Dinner doesn’t usually start with an airport-style security check but that’s how Darwin Brasserie is different. It’s part of SkyGarden at the top of the Walkie Talkie building so between being greeted at the bottom of the building and being taken to your table at the top, you run your bags, coat and stripped-down self through a machine, probably bleep and do it all again, before taking the lift 35 floors up.
When you come out of the lift at the top, the huge expanse of space combined with the view will take your breath away. When you’ve finished swirling around looking up at the glass ceiling and out of the glass open-mouthed, you’ll realise you’re actually not quite there yet. It’s another floor up to Darwin Brasserie, which you’ll reach via a wide staircase with windows on one side and a dense jungle-like area of tall plants on the other.
The waiter seats us on the far side up against the sweeping glass façade. Looking out, now 36 floors up, we’ve got undisturbed views of Canary Wharf and the Southbank and down just below us is the canopy of the plants I mentioned previously. With the plants and the unrestricted views my brain is confused as to whether we’re outside or inside, it’s only the snug temperature and lack of breeze that clarify things.
We order a bottle of Rioja to go with our artisan bread basket as we peruse the comprehensive menu. Comprised of modern British fare, the waiter runs us through the highlights, which include the wild mushroom and truffled leek risotto, the braised ox cheeks with roasted roots and the Cornish lamb rump served with bubble and squeak.
Struggling to decide which of the seven starters to pick from, I go with the beetroot cured salmon under the waiter’s recommendation whilst my partner chooses for the prawn cocktail; the latter presented with elegant panache in a martini glass and topped with an unshelled prawn. Served with a zingy horseradish crème fraîche, my salmon is fresh and flavoursome, and looks wonderful in ombre thanks to the beetroot turning the edges purple. The two slices of Guinness rye bread its are moreishly delicious.
Distracted by the mesmerising city views and playing the age-old game of trying to spot our house, we barely notice our mains arriving (the service here is flawless by the way), though the delicious smells soon have our eyes back on the table. I decided on the smoked haddock which is served on a bed of sliced new potatoes and covered in a generous smothering of rich beurre blanc, making it a far richer dish than I anticipated, but delicious nonetheless, and a large sized portion I struggle to finish.
My partner’s Cornish lamb rump is a good serve too, with the large slab of meat balancing on top of a patty of bubble and squeak and roasted courgettes. The lamb is cooked perfectly to medium rare and is juicy and rich in flavour, further moistened with the accompanying roasting jus – definitely no complaints here!
We’re full to bursting but are advised the apple crumble shouldn’t be missed, so order one and two spoons. Fortunately it’s pretty small (especially when shared) and as good as the waiter promised, served with a thick vanilla custard so delicious I could eat it with a ladle. Unlike many, this crumble achieves the perfect ratio of rough, crunchy topping to sweet, cinnamon-spiced stewed apple, and is a fine finish to a wonderful evening.
Whether you’re looking for romantic city views, somewhere new and unique, or a wholesome refined feed, Darwin Brasserie has it all.
Darwin Brasserie, 20 Fenchurch Street, London EC3M 3BY