Tuesday, 23 February 2016

An Afternoon at Sky Garden & Darwin Brasserie

Back in July my lovely friend Jenny made Tom and I a voucher for our birthdays to buy a drink in the Sky Garden at the top of 20 Fenchurch Street (aka the Walkie-Talkie building), and the other weekend we finally made it up there. 

I'd seen a lot of photos across social media and blogs of the views from the top of the building and of the Sky Garden so I was really excited to visit for myself. We decided to book to go to one of the restaurants too, which we had to book a few months in advance, hence why it's taken us until February to get there. Even at this advance notice, the only table we could secure was for 3:30pm - it's a popular place!

There are two restaurants in the Sky Garden: Fenchurch Restaurant and Darwin Brasserie. We opted for the brasserie, mostly because as someone who doesn't eat any fish and not much red meat, it didn't leave much on the menu (okay, and it's a lot more pricey). 

It's free to go up to the Sky Garden, and once you've passed the security checks you can roam the garden, bar and viewing platform for as long as you like (although the viewing platform was closed for the evening just as we were leaving due to weather conditions). 

Like most high points in London, the view from the top of this building is incredible. You get a direct view of the Shard, as well as landmarks such as Tower Bridge, the London Eye and the Gherkin. Even on a miserable cloudy day the view was well worth the visit. 

I do think that the term "Garden" is a little misleading though, as the greenery is mostly just spread up the staircases either side of the restaurants, rather than being a stand-out feature in itself. 

If you're going up to the Pod Bar for a drink, you need to wrap up warm, as the tables for the bar (which is more of a cafe to be honest) are spread all around the vast space and temperatures weren't much above the outside.  

After we'd wandered around the viewing platform and the inside, we headed up to Darwin Brasserie, and even though we were about half an hour early, they led us straight to our table, which we were very happy to find out was one at the window. It's difficult to explain where the restaurant is situated; it's not up against the edge of the building, but it's like being in a glass box, so you can see into the gardens and the main view out of the building all at once. 

The restaurant was really busy, but at that perfect level between feeling like people can overhear your conversations and having to shout to be heard. 

The food surpassed all of our expectations, and perhaps the thing that it impressed us most was the generous portion sizes, which is unusual for restaurants of its kind. We started off with some olives and bread and then I had an amazing cauliflower soup, which I really want to try to recreate at home! Tom went for a red onion tart with Brie, which, having stolen a bite, I can confirm was also great. 

Being a fussy meat-eater meant that the butternut squash risotto was the obvious choice for my main. The creamy risotto had a delicious Tunworth cheese (a soft cheese with a strong flavour) melted into the middle, and I was very much a fan. Tom opted for the pulled pork burger, which was another solid choice. 

As if we hadn't had enough cheese, we finished off with a cheeseboard to share (but we switched up the Stilton for an extra portion of Brie, because blue cheese is a taste for which I am yet to acquire). 

By the end of the meal we had been eating for over two hours, and had to be moved to the bar area to finish our drinks - oops! But if that's not a testament for how much we enjoyed the meal, I don't know what is. 

Sky Garden is definitely an attraction worth visiting if you're in London, as long as you're not expecting anything too fancy with the Pod Bar as it's more of a glorified cafe. If you have the time and the budget I would definitely recommend eating in Darwin Brasserie (or even trying Fenchurch Restaurant if you really want to go all out), as it made for a beautiful afternoon eating amazing food and taking in the sights of London from above. 

I vlogged the whole weekend, so if you want to see more of the 20 Fenchurch Street or what else we got up to, keep an eye out for that over on my YouTube channel

Have you been to Sky Garden or Darwin Brasserie? I'd love to know where your favourite spot in London is, so let me know in the comments...


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