London’s skyline is starting to offer up more high altitude dining – certainly over the last several years that I’ve spent in this city. It used to be that most city view restaurants were chain hotel owned and/or outdated (e.g. Centre Point). However, the skyline has been growing and so has the selection of these restaurants.
I want to talk about two: The Shard (featuring Oblix, Hutong and Aqua) and The “Walkie Talkie” or more formally known as 20 Fenchurch (featuring Darwin, The Fenchurch Restaurant, and the Sky Garden bar). I know this “multi-restaurant” concept already sounds bad and the truth is, you’re going for the view and a decent meal to accompany it. Both options serve up similar standard fare – not bad, but not exceptional. But there’s something about that view, with a glass of wine in hand, that continues to dazzle.
So what sets them apart? Quite a lot actually.
The Shard has better views, in my opinion. Particularly from Oblix where you get West London from the restaurant and East London from the bar. Tables are directly on the window so you’re enjoying your view as unobstructed as can be. The food is modern British and fresh, and the walk-through kitchen concept as you enter is proof of that. The bar features live music on certain evenings, jazzing up the scene. Hutong and Aqua, also in The Shard, serve up Asian and British food, respectively, and have similar views and seating. One downer is that the atmosphere feels far more formal and stiff than The Sky Garden.
The Walkie Talkie’s Sky Garden and it’s restaurants are surprisingly relaxed. Provided that you’re not going on a booked or private event date, you can usually get into the bar on a spontaneous walk-in basis. The Sky Garden itself (literally a rooftop indoor garden) is huge and hosts the bar. It’s laid back and you can grab your drink and walk all around this sky-high greenhouse without anyone drawing a line or pestering. The atmosphere is a big plus, and so is the open air terrace which you can access from the bar. Darwin, one of the two restaurants featured, is small and delivers a similar menu to that of Oblix. There are fewer choices but it’s equally delicious. The downside is that neither Darwin nor TBD have window side seating so unless you stay at the bar, you sort of lose the view. I still like it though, a nice change and a great treat for out-of-towners visiting me.
Both The Shard and The Walkie Talkie are way better options than standing in that crowded line for The London Eye. You get the same experience and view without the ticket price, all while tucking into a delish dish!
Which is your favorite?
The Shard – 32 London Bridge St, London SE1 9SG
20 Fenchurch – 20 Fenchurch St, London EC3M 3BY