Lunch high above London at the Sky Garden

 Darwin Brasserie at the Sky Garden

The ever-changing face of London includes the myriad new towering architecture thats’s adding to the dramatic skyline of  this beautiful city.

South of the river, The Shard is London Town’s tallest building (and possibly my favourite) at 306m (95 storeys). The views are truly spectacular down and across the river towards the City where most of the soaring sky-scraping structures live.

Possibly the most famous is the Gherkin (30 St Mary Axe) at 180m. Then there’s The Leadenhall Building (AKA the Cheese Grater) at 225m, Tower 42 at 183m and 20 Fenchurch Street (AKA the Walkie-Talkie) at 160m. Today we’re heading to the top of the Walkie-Talkie for lunch at London’s highest public garden – the Sky Garden.

The Walkie-Talkie was designed by world-renowned Uruguayan architect Rafael Vinoly and is the fifth tallest completed building in the City. Yes, there’s more coming. It’s 38 storeys high and the floor-to-ceiling glass and high domed ceiling produce a beautiful light-filled enormous area to explore. Our lunch venue, the Darwin Brasserie is on Level 36.

The balcony provides spectacular (if somewhat scary) photo opps or you can pose in the super-size forest on high. You can visit the Sky Garden without having to eat (though you still have to book) – but you know me, how could I resist the chance to have lunch in London’s highest public garden. Oh and does that mean someone has a higher private one somewhere? The mind boggles.

What’s on the menu

The simple brasserie-style menu offers  a good range of fish, meat and vegetarian dishes. The roast sea trout came with honey-spiced pumpkin and spiced yogurt and was topped with crispy pancetta. A sight to behold on its beautiful (somewhat appropriate!)sky blue plate .

Sky Garden: luscious trout

Luscious trout topped with crispy pancetta

The steak tartare came with confit egg yolk, baby gem lettuce and sourdough crisp. Perfectly spiced and served with hot crispy fries. Steak tartare is one of my regular favourites and this was a great one.

Sky Garden: steak tartare

Spicy, fresh tartare with crunchy lettuce

The tender lamb tagine came atop saffron couscous and topped with saffron mayo.

Sky Garden: Lamb tagine

Tender lamb tagine atop saffron couscous

As it’s truffle season (and I love truffles) we couldn’t resist ordering an extra helping of truffle and parmesan fries.

Sky Garden: truffle fries

Earthy truffle and parmesan fries

I loved the Sky Garden, and its setting in a part of London I don’t visit often enough. Wandering around the City is a unique experience, too, with striking modern buildings reaching for the sky. Here are some shots of outside and inside our Walkie-Talkie.

I visited with my husband and my niece, Maxine, who you may see cropping up regularly in future blogs as we have just done a European exploring extravaganza. So watch this space I have plenty of exciting stories to share.Sky Garden: views

Today’s price point

Okay eating at Darwin Brasserie isn’t the cheapest affair. But then you do have to bear in mind the surroundings you’re dining in.

Our lunch for four (with only a main course each and that extra portion of fries) came to just short of £100. Wine by the bottles starts from £32.50.

The Sky Garden is on Level 36 in the Walkie-Talkie at 20 Fenchurch Street in the City of London.

Views and food to dream about at SushiSamba

When summer hits London in all its glory, it’s time to enjoy alfresco drinking and dining opportunities, which means I’m on the hunt for terraces and courtyards across town. And have I got a terrace for you today. We’re in the City of London on the 38th floor of the Heron Tower. A glass lift on the side of the building whisks you up to SushiSamba, a bit too rapidly for my liking, but I manned up and actually enjoyed it on the way down.

SushiSamba is the highest restaurant terrace in Europe with fabulous views across London Town. You’re looking straight at the Gherkin (or the Pickle as my nephew Zak calls it) and the Cheesegrater. Love the food themes in London’s skyline. You can also see beautiful Tower Bridge and the Tower of London down below.

The interior is modern and shiny with fabulous lighting and  floor to ceiling glass to help make the most of the views.

And then there’s the food – a combination of Japanese, Brazilian (hence the Sushi and the Samba) and Peruvian food. Sound exotic enough? The menu is pretty mind boggling with a combo of small and large plates and sushi rolls to choose from. We went for it and ordered a variety of dishes which our waiter managed to serve up in an order that worked. All dishes got put in the middle of the table for sharing.

These crispy taquitos were up first, stuffed with plenty of yellowtail, avocado and roasted corn miso. Light, crunchy and fresh, I could eat a whole plateful of these. Good start!


Delicious fishy morsels with crunch

Substantial shrimp tempura was served with snap pea julienne, spicy mayo and black truffle vinaigrette. Plump, juicy shrimps smothered in spicy mayo…perfect.

tempura shrimp

Deliciously mayo-smothered shrimp tempura

My delight in pork belly continues with this kuromitsu glazed pork belly, palmito, orange and pickled onion. Such a wonderful combo of flavours and textures, beautifully presented and melt-in-the-mouth.

pork belly

A beautiful plate of pork belly

Salt and pepper squid was created with dry miso, shichmi, sea salt, crispy garlic and smoked soya. Light and tender with just the right crispiness.

