
The architecture-defying curve of the ‘Walkie Talkie’ building is now as recognisable a sight on London’s skyline as the likes of the Gherkin and The Shard, and what’s held inside – for an entry fee of exactly £0.00 – is equally as impressive (my cynicism begins to ease). The Sky Garden’s tropical-inspired, tiered plant beds are a verdant 37th floor escape, and the incredible vantage points from every angle make this an Instagrammer’s paradise.
We’re here primarily for what’s at the peak of the Sky Garden: a visit to Fenchurch Restaurant (taking its name from the street on which the building resides). The dining room offsets the surrounding garden’s lushness: a chic bubble of dark lacquered wood, glass and stony upholstery, with the London skyline still visible from the tables. We’d have forgiven Fenchurch for relaxing a bit on what came next, but we’re wowed with a menu of gorgeous seasonal dishes, bursting with texture, flavour and evident culinary flair (so much so that we’re temporarily switched off from the surrounding view, which becomes a mere impressive backdrop).
We dine from the set dinner menu, which comes with a slender flute of chilled, crisp champagne (the perfect prop for a picture with London in the background).
A miniature warm cob arrives along with an amuse bouche: light-as-air potato and cod brandade, the delicate nautical pang mixes with the super-smooth pureed potato.
Next, a pretty-as-a-picture purple starter: hefty chunks of lightly pickled beetroot, slivers of radish and raddichio, the delicate acidity of which was muted with a subtle horseradish and hazelnut cream.
Ceviche, tartare et al are my one true loves, especially on balmy summer evenings, there’s nothing to beat the burst of freshness these dishes bring. Beautifully juicy yellowfin tuna came mixed with perfectly ripe avocado and the crunch of pickled cucumber, served with a dreamy side of sliced, lightly seared tuna. This is the sort of zinger dish I’d like to spend all summer eating.
Often the least photogenic dishes are the tastiest (look what you’ve made of us, Instagram), and so was the case with the Iberico pork main. Close your eyes you could have been eating this gorgeously rosy pork on holiday in a little Spanish tavern. Spelt gave a moreish bite to the dish, while the earthy colours of artichokes (the greatest thing on earth) and roast onion were offset by a lime green-hued leek sabayon.
Skate was a lighter taste of the sea: gorgeously meaty, lightly fried fish with the salty punch of samphire, spinach, brown shrimp and crispy lovage beignets.
The first dessert (pavlova) was parma violets re-imagined: crunchy meringue, cooling blueberry sorbet and lemon evoked a swirl of textures, with nasturtium flowers and fresh fruit bringing a summer-garden vibe.
Parfait was at the opposite end of the flavour scale: chocolatey and decadent rather than the florally lightness of dessert no 1. Delicate citrus ran through the middle of the smooth Gianduja, served with crunchy hazelnuts, chocolate soil and homemade banana yoghurt ice cream.
I left very much eating my cake metaphors. We had our cake (and our meringue, and our parfait…) at Fenchurch Restaurant, and we ate the lot: without compromise.
Sky Garden, 1 Sky Garden Walk, London, EC3M 8AF