Sky Garden, City of London
Having shamefully not been up the Shard yet, arriving on the 35h floor of 20 Fenchurch Street and walking into the stunning expanse of the Sky Pod Bar, I was taken aback by the uninterrupted views of a twinkling London at night. It is a serious ‘wow’ moment, especially because this newly opened bar – which is part of the ‘Sky Garden’ complex – makes you feel like you have the whole view to yourself. No wonder booking a table for a cocktail is a must – they have about 10 tables here in a space that could fit a hundred. Which actually I rather loved; it felt more intimate and more exclusive, less noise and yet it didn’t lack atmosphere.
You’d therefore expect sky high (excuse the pun) prices, but these were not as bad as anticipated. Cocktails range from £11.50 – £14.50, while if you’re doing detox January, their vegetable or fruit smoothies are a bargain at £5. Service admittedly was slow despite the lack of crowds, which they will need to improve, especially when it undoubtedly gets busier in the summer (plenty of standing space!).
The main reason to visit the Sky Garden is, funnily enough, the garden itself, which doesn’t open until the 12th January, so I sadly missed this. You have to book a slot to view it (it’s free and you get 1.5 hrs, but it’s only open for the non-drinking/eating public till 6pm). Apart from that, there are two restaurants: Darwin (the brasserie) a level above the bar, and the ‘fine dining’ Fenchurch Grill Restaurant, which is yet another level higher. Oliver Wainwright, who wrote an article for the Guardian about this venue yesterday, correctly points out that the more you pay at the Sky Garden, the worse the view, as you are placed further and further away from the glass.
The critics have been fierce, but most of these come from the field of architecture and design, which I do not. Those of whom have been carefully following the progress of this unique project on top of the Walkie Talkie may well be disappointed from an architectural perspective, as some say it looks little like the computer-drawn designs which were promised. To me, and forgive my less ‘professional’ opinion from a food and travel blogger perspective, Rafael Vinoly has still created a masterpiece, subtle or not. Yes, the high ceilings and metal frame can give off an airport terminal feel (Wainwright’s opinion) but it also looks like a space that’s rare to come by in London, and a view that’s unrivalled.
I had no expectations. And thus was pleasantly surprised by the design of the place, the sheer size and space of the Sky Pod bar and the breathtaking views we had as we sipped rather delicious cocktails (I highly recommend the Charles Chaplin). Yes, the ‘climbing garden’ on the sides of the bar going up to the two restaurants needs to grow and be developed, but I like how it feels a little like you’re having drinks in a Botanical garden in the sky. Maybe that’s how they want you to feel. And yes, it can get chilly despite the fur clad seats, but wear a coat or come in the summer and I doubt you’ll mind.
This is a place for a date to remember, for something different, for something special. I can’t wait to come in the summer for an ice cream from their promised ice cream pop up. That is one promise I will hold them by.
20 Fenchurch Street
London EC3M 4BA
To reserve a table call: 0333 772 0020
Photos the Sky Garden’s own