I’m hardly a regular when it comes to fine dining; it’s undoubtedly a treat to get a little gussied up, head to somewhere fancy and spend an evening listening to plinky music in a dimly lit room eating tiny portions of extortionately tasty food. I recently had the pleasure of one such occasion at Sky Garden’s Fenchurch (thank God we managed to squeeze in one night out before Lockdown 2.0...) though am pleased to report that on this occasion the portions were more than plentiful.
Fenchurch is one of two dining space at the top of the Walkie Talkie, the other being brasserie Darwin, though reaching either is via the open bar area on the 35th floor. Visiting on a Saturday evening a DJ was in residence and with tunes pumping through the enormous glass atrium as the sun started to dip on the London skyline it took us back to a happier time when covid wasn’t ruining our fun…
Despite the table service and masks, it was the closest I’d come to feeling like I was on a night out in seven months. We strolled through, snapping the prerequisite Shard shots from the terrace just as it was closing for the evening, and headed up to Fenchurch for our early bird special; one bonus of dining at 6 to beat the curfew was at least we had time to really savour every course.
Inside social distancing means an empty table was between us and our nearest neighbours, probably a good thing given otherwise I would practically have been on someone else’s date with them. The proximity to one’s neighbours is something of a bugbear of mine in some of London’d restaurants but that’s another rant for another day.
With a new Head Chef at the helm in the form of former Great British Menu and Head Chef of the then Michelin-starred restaurant The Box Tree in Yorkshire, Michael Carr, he’s brought his flair and innovation to the new menu. With dishes like halibut ceviche with yuzu mayonnaise, grapefruit and cucumber granita and burrata with roasted fig, shave fennel, pickled radish and fig leaf oil it’s an inspired menu and took some choosing.
The Scottish scallops with cauliflower puree, bacon jam and coriander dressing were an absolute explosion of flavour; the bacon jam a standout addition to the dish and a lovely flavour combination with the buttery scallop. Our mains included a sumptuous aged beef fillet with braised cheek, bone marrow, carrot purée and thyme jus, along with Herdwick lamb with sweetbread, courgette purée, charred gem lettuce and Roscoff onion.
The beef was sublime, the cheek particularly melt-in-the-mouth and its accompanying side of dauphinoise chips were sensational, a delicate millefeuille of the crispiest potato I ever did crunch. The lamb too was thoroughly enjoyed, full of flavour and a lovely plate of different textures to add a different dimension to every mouthful.
I enjoyed a perfectly proportioned tiramisu for pudding, but the cheese board was a bit of a let down. With a cheddar, brie and a blue (albeit it all very nice ones) it seemed a tad basic for what I’d expect from a fine dining establishment. Surely it can’t be that difficult to source a slightly more exciting spread for your £15 considering how many outstanding British cheeses are available? Even a selection of half a dozen from which to choose would have been an improvement. I’ve honestly had better in my local pub.
Despite the sub-par cheeseboard, Fenchurch is certainly an experience to savour. It’s that very London mix of fine dining without the poncy clientele; lots of couples on date night, lots of young gents flashing the cash on a night in town, a smattering of older parents with their grown up children, a real mixed crowd and fascinating people watching. The food was delicious and - thankfully - an actual plateful which was refreshing. Certainly a special treat of a meal considering the price tag (expect to pay around £60-70 a head for three courses, excluding drinks), but with current times of woe ruining all our fun I’m not going to tell you to save it for a special occasion.
Book the table. Enjoy the food. Support the London hospitality industry. Treat yourself.
Fenchurch at Sky Garden
1 Sky Garden Walk, London, EC3M 8AF