Tried & Tested

Restaurant check: Fenchurch Seafood Bar and Grill

8 Mar 2015 by Michelle Harbi
BACKGROUND Sky Garden, the new food, drink and event venue at 20 Fenchurch Street — aka the Walkie-Talkie — opened in January. Located at the top of the building, spanning the 35th to 37th levels, it comprises two restaurants — the upmarket Fenchurch Seafood Bar and Grill (the subject of this review), and Darwin Brasserie – and the Sky Pod bar, with terraced garden areas either side. Sky Garden tables They are operated by Rhubarb, which provides the catering for the Royal Albert Hall as well as the likes of Elton John's annual White Tie and Tiara Ball. THE RESTAURANT To reach Fenchurch, you first go through security in the ground floor reception, then shoot up in the lift to the Sky Garden floor, exiting into the triple-height Sky Pod and its fabulous views, with the Shard straight ahead. On the Friday night we visited, this large space was busy. Walking around to the right, you take the escalator up and follow signs for the restaurant, which is located in a glass-walled structure at the top of the building, above the brasserie. It seats 44 guests and is classy and understated in design. There is casual seating near the entrance looking into the kitchen, a sit-at bar, and dark-wood tables with grey and mustard upholstered armchairs and cream leather banquettes. There is also a private dining room. Tables are undressed but for a small potted orchid and tea light. It was dimly lit and jazz played softly in the background, which, added to the welcoming and friendly team of staff, created a lovely atmosphere. The service was faultless, both attentive and knowledgeable — impressive considering the place had only been open a month when we visited. Fenchurch bar seating Bar seating Fenchurch Sky Garden Sitting as it does in the top-centre of the Sky Garden space, right under the curved roof of the steel-clad building, it's worth noting that the views are not as expansive as they are down in the bar, or indeed some of the capital's other sky-high dining venues, such as in the Shard. Some tables also offer a better vantage point than others — ask for one by the window looking across one of the terraced garden areas towards St Paul's and the curve of the Thames. In early summer, the restaurant's terrace will open, seating about another 40 guests. It faces towards the Shard but, again, as the restaurant is positioned quite far back, you won't get the greatest of views. THE FOOD We had a great meal. As you'd expect, there are a wide range of seafood dishes on the menu, with a variety of oysters and caviar as well as prawns, scallops, lobster, H Forman and Son smoked salmon and sea bass. But there are also several steaks, venison, lamb and duck. I decided to stick to fish for both courses, choosing the dressed crab (£22) to start, followed by the whole Dover sole with brown shrimps and beurre noisette (£42). Before that, we received an amuse bouche of beef tartare and cheese fondant, and warm rosemary bread with whipped butter. The crab was served in its shell with egg mayonnaise and brown toast. It was fresh, tangy and ample. I was given the option of my sole being served boned or deboned — being lazy, I requested the latter and the waiter completed the job skillfully near our table. Dover sole and shrimps Dover sole and shrimps It was an exquisite piece of fish, with capers and samphire cutting through the buttery sauce, and I accompanied it with gorgeously silky mash (£5). My companion went for the salt-baked heritage beetroot with whipped goat's cheese and toasted seeds (£9) to start, which was well-presented and executed. His Goodwood Estate 10oz rib-eye (£30) was perfectly cooked and full of flavour, and his triple-cooked chips (£5) fat, fluffy and crunchy. The bottle of red wine the sommelier suggested — Dolcetto d'Alba Vigna Nirane, Ascheri, Piemonte, Italy (£43.50) — was nicely full-bodied. To finish, I had the St Clement's posset with shortbread, kumquats and basil (£8) — a good balance of flavours and textures, sharp yet smooth and creamy. My companion's rhubarb soufflé with ginger ice cream (£10) was light and surprisingly refreshing. VERDICT Excellent food and service in an elegant setting. Fenchurch doesn't offer the best views of all London's high-rise restaurants, but it's still a pleasure to dine in the sky with the capital far beneath you. These are high-end prices, but if you want to treat yourself or impress someone, it's well worth a try. FACT FILE
  • OPENING HOURS Mon-Sat 11am-11pm, closed Sun.
  • PRICE Starters £7.50-£16.50; mains £18.50-£42; sides £5-£7.50; desserts £8-£10. Wine from £6 by the glass; from £24.50 by the bottle.
  • CONTACT Sky Garden, 20 Fenchurch Street; tel +44 (0)333 772 0020;
Michelle Harbi
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