Crispy, flavoursome squid

Chicken doesn’t get much more exotic than this. The poussin teriyaki came with Japanese-style yogurt and yuzu kosho. Packed with flavour and melt-in-the mouth with the creaminess of the mayo to dip into.


One of the best chicken dishes of the summer

As a somewhat carniverous family we had to tuck into one of the meat platters. We chose the Churrasco Rio Grande, a combination of rib-eye, chorizo and aged picanha, served with a selection of sauces. It was delicious. If you really feel like pushing the boat out you could go for the Kobe beef Ishiyaka, 1kg of steak with a hot stone and dipping sauces – I mean really pushing the boat out, it costs £1,000.


A meaty choice that’s a carnivore’s delight

There’s also a range of Samba rolls for sushi lovers. We ordered a platter with two varieties: Tokyo Sky Tree spicy big eye tuna tempura crunch, lotus root, aji panca and spicy mayo and the Tiger Maki takawan wasabi tobiko, crab meat, tempura prawn, tiger prawn, wasabi mayo and beetroot yogurt. Sounds like a lot of ingredients – just believe that they work perfectly together and look and taste wonderful.

samba rolls

A lovely platter of sushi

Here’s a view of the beautifully modern, light-filled interior.


The floor-to-ceiling glass at SushiSamba really shows the views off

And here’s the view past the Gherkin down towards the Tower of London and Tower Bridge.


A stunning London view

There’s also a fabulous outside bar which gets extremely packed with glamorous Londoners on balmy summer nights. Just perfect!

SushiSamba is at 110 Bishopsgate, London EC2 in the heart of the City of London.


A delightful lunch at La Tagliata in the City

Today we’re venturing into the City of London. A short walk from bustling Liverpool Street station through the throngs of City workers is La Tagliata, which opened this July. It’s all new and shiny with plush white seating along the walls and staff with welcoming smiles.

The concept is wonderfully simple. There’s basically one starter and one main course with slight variations. To begin with the fresh tagliatelle is made daily on site. With that you have a choice of pomodoro, pesto or lemon sauces or the daily special. Today it was white ragu with black truffle oil. White ragu is cooked without using tomatoes (new to me, I must admit). This meaty sauce with its truffly hints is incredibly moreish.


Fresh tagliatelle with white ragu and black truffle oil


Keeping it simple with the tastiest of pomodoro (tomato) sauces

The main course features the star of the show and the dish the restaurant is named for – La Tagliata. The traditional version which is permanently on the menu has the sirloin steak cooked, sliced and served on a bed of rocket, parmesan and cherry tomatoes with a balsamic reduction. Succulent steak perfectly cooked with the freshest of salad ingredients and served with piping hot little roasties, crisp on the outside and beautifully soft inside.


Classic tagliata to savour

There’s always a special for the tagliata, too, today it was served with a wild mushroom sauce. And Terry opted to go for the shepherd’s potatoes (the spud choice is yours) – deliciously garlicky mash.

There is also a vegetarian option for mains if steak’s not your thing, good of them, but really this the place to come for the steak.


Tasty medium rare sirloin nestles between garlicky mash and mushroom sauce

For dessert there are two choices and they are Italian classics. I rarely eat dessert but must admit that Italian are the ones that usually tempt me. I couldn’t resist the panna cotta, which came with a strawberry sauce. Part of me wishes I hadn’t ordered it, as I’m going to be ordering panna cotta much more frequently now and hoping it tastes as good as this one did. Creamy, silky and melt-in-the-mouth with the lovely, zesty strawberry sauce. Every mouthful was a delight.


Bring me more panna cotta…and more

It doesn’t get more Italian than tiramisu. This ubiquitous dessert is dished up all over the world in many different forms. My mother even used to make her version which, as kids, we called sponge finger pudding! La Tagliata’s has got to be up there as one of the best ever, light and fluffy, each mouthful dissolved on the tongue in an instant, bursting with flavour.


An Italian classic done to perfection


The music-themed area in the stylish restaurant

All the time I was tucking into La Tagliata’s tasty treats, I felt wrapped in a cloud of contentment…more so than recently at any restaurant. Then it came to me – no stressful food decisions to be made (well only small ones, anyway). A great idea to keep the menu so simple, though that does come with its pressures for the kitchen – everything has to be absolutely spot on. And it was. All made complete with a really lovely bottle of Chianti from their carefully selected Italian list. Deliziosissima!

Oh, La Tagliata’s set in a street with my name which made me illogically even happier. You’ll find it at 11 Sandy’s Row, London E1.

Square Meal