The Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street (the Walkie Talkie to you and I) has caused quite a stir recently. As London’s highest garden, it’s absolutely free for the public to enter, which is all good until you find that it’s near impossible to get a booking there.
Bookings for the three restaurants up there, though, are a bit easier to come by. A few weeks ago Matthew and I snagged ourselves a breakfast reservation at the more casual (read: cheapest) of the 3 – the Sky Pod Bar.
I’d seen stunning conceptual pictures of the space but read some mixed reviews (Lisa’s is great if you’re interested), so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when we arrived in the deserted City this Saturday.
There is airport style security (complete with a sort of check in desk) before you’re allowed in. It was pretty quiet when we arrived but there was a long queue by the time we were leaving – so if you’ve got a reservation after about 10.30am, be prepared to wait. But it wasn’t long before we were whizzing up in the dedicated lift (my ears popped – it is high) and stepping out into the three-story Sky Garden.
Regardless of any preconceptions, the space is absolutely breathtaking. For those that don’t know, it takes up the top three storeys of the building and the whole thing is made of glass so there are views across every side of London. Inside, it’s just as light and airy as you would imagine, with big swathes of greenery and piped music. There also seems to be a bit of a winter-y theme going on; the hostesses all wear fur-lined capes and there are furs on the floors and seats, which was a touch that I liked – I wonder if they will change it during spring and summer.
There is a row of tables right up against the windows to the south, which would offer the most incredible views of the Shard and beyond, but unfortunately we were shown to one in the “back row”, quite set apart both from everybody else. Don’t get me wrong, the views were still great, but we found ourselves rushing our breakfast so that we could get close to the glass. In hindsight, we should have had a little wander and then settled down to breakfast – but maybe next time!
The Skypod Bar is counter service at breakfast time, and serves quite a decent array of pastries and muffins, along with fruit salad, breakfast rolls and a few other bits and bobs. I opted for a blueberry muffin (it was a special occasion – cake for breakfast is totally allowed) and a fruit salad on the side, while Matthew had a sausage & egg roll and a raspberry & white choc muffin. The team behind the bar seemed a little flustered even though it wasn’t that busy, but they were friendly enough and we took our feast back to our little table.
Considering we definitely were not there for the food, I was actually very pleasantly surprised by my muffin in particular, which was gorgeously soft and super fresh tasting. The fruit salad was nice and big, and considering the potential to mark it up, nothing was that expensive – along with coffee for him and orange juice for us both, we spent about £20 which isn’t bad at all.
As I said, after I was done with the muffin I was pretty keen to leave our table behind and go explore the rest of the garden. As I said, it takes up three storeys and long, sprawling staircases line each side so we took our time taking in every view. There’s also a terrace to the South Side which wasn’t open when we went – of course it was our luck that it opened the very next day! – so we couldn’t really maximise the views of the Shard and so on but the others more than made up for it.
Safe to say, both of our cameras were running overtime. It’s actually really difficult to get a good shot of the (spectacular) views…
But the space itself makes for some pretty amazing photos, especially as you climb higher and higher up to levels 36 and 37. There are little mini gardens up each side, so it’s just like being in a huge greenhouse (only a bit more civilised).
At the back, to the North side of the building, is a huge terrace that was almost empty when we were there – blissful! Of course we couldn’t resist a selfie or two with the little old Gherkin peeking over.
I actually found that we got the best pictures of the views as we came back down the Eastern side, towards the main terrace.
But probably the most amazing pictures come from the highest point, the terrace outside the Fenchurch Seafood Bar. I’m generally good with heights, but this terrace hangs over the rest of the garden and it definitely made me feel a bit wobbly! All worth it for the pics though, obvs.
I do not envy these window cleaners their jobs!
Having spent an hour or so examining every inch of the view and with the garden filling up, we took one last look around and stepped back into the lift to zip back down to reality (or a rather expensive afternoon in Stratford Westfield, anyway).
Overall, I’m so glad we did the Sky Garden and I’m especially glad we did it early, not least because it was grey and drizzly by the time we left. You can book tickets just to go up from 11am onwards I believe, so I would definitely recommend making a breakfast reservation at either the Sky Pod Bar (you could literally buy a coffee and be done with it if you really wanted to), or the more upmarket Darwin Brasserie if you’re celebrating a special occasion, purely because you can get up there ahead of the crowds.
It would obviously be a great place for an event (I can dream of being invited to one) and I think Matthew and I are going to endeavour to go up there in the evening for either dinner or cocktails – but we’ve also got dinners lined up at Duck & Waffle and the Oxo Tower before then, so we shall see how they compare!
Have you visited the Sky Garden? What were your thoughts? I’d love to hear!