Meet the incredibly down-to-earth Dan Fletcher, the Yorkshire-born culinary talent behind Sky Garden’s Fenchurch Restaurant
Words Annie May Byrne-Noonan
Young, vibrant chef Dan Fletcher may not be the typical custodian of an establishment such as Fenchurch, the high-end eatery in 1 Sky Garden Walk that sits at the apex of the Walkie Talkie Building. Yet he is exactly the ambassador its glassy counterparts such as the Shard and Heron Tower need at the helm of their restaurants. “It isn’t really about competing with our high-rise peers as we’re all offering such different things. I’m focusing on making Fenchurch the absolute best it can be, rather than worrying too much about what the others are up to!” Nor should he worry. After a successful stint at The Square in Mayfair, the Yorkshire-born chef is keeping things fresh some 37 floors up.
Fenchurch sits within the impressive expanse of views, Jurassic style foliage and cocktail bars that make up Sky Garden. Yet Fletcher’s rural upbringing is the channel that runs through the menu and grounds its dishes. Described as British-European in influence, Fletcher uses the best of British produce as the foundation for his recipes. “Growing up in Yorkshire opened my eyes to what amazing ingredients grow across the UK all year round. I have great memories of picking crab apples, strawberries, raspberries and elderflower as a child. Now they go straight on the menu at Fenchurch as soon as they are in season.”
His culinary style is influenced in part by his time spent with Edinburgh chef Tom Kitchin, who uses Scottish produce as the basis for his French-inspired dishes. “My time with Tom Kitchin was incredibly monumental for me. I learnt so much, from the physical skill required for cheffing, to understanding the unbelievable dedication needed to run a successful kitchen. It’s really stuck with me.”
Like many successful chefs, his love affair with food began at an early age. Whilst working at a local kitchen, his eureka moment arrived when things got a little hectic backstage. “I still remember the moment the chef said ‘Dan – grab a knife, we need some beans topping and tailing!’ I jumped at the chance to get out of the dish room and I’ve never looked back.”
Fletcher’s homegrown approach is the perfect contradiction for a restaurant with views that make London look like a toy town. “Ultimately, we’re showing off the great produce Britain has to offer. This captures everything from our fantastic scallops and langoustines to artisanal cheese made by small producers up and down the country. The fact that we’re bringing these guys to such a global audience is something I’m very proud of.”
This relaxed approach is also happily present in the restaurant’s clientele. “One of my favourite things about Fenchurch is the diverse range of guests who visit. We have businessmen, couples on dates, foodies, families and tourists. It’s a real pleasure to be able to cook for visitors from all walks of life, and see their reactions to all the dishes we produce.”
Coupled with a vista that makes you feel you are standing at the helm of a futuristic titanic, there is no doubt that Sky Garden is an impressive date venue. “With that view, live music, great cocktails, a relaxed atmosphere and fantastic food, I think you’d be hard pressed to find a better option”. So does Dan have any recommendations for that tricky first date? “I would start with a cocktail at the Sky Pod Bar and then go for the tasting menu at Fenchurch – it removes that awkward moment where you both stare at the menu, and I think a tasting menu says ‘I’m serious’.”
Fletcher’s roots in the Yorkshire countryside have irrevocably influenced his dishes, bringing Fenchurch restaurant down to earth. When I ask him if he thinks this is the case, he responds in reference to Yorkshire chefs generally: “Do you know what, I’m surprised by how many Yorkshire-born chefs I’ve met in London! I’m not sure what it is; maybe it’s something in the water up there. They’re always so friendly, hardworking and honest – another thing that makes me really proud!”
As our meeting comes to a close, and as we are sky high, it seems entirely appropriate to ask the resident chef what his last meal on earth would be. “As important as food is to me, what would matter most is who’d be there with me. I’d have all my friends and family around me, enjoying a huge feast of monumental proportions with lots of wine, laughter and music.” In that case, make my last meal at Fenchurch, but only if Dan is there.