I first ate in The Ivy as a seventeen year old trying to impress his then girlfriend. I’d asked a friend’s dad to recommend a restaurant and that was his choice. In his booming ex military voice, “The Ivy young man, it has to be The Ivy. And wear a tie”. Back then it was all wood panels and full of cigar smoke, the food and service was the best my young self had ever had, and I fondly remember the Tournedos Rossini…
Thirty years have now passed and this latest refurbishment really takes me back. The stained glass windows retain the familiarity from the past, though the more open plan Art Deco dining room – which now has a central bar area – is a welcome addition which helps to create a wonderfully vibrant atmosphere.
Despite fondly remembering the meal of ’85, over the subsequent years I wasn’t always able to say the same. The food was OK but there were other places I’d rather go, which probably explains why we haven’t visited The Ivy in about seven years. Would I feel different after this visit?
We sat at the far end of the restaurant with a view towards the bar as the restaurant narrowed to its entrance, a great spot for people-watching. The menu still had some “classics” present in both shepherds pie and sausage and mash, but there were plenty of new influences present and lots of choice even for my Pesky Pescetarian, although I guessed what her main course was going to be before she even looked at the menu: Dover Sole – off the bone. What I hadn’t guessed was the side order of chips and mushy peas. She was having posh fish n chips!
My starter was the fried duck egg with grilled asparagus and black pudding. It was really quite simple but everything worked together: the rich yolk, the sweet asparagus which still had some bite and wasn’t too soft, and the texture of the slightly salty black pudding all combined to make a wonderful starter. To follow I went for the day’s special, a kind of fish mixed grill containing Swordfish, Stone Bass and Turbot on a bed of Crab and Spelt. All the fish was perfectly cooked, their varying textures flaking with a gentle push of the fork, the crab and spelt were like a wonderfully creamy risotto and the peas and pea shoots added a sweetness and vibrancy to this very enjoyable dish. All of this was washed down with a glorious bottle of Condrieu. Due to the low yields of the viognier grape in the region, there are only about 30,000 cases produced each year, which means it’s not a cheap wine. This one was £60 for a half bottle, but it’s a rich, full bodied and aromatic wine that paired incredibly well with all the seafood and particularly with the creamy crab and spelt. It’s one that Everyone should try at least once in their life if they have the opportunity.
The dessert menu arrived, and how I didn’t order the nemesis of my childhood – the Knickerbocker Glory – I’ll never know. Was it the fear of having to stand on the seat so that I could reach the strawberry in the bottom of the glass like I did all those years ago in the Wimpy in South Woodford? I’ve got to say the dessert menu had some very appealing options, if we ever take our prosecco princess there she will probably try and order them all. I was torn between Welsh Rarebit and the Cheese Board but if you’ve read our previous blog posts you can probably guess what we chose to share. Although if I was ever sat at the bar post theatre I think the Welsh Rarebit would be a certainty.
So, in conclusion… Wine List offers something for everyone. Sommelier was knowledgable and helpful. Menu had plenty of variety. Food wasn’t quite up there in the Michelin star bracket but was tasty and well presented. Service was notably effortless. And the atmosphere? Buzzing.
So will it be another seven years until we return to The Ivy?
No. I think we’ll be back very soon.
Adam & Beverley xx
(Proofread and edited by Sam)