Like Tokyo, Dubai and New York, London is becoming one of the world’s most architecturally innovative cities. Our newest landmarks are eccentric in appearance and groundbreaking in structure, just think of the Gherkin, the Cheese Grater and the Shard punctuating the city’s skyline; and now of course is the ‘Walkie Talkie’.
This distinctive 38-storey building takes its nickname from its curved shape that expands at the top. Though the majority of the landmark is devoted to office space, the top three floors have recently launched as an all-day brasserie, restaurant and bar, called Sky Garden—so called because it also includes the world’s highest garden.
The £200 million Walkie Talkie, more formally referred to as 20 Fenchurch St., was designed by Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly. His postmodern design challenges convention with its top-heavy form, which has attracted both positive and negative attention. The site itself is free to enter but you will need to book via the website at least three days in advance, unless you have made a restaurant reservation.
After going through airport-style security at the base of the building, the lift catapulted me up to level 35 and I was stunned. The space, known as Sky Pod, is vast (seemingly the size of a football pitch) and culminates in an enormous glass wall. On a clear night, the 360-degree views are spectacular. It’s a café-bar that ‘changes with the seasons’, so on winter you can sip hot cocktails under a blanket, and in summer, sip iced drinks in the sunshine.
Darwin Brasserie is all soft, neutral colours and warm textures, with tasteful wooden floors and simple décor. The menu is simple with salads, pasta, risotto, various grilled meats and fish, offering an informal, relaxed dining experience.
One floor up is the fine-dining option, Fenchurch Seafood Bar & Grill, which has a handsome interior with a striking bar, almost competing with a beautiful view which can be seen in full along one side of the restaurant. We enjoyed a satisfying meal of lobster cocktail and succulent scallops, tender venison and sea bass, followed by a knockout warm chocolate tart with honeycomb, caramelized banana and yoghurt sorbet.
Zac Whittle, Head Chef of Fenchurch Seafood Bar & Grill says, "Fenchurch Seafood Bar & Grill takes London dining to bold new heights—quite literally, too, being the highest point at 20 Fenchurch St. on Level 37. Our west-facing tables offer some of the best views in the city, too, meaning we've already become a firm favourite for some of the city's most prolific power-lunchers.”
Sky Garden may not be quite the oasis it set out to be; but there’s no doubt that the vast space, arresting glass frontage and incredible views alone are worth a visit. The foliage is attractive in its own right, and the food we tried was good. There’s no denying its unique selling point: as Pieter-Bas Jacobse, Managing Director of Rhubarb explains: “Fenchurch is all about seafood and fine food served in smart surroundings; Darwin is more casual with an all-day, all-occasion brasserie offering and a bustling atmosphere; and Sky Pod is for light bites for breakfast and lunch together with seriously stylish cocktails. Where else in London can you enjoy all that and such a view?”