20 Fenchurch Street a.k.a the Walkie-Talkie building has quickly become one of my favourite landmarks in London. Its distinct shape and its unique top floor gardens with uninterrupted 360 degree views of the city is pretty special and I absolutely love it. Don’t tell the Shard.
The Sky Garden that sits majestically on level 35, 36 and 37 is a stunning space complete with landscaped gardens, observation decks, two restaurants and an expansive bar.It was claimed to be London’s highest public park but since opening a lot of Londoners have questioned these claims about the space being a ‘park’ or even ‘public’. I must admit I wasn’t blown away by the ‘gardens’ but it’s definitely unique.
A few weeks ago, Holly Pippa, Seb and I decided to try out one of the two restaurants located at Sky Garden. On level 36, overlooking the Thames, is Darwin, an all day brasserie inspired by the very best of British.
After passing through airport like security and taking the high speed lifts, you walk through the expansive bar and up through the gardens before reaching the restaurant entrance. It’s all very theatrical and you can’t help but immerse yourself in the experience.
We were greeted very warmly at the entrance by the team and seated at a table by the window. Look at the view! Isn’t that just stunning?
The decor at the Darwin is understated – laid back, relaxed and luxurious without trying too hard. The interiors smartly allow the incredible view take centre stage without taking away from it. The nature inspired decor work’s perfectly at London’s highest brasserie.
Prosecco in hand, we browsed through the menu at the Darwin. As you probably already know I am incredibly indecisive when it comes to making a choice at restaurants and the current trend of novel-like menus doesn’t help the matter. The menu at the Darwin was perfect for me – one page long covering everything from starters to sides! The menu couldn’t get more British if it tried with seasonal, home-grown ingredients taking centre stage. Definitely get’s my approval.
Seb and I hadn’t seen Holly and Pippa for a long time so we had more than enough to catch up on. The wonderful view was a definite bonus too. We started off with half a dozen Rock Oysters with Shallot Vinegar and Lemon which was the perfect start – the oysters were beautifully fresh and the shallot vinegar had just the right amount of ‘tang’ to make it work for me. This was quickly followed by my favourite starter of the night – the Sticky Shallot Tarte Tatin with Goat’s Cheese. Top marks for presentation. The shallots were perfectly crispy and the goats cheese perfectly balanced the sweetness from the shallots. At £8.75, not bad value for money either.
My main was absolutely spot on too. Venison Pie with Golden Puff Pastry, Buttered Kale and Mustard Fruits. Sounds delicious? It definitely didn’t disappoint! The flaky pastry crust peeled away to reveal perfectly tender gamey meat in an wonderfully rich gravy. The buttered kale and the candied mustard fruits added that extra oomph required to complete this dish. If you are hungry, this is exactly what you need to order. Very hearty and satisfying!
The other mains continued this hearty wholesome theme. The Braised Ox Cheeks Creamed Potato and Roasted Root Vegetables is bound to remind you of your mum’s cooking. Beautifully cooked, richly flavoured and just enough on the plate to keep you wanting dessert. What’s not to like?
Seb ordered the Goodwood Estate Pork Belly with Crackling, Puy Lentils, Heritage Carrots and Apple Purée which was perfection on a plate. You cannot go wrong with a bit of good quality pork. Darwin definitely delivered on this dish Again massive portion sizes enough to make you want to give up breakfast the next day. Easily the highlight of the night.
Pippa (the token vegetarian of the group) tried out some of the vegetarian options on the menu. The Shallot Tarte Tatin was always going to be a hard act to follow but the Wild Mushroom and Truffled Leek Risotto that she ordered for her main made us forget about the tarte tatin quickly. The truffled leek risotto was delicately flavoured and the wild mushrooms only helped further enhance this. Again nothing too fancy but good wholesome food cooked to perfection.
We finished off our Darwin experience with a portion of the Chocolate Pavé and the Cheese Board. The Chocolate Pavé with its crispy biscuit base and salted toffee ice cream all covered in gold leaf was the perfect ending to a great night of authentic British brasserie experience. The cheese board with classic British cheese from all across the land went down a treat too.
We finished off our drinks, paid the bill which came in a rather lovely glass bottle and decided to make the most of the wonderful view.
After all, it’s not everyday you get to enjoy a 360′ view of the city surrounded by lush tropical gardens 37 floors high. That is exactly what is going to keep Darwin Brasserie in business. It’s a surreal experience which irrespective of the food, the service or the cost will always be special. There is always going to be a market for Darwin in the crowded London restaurant scene. Ofcourse it’s an added bonus that the food is actually really good and the whole experience isn’t too steep on the wallet either.
I must admit that I found the service slightly slow and patchy at the best of times during our visit but I am going to write this anyway as this fairly new restaurant is still trying to fine tune its offering. It’s a very different offering to some of the other high rise restaurants in the city like Searcys at the Gherkin (click for full review) but that is a good thing if you ask me.
Would I visit Darwin again? I think so. How can you say no to that view!