The Ivy is one of those restaurants that used to have so much character and grandeur and with time this has faded. The Ivy serves European/ British food and since 1990 is owned by the Caprice Holdings Ltd, same group that owns Le Caprice, J Sheeky’s, Scott’s and other iconic London restaurants (but the Ivy is the oldest restaurant out of all these). All these restaurants are or have been the destinations for celebrities, and some of them still are and some less so. The Ivy dates back to 1917, when the owner Abel Glandellini and Maître d'Hôtel Mario Gallati opened it, but then it was a modest café. Ever since The Ivy has seen many redevelopments which slowly has created the dining room you can see now. The name of the restaurant comes from a phrase the actress Alice Delysia said "Don't worry, we will always come to see you, we will cling together like the ivy,", quoting a popular song of the day. The Ivy has a dress code and you can’t wear shorts or vests. The main chef these days is Gary Lee who has been at The Ivy for 7 years and for 2 of those now as the Head Chef.
The famous food critic AA Gill once said "A table at The Ivy is one of the most sought-after pieces of furniture in London", but this is no longer the case as we managed to book a table for 8 people for a Friday dinner two days before we had our dinner, which ten years ago would not have been possible. I have been to the Ivy before and I have to say I absolutely love the atmosphere and the feeling when you are inside. The Ivy is located next to the buzzing Leicester Square and Covent Garden, but when you are inside, it feels like you are in another world, as the windows are colourful and you can’t see through them, so you can’t see anything happening outside and neither can people see inside, creating a very intimate and pleasant atmosphere. When my boyfriend and I arrived we were told to sit at the bar which is at the front of the restaurant, before the other guests arrived, and this is not the trendiest bar in London and is quite plain.
The menu at the Ivy is very long and you can chose from many starters, soups, pastas and rice dishes, shellfish, fish, meat and vegetarian dishes. I chose the “Duck, watermelon & salted cashews” salad as I have had something similar in the restaurant E&O and liked it, but I did not think the Ivy salad was as nice as the E&O one. The watermelon was left in these huge chunks which meant it had not blended properly with the salad, and even though you could cut it in pieces yourself, something was just missing here. My boyfriend went for the “Bang bang chicken with peanut, chilli & lime sauce” and my boyfriend and I kind of liked it, but one of our other friends Ludwig thought it tasted like chicken with peanut butter, which it kind of did, but nevertheless it was nice. The other starters that you can see in the pictures are “Buratta, datterini tomatoes, basil with crisp bread” which created split opinions as Katrina thought it was good but her boyfriend Love found it just average, a starter portion of “steak tartare” and “English asparagus served hot with hollandaise” (you could have also had them cold with vinaigrette).
I was also disappointed with my main course. I ordered “Pork & veal meatballs with orichiette & gremolata” and I did not like it at all. I found the taste of the sauce extremely overpowering and the meatballs not too tasty and not soft enough. My boyfriend ordered the “Bannockburn rib steak” that you could have with pommes allumettes, and either Béarnaise or marrow butter. I liked the chips, thought they were quite nice, but neither of us really liked the steak, as it seemed very fattening and overall not a great quality cut of meat. Katrina and Agnese had ordered the main course portion of steak tartare, and it was a very nice tartare, but Katrina had asked hers to be made extra spicy and they had not differentiated between the two tartars, and made them both the same. Love and Yasmin ordered a very rare “Blackened tuna steak” served with “green beans, anchovy & tapenade” and the waitress brought them a very well done tuna steak, so both of them actually sent their tuna back. The second time around they did get it very rare and then they liked it. Ludwig had the “Slow cooked pork belly, whipped apple mash and Pommery mustard gravy” and Stefan ate the “Seared scallops with cauliflower mousseline and maple bacon crisps” and both these dishes seemed to go down quite well.
I shared a desert of “Scandinavian iced berries with hot white chocolate sauce” with my boyfriend, a desert I have also had in Caprice (they have the same one on the menu), and the berries were super cold, as if just taken out of a freezer and I know they are called “iced berries” but it would be nicer to eat them if they were just a tiny bit warmer. The white chocolate sauce was superb though, really really tasty. Katrina and Love shared an “Amalfi lemon cheesecake” which was served with pine nut brittle and it was very nice
There were a few things that went a bit wrong in The Ivy and on some dishes they did not deliver, and when you pay £80/ per head (with alcohol but still) you do expect very high level of skill, which I did not always see. I love the intimate atmosphere though, and I seem to remember that Cheryl and Ashley Cole came here for dinner when they just got engaged, and I can see why.
Location: Leicester Square
Price for 6 people with alcohol and service charge: £656.41