21 January 2014

Lunch at The Ivy

The Ivy used to be the place to be seen in London. In the mid to late 2000's, you couldn't walk past the place without seeing a gaggle of photographers hanging around outside ready to snap the celebrities inside. If you were lucky enough to be able to get a reservation, who knows who you'd end up being sat next to. I somehow did manage to get a table back then - a couple of times (I think I did it by booking about six months in advance!). The second I walked in my eyes were on stalks clocking familiar faces such as Jonathan Ross, Ricky Gervais, Jonny Lee Miller, Blur, Kate Moss and David Walliams. 

But since they opened the exclusive members club upstairs, it's a something of a different affair now. I've visited three or four times in past couple of years and I've barely seen a celeb (that is if you don't count Alf Roberts from Home & Away). You're more likely to find yourself sat amongst suited businessmen or mature theatre-goers than Harry Styles. Still, there are three crucial things that keep me going back:

1. The delicious, non-fussy food
2. The homely, relaxing atmosphere
3. The cocktails

Laura had a day off work so I booked us in for a ladies lunch, kicking off with a cocktail in the bar.

I always try and allow enough time to sit in the bar either before or after the meal. It's relaxed, great for people watching and never gets too busy so you often have the bartenders full cocktail-making attention. Although our reservation was for 1.30pm they let us take our time and we headed through to the bright, open restaurant about an hour later.

The menu at The Ivy is one of my favourites. It's seasonal fare so does change but they always stick with their big-hearted comfort food staples (the signature shepherd's pie, fish and chips, sticky toffee pudding) alongside the more exotic dishes (Thai baked seabass, Massaman chicken curry). The latter category includes the absolutely delicious barbecue spiced duck, lychee and watercress salad I had to start. 

I've given up foie gras despite adoring it so I couldn't help but admire Laura's starter, the seared foie gras with caramelised chicory tart and sour cherries.

I should mention at this point that you're not supposed to take photos inside The Ivy - the rule probably stems back to the days when the rich and famous were milling around. But for the benefit of our blogs, we duly sneaked a photo of each of our beautiful plates for our readers. It's a talent, you see.

For my main course, I chose the Black Mount Estate venison served with golden beetroot, juniper and orange. Laura had the Moroccan spiced lamb with chickpeas, smoked aubergine and preserved lemon.

The food here is generally spot on and today was no exception. My tender venison was perfectly cooked to medium-rare, the beetroot was sweet and the tangy orange sauce was a delightful accompaniment. The parmesan fried courgettes and mashed potato we had on the side were great too.

For our dessert, we couldn't resist the pecan pie with apple ice cream which we had alongside The Ivy tasting plate - a smooth pistachio ice cream, blood orange jelly and rich chocolate mousse. 

The tasting plate was nice but the pecan pie was definitely king! Crumbly pasty, crunchy pecan and a delicious caramel sauce; we probably should have ordered two of those in hindsight!

It was another lovely meal at The Ivy which we made last for three hours without being asked to vacate our table. The service here is unfussy but impeccable, the prices reasonable (surprisingly!) and I personally think this restaurant is as good as it has ever been. Who needs celebrities anyway?

We had tickets to see a play called The Weir at 7pm so we had a couple of hours to spare. As usual it was pouring down with rain outside so we decided to stay put and enjoy a drink or two in the bar.

The play was great. Funny as well as moving, the male actors play regulars in a lonely Irish pub during its non-tourist season, competing for the attention of a woman who's moved nearby. They tell spooky ghost stories of their home village with both humour and depth, each tale giving away revelations about each of the characters and building to a dramatic climax. I can see how this play is so popular that it's practically fully booked for its whole run.

A fabulous lunch, a great theatre visit and amazing company. Our day in review?  

Quite simply...

The Ivy
1 - 5 West Street
London, WC2H 9NQ

The Weir
Showing at the Wydhams Theatre
Buy tickets here!

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  1. The food looks so good! You make me want to live in London!

    Love the pictures, you look gorgeous!

  2. Ahhh it was one of the best days I've had in a very long time! I think I need to take more days off work! :P
    Can't wait for Sunday lovely!

    Heroine In Heels

  3. Two gorgeous ladies! Looks like such an amazing time - that food is mouthwatering! xoxo Kay


  4. The Ivy looks amazing! I used to love cooking from their cookbook; as you said, relatively straightforward, comforting food. I'm not sure I'd be brave enough to dine there--so glam!!

  5. Looks like you had a fab time ladies - naughty you for sneaking photos in the Ivy! I really need to get down to more plays and theatre trips this year. I used to go all the time!!

    Love the pansy elegantly floating in the cocktail!

    Katie <3

  6. That food looks really great! I've not been to The Ivy for food, but think I might be persuaded now!!

    Rosie xx

  7. You are both gorgeous! I have always wanted to visit The Ivy just to see what the big fuss is about, maybe on a special occasion i can give it a visit.


  8. What a lovely day out :) The food looks amazing


  9. Oh wow that venison looks gorgeous, lovely and pink. I also really enjoy taking my time and sampling a the bar menu when I eat out- it really adds to the whole evening and lets you soak up the atmosphere.

  10. So jealous, what a great evening! I definitely need to have more nights like that when I move back to the UK. Lucky you :)

    Lucy x

    La Lingua - food, language and life in Milan

  11. Alf from Home and Away. That's an ace celebrity spot! :)

  12. You and Laura lead just the most delicious life!
    Thank you once again for sharing all these delectable dishes with us
    x x x
    {The Lobster & Me}

  13. looks like a fun day,


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