Fenchurch: View + food = winning formula (March 2016)

Tall buildings seem all the rage in London these days and, if you have an iconic landmark, then why not put a restaurant in there too? Too often, however, the complaint can be levelled at such venues that customers just end up paying for the view or the ‘experience’ and the food becomes an after-thought. At Fenchurch though (on level 37 of the ‘Walkie Talkie’), my comrade and I were impressed from beginning to end.  This is more than just a good view; it is a restaurant with serious ambitions to deliver high quality food, with a key focus on attention to detail. Even the queuing to enter, about which I had been warned, was not a bother, although having a restaurant reservation does allow you to be fast-tracked past the lengthy line of sightseers. On arrival, via the ear-popping lift, guests get to witness London at its best from amidst an oasis of quasi-tropical greenery. One quick flight of stairs up and through a slightly counter-intuitive doorway, and you arrive at Fenchurch. A sense of calm immediately pervades. Diners are cocooned from the crowds and get to luxuriate in comfy seats coloured a warm yellow, offsetting the muted grey and brown tones elsewhere. Presentation and design throughout were impressive, not just the décor, but also the format/ feel of the menus, the crockery, glassware etc. In terms of food, either an a la carte or a tasting menu are available, with the premise being seasonal British cooking. Although an amuse bouche comprising what was essentially a crisp with dollops of taramasalata bordered on both the absurd and the pretentious, there were no complaints about the remainder of our food. This spanned the range of breads with homemade butter, our starters and mains. For me, the stand-out dish was my main which comprised a beautifully presented loin of venison (done very lightly pink), which was rich and flavoursome, accompanied by pickled red cabbage, pear and juniper. It was close to sublime. We paired the dish (and my colleague’s cod) with a Pinot Noir from Oregon, chosen from an inventive (if not cheap) wine list. The meal also ended on a high with incredibly well-made coffees. Many restaurants seem to consider coffee to be a means to a (literal) end, but here, as with the rest of the meal, clear thought had undoubtedly been given to the blend and strength. A fitting concluding note, and further proof – if it were needed - that Fenchurch has a winning formula.