This isn’t our first Fenchurch Street rodeo. We’ve been to others in the Sky Garden’s restaurant hat-trick – read our review of the then-called Fenchurch Seafood Bar & Grill, now re-dubbed Fenchurch Restaurant, here. This is, though, the first time we’ve visited Darwin Brasserie, the 36th floor restaurant. And the first daylight hours visit, and first breakfast menu, so it’s all change.
In theory. In reality there’s a lot that makes this feel difficult to separate from the dinner-on-the-37th-floor or drinks-on-the-35th-floor experience – not a bad thing, we liked both of those. The entrance is the same, obviously, through the airport-style security downstairs and with the big spread of the bar and the open terrace as you step out of the lift. The brasserie itself is similar in formality – a host taking your coats, uniformed waiters – and style, jutting out of the garden rising on both sides, with two walls of windows to take full advantage of the view.
Seated at a window table you have a slanting view downwards of the main terrace and across the river, and the morning’s clouds are starting to lift as we order breakfast, urgently. The urgency’s all ours – my guest’s pregnant and in her third trimester, so views are secondary to food. It’s 930 am on a weekday during half-term but despite the bar below us filling up a bit while we’re there, the brasserie stays at just full enough to feel busy, not so full it feels crowded. There’s no sense of rush from the waiting staff, and we end up eating at speed and lingering over coffee – which, pregnant hunger or no pregnant hunger, we’d likely have done as it’s hard to make the food the big attraction at a place with these views.
Our breakfast, for the record, is all somewhere in the decent to really good range – the buffet table and the carefully unobtrusive decor giving it a feel of hotel chain, but the range of hot dishes is closer to your neighbourhood coffeeshop. Our choices – my avocado and poached eggs on sourdough toast, my friend’s wild mushrooms and fried egg on toast – are roughly the same you’d find in every second Clapham brunch spot or Hoxton breakfast bar. No worse, no better, within a pound or two of what you’d pay elsewhere but elevated above those other avocados and other toasts by being… you know, actually elevated above them.
Nothing you do inside the brasserie is going to change the number of people coming here just to look out over London and ignore the food. And Darwin’s approach seems to be just accepting that and serving nice, uncontroversial breakfasts in an unhurried way – classics that aren’t going to compete with the sunrise over London for your focus, but are still a good complement to the great things going on outside the windows.
The breakfast menu at Darwin Brasserie is on offer from 7am till 1030 am on weekdays and from 8am till 11am at weekends., priced at £16.50 for a continental breakfast buffet with tea and coffee, or £24.50 for the breakfast buffet, a hot dish and tea or coffee.
Darwin Brasserie, 20, Fenchurch Street, EC3M 8AF. 0333 7720020. Website.