Lofty ambitions: does the Walkie Talkie's signature restaurant offer an experience as spectacular as its views?
Tempus puts 20 Fenchurch St's sky high dining to the test
Perched on top of 20 Fenchurch Street – aka the Walkie Talkie – is Fenchurch, a stylish contemporary restaurant with bird’s eye views over the city. Fittingly, given its 37th floor location, the initial experience is a bit like preparing to fly. There are serious security measures downstairs before a vertical take-off lift whisks you dramatically upwards.
You arrive at the Sky Garden, an odd mix of public space, cocktail bar, Kew Gardens and airport architecture. But the view is magnificent – particularly over the river Thames and St Paul’s Cathedral. Being at the centre of things, and not as distantly high as The Shard, gives a unique perspective on the capital. And at night, the Sky Garden glimmers in spotlights and steel, matching the city outside.
The restaurant itself is a glass box within a glass box, and strangely set back from the building’s cliff face. Frustratingly, that means that there isn’t that much to see from your table. It’s subtly lit and smart-hotel chic, but it’s difficult to put a finger on exactly what sort of a place Fenchurch is. On our Thursday evening visit we share the setting with business diners, special occasion couples, and a few families.
Fenchurch offers à la carte and tasting menus. We settle in for the evening with the seasonal tasting menu and wine pairing. The portions are delicate and delightful, with fish featuring heavily. From citrusy ceviche of Dorset char with yuzu and shiso dressing to roasted Orkney scallop with hazelnut and pumpkin, and monkfish with sprouting broccoli, there’s a lightness of touch to everything we try. >>
The only exception is the chicken terrine, which is a bit uneventful, but then it is competing against some big hitters. The star of the evening is a wonderful loin of venison, served very rare, with buttery celeriac and port- glazed black figs.
The wine choices are adventurous. There are labels from Croatia, Georgia and Hungary, as well as the Old World. The aged, sparkling Ferrari Perlé, poured with the char, has an unexpected almondy warmth. The Hungarian Bock Cuvée 2013 is a deliciously rich companion for the venison.
The service at Fenchurch is friendly and informative without being intrusive. This kind of meal is improved by knowing exactly which south-facing stretch of the Adriatic your wine was reared on.
And one advantage of taster portions is there’s still space left for pudding. Or two in this case – a delicate plum tart with Mirabelle sorbet, and the most luxurious dark chocolate, mandarin and cardamom concoction, each with excellent dessert wine pairings.
The danger for a restaurant like Fenchurch is that the location overshadows the food. And to be truthful, it does. But this is far from novelty dining. Even without the views, the menu’s beautifully-prepared courses would still be worth the visit.