You may have seen the strange, futuristic building that squats on London’s iconic skyline. Nestled between the cold, hard spike of The Shard and the glistening egg-shaped Gherkin, a bulbous glass monstrocity can be found on Fenchurch Street. It may look like a goddamn huge walkie talkie (ah that’s it’s nickname), but high above its internal corporate offices lies a serene garden: Sky Garden.
London’s highest oasis: Sky Garden
Visiting Sky Garden can be a tricky affair: You need to book way in advance if you even want to get a foot in the door as free tickets need to be snapped up just to take a look around. Getting into Sky Garden means you have to have your bag x-rayed and you have to walk through a metal detector. Then the final hurdle, is a swift lift up 36 floors, 155 ft into the sky. And when those doors slide open, you’ll understand immediately why it’s a pretty cool thing to do in London.
I had booked myself a free ticket to have a wander around alone, but when my auntie clocked that they did cocktails up there, she had booked us a table at the Darwin Brasserie in a flash. There was nothing that would’ve got between my Ee Ee and a decent cocktail on her day off! (FYI Ee Ee is our ‘mother’s sister’ in some kind of Chinese-Malay dialect aka our mother’s tongue).
The Sky Garden has a cavernous roof that stretches far over it’s edge, giving panoramic views over the Thames. Glass is everywhere and you can peer out at the famous Shard on one side, look down at the Tower of London on the other, and spy St Paul’s glowing in the sun behind you. The concrete jungle that is London is out in full display from this teetering height, but there’s also a bit of a real jungle inside.
Walk up into the Sky Garden and follow a path that hugs the glass walls, guiding you through the green gardens of exotic plants. Every now and then, you’ll hear a WHOOSH as water is sprayed from a height to water the botanicals (don’t worry, you won’t get wet!). Get some air by walking along the open air terrace, looking down at London, getting up close and personal to the clouds… and people’s selfie sticks…. then get some grub in your belly! Sky Garden is a pretty unique thing to do in London, so don’t rush your time up there!
Eating and drinking in Sky Garden
In Sky Garden, there are a few dining and drinking options:
- Darwin Brasserie – a relaxed, yet smart, lunching spot.
- Fenchurch Restaurant – uber smart with a strict dress-code (you can book 60 days in advance).
- Fenchurch Terrace – secluded, elegant, perched right at the top of the Sky Garden… and you can turned away if you’re not dressed appropriately.
- City Garden Bar – totally chilled bar area below the eateries.
- Sky Pod Bar – cafe-style bar floating in the crowd.
After taking in all the views and walking through the greenery, we took a pit stop at the City Garden Bar where cheeky mixologists whipped us up a delightful drink festooned with flowers – the presentation was absolutely brilliant and it literally was too pretty to drink!
Dining in the Darwin Brasserie
After our fancy tipples, we headed up to the Darwin Brasserie; a bright room full of impeccable waiting staff and flowers. The menu isn’t huge, but each dish sounded tasty whilst not being fussy. Choose a la carte or the set menu, which is reasonably priced at around £30 for three courses – now that’s seriously good bang for your buck in central London!
The cocktail menu made me feel like a kid in a candy store as they’re leather-bound with pages upon pages dedicated to potions. Each had an illustration and a rating of how sweet, sour or bitter it was – it may take you a good 20 minutes to figure out which one you want, so don’t forget to hurry as they’ll need the table back in two hours if they’re busy! Don’t worry about choosing too wisely because the bar staff know what the fuck they’re doing and will turn out brilliant drinks. Again, the presentation was flawless with lavender and blueberries to highlight the delicate ingredients, and also to look fabulous on instagram.
After sinking two cocktails, it’s time for food: Chunky terrine to start, softly smoked haddock with a poached egg and mustard butter for main, and a rich AF bar of thick chocolate with jivara ganache. The three courses will have you absolutely stuffed, as this dessert will slay you, so why not share the three courses and an extra main? That’s what we did and it was just about what we could manage…. and I still dream of the haddock that melted in my mouth…
Events go on during the evening so keep an eye out for any fun musical nights or special evenings… or just book a table to witness a blazing London sunset in the summer. At this height, it would be magic. The Sky Garden is a must-see in London, and whilst it may still have a touch of class that’s a bit too high-brow for me, I loved it and will be booking again! Where else can I dine in the clouds, surrounded by flowers with the best cocktails that have ever graced this well-soaked palette? Well, as I’m still alive and heaven is a distance for me to travel, Sky Garden will have to do.
All photographs by Sophie Saint