Easy to find, Fenchurch certainly is not. Despite being located in the infamous Fenchurch Street skyscraper – better known to you and I as the “Walkie Talkie”, a building once voted the ugliest and most hated in Britain – on ground level, it is indiscernible from the surrounding multi-storey office buildings.
When you finally manage to locate the chaotic reception area, you’re still not even half-way there. There are two barriers to go through and a disorderly, airport-style bag check, before you’re granted access to the lifts.
Up to the 35th floor you go – prepare for your ears to pop – where the lift opens out into the heart of the Sky Garden, a free-to-visit public garden with panoramic views of the city’s skyline (which was used to justify the building of the vast office space, which is on the edge of a conservation centre).
You must then cross the Sky Garden to reach another (rather hard-to-find) lift, which takes you up an additional two floors to a further reception. Once you enter that reception you’ll have finally reached Fenchurch – and trust me, it will be worth it.
Located on the 37th floor of the skyscraper, Fenchurch boasts even better views of the City of London than the Sky Garden. I was surprised by how intimate the restaurant was – there are just 60 covers, with the majority of tables providing an astonishing floor-to-ceiling window view.
Fenchurch’s recently-appointed head chef is Michael Carr, a 29-year-old former Great British Menu contestant. Carr prioritises seasonality and British produce in his cooking, and describes his style as “the reinvention of old classics with modern twists and techniques”, according to a recent interview.
Although there are a la carte options, the seven-course tasting menu (priced at £95 per person) is what guests really flock all the way up the Walkie Talkie for.
Each dish is designed to be shared and the portions are on the large side for a tasting menu; my perfectly-cooked duck with braised red cabbage, chestnut and an accompanying duck leg ragout tart could have been a standalone main course.
Highlights included pan-braised halibut with salsify and a bacon sauce; beef tartare with avocado, English mustard and zhoug dressing (a spicy coriander-based sauce); a stunning beetroot and crispy artichoke salad; and an Isle of Skye scallop cooked to perfection in XO sauce (an umami seafood sauce with ham).
Supplements were made for my pescatarian dining companion, who loved Fenchurch’s twist on an onion bhaji, as well as an expertly-cooked hash brown which came with hen of the wood, teriyaki glaze and toasted seeds.
Fenchurch has a creative menu of signature cocktails, featuring drinks like the Bloomsbury (Bloom gin, rhubarb liqueur and lime, topped with apricot brandy foam) and the Hampstead Heath (Malfy con limone gin, Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto, fresh pineapple, bergamot juice).
For those who prefer a more traditional tipple, our friendly waiter assured us that the bar can rustle up any cocktail you desire. There’s also an extensive wine list and guests opting for the seven-course tasting menu can pay £75 more for a wine pairing component, selected by head sommelier Alexandru Pastrav.
Yes, a trip to Fenchurch will necessitate you winding your way through the heart of corporate London and embracing an award-winningly ugly building, but for spectacular views and delicious food prepared with passion and creativity, this restaurant is hard to beat.
While not somewhere many people would visit for a casual mid-week dinner (the price of the tasting menu will back me up on this), Fenchurch is an ideal spot for going all-out on a special occasion – and with that stunning backdrop, you’ll want your cameras at the ready.
Fenchurch Restaurant, 1 Sky Garden Walk, London EC3M 8AF; skygarden.london. Open every Thursday to Sunday for lunch, and every Wednesday to Sunday for dinner.