Walking into The Ivy never ceases to amaze me. Coming in from the cold into a room which is welcomingly bright and colourful, I am met with a blast of shiny brass, plush fabric and iridescent glass.
Four girls behind reception beam at me while another takes my coat. Into the Brasserie, we are met with a busy space with tasteful décor which sits somewhere between your rich aunt’s house and a Christian Lacroix runway.
At the gleaming brass bar are people sat sipping Champagne at 2pm on a Tuesday and being served by attentive mixologists dressed in those smart jewel-tone uniforms.
To the left of the bar is a procession of tables with ladies drinking tea, and to the right, lunch service.
There is certainly a cosiness about the place, and I was surprised to feel that the Brasserie space was much more intimate than the huge wooden structure outside had led me to believe.
I was sat at a table and was introduced to our server over a glass of Champagne.
I’ve got to say, if there is one thing that sticks out about The Ivy it is the service – which manages to stay modern, approachable and laid back whilst also harking back to a bygone era of white-gloved silver service. Perhaps the Champagne made me particularly zealous about it.
As for the food at The Ivy, the only advice would be to make sure you bring your passport because it is an eclectic, globe-trotting mix of everything you could possibly think of.
Pasta? Yes. Lobster? Sure. Keralan curry? Of course! Steak Tartare? Oui Monsieur. Black cod cooked in a banana leaf? Why naturally my good Sir!
This is something I am usually quite wary of on a menu, but at the end of the day, there is nothing wrong with trying to cover all bases when you have as many covers as The Ivy. It must be said that the restaurant clearly has a kitchen to cope with a menu of such a size with such diversity and I wouldn’t expect anything less. I’m desperate to know how many kitchen staff they have though. My guess is somewhere between 35 and 50.
We began the meal with a couple of starters. Crispy Duck Salad was built from a scattering of warm crispy duck with a delicious five-spice infused dressing, toasted cashews, watermelon chunks, beansprouts for a little crunch and finished with sesame seeds, ginger and coriander.
The dish seemed like it would perhaps be more at home at the Japanese restaurant upstairs, but it was still fresh, sweet, sour and very much enjoyable.
Truffled Orzo Pasta was the alternative starter which was a fool-proof concoction of baked orzo pasta (that’s the small, oval-shaped one that looks a little like rice), baked in a creamy white sauce with crispy sautéed girolle mushrooms and a heavy note of truffle all the way through.
On to the mains, we went for Grilled Seabass with smoked aubergine, tomato pesto and a tomato, olive, shallot and coriander dressing. The first thing I noted was the size of the bloody thing. It has been a good while since I have seen such a hefty fillet of seabass – only the best (and the biggest) for the Ivy it seems!
This dish boasted a delicious crispy skin, which is something that can be pretty hard to come by these days. However, on the flipside of this, the flesh itself was a tad overcooked. The medley of vegetables and pesto it sat on was delicious too, but perhaps too much on the side of salty for my palate.
On the side of this, we tried a San Marzanino Tomato and Basil Salad with Pedro Ximenez dressing which was lovely and fresh and the perfect accompaniment to the fish. I feel like this dish would be perfect for a long summer evening on that glorious terrace upstairs.
Finally, I could not stay away from the pull of the Slow-cooked Lamb Shoulder. This was adorned with a herbed crumb and sat on a bed of creamed potatoes with carrots swede and a rosemary-infused gravy.
I liked spotting something classically British and it didn’t feel out of place as one might expect on such an eclectic menu. It doesn’t matter how refined you might be, there is always some room for meat and two veg.
Winter warming dishes do not get much better than this, and if the melt-in-the-mouth lamb can’t warm your cockles, I’m pretty sure nothing can. Granted, I did feel like this was the kind of dish you could get anywhere, but in true Ivy style, this dish was saved with its sophisticated twist with its herby crust and gravy served on the side in a little silver boat which was like something stolen from the tables of The White Star Line.
In short, I think the most operative word for The Ivy would be busy. The Brasserie is full of customers and staff are carrying trays, filling glasses and darting around each other like a jewel-toned pinball machine.
The menu is busy too – lots of choices, but I suppose that isn’t always a bad thing. The dishes themselves could be described as a little over-accessorised, but that is exactly what you are buying in to at an establishment like The Ivy. You want lobster, you want champagne, you want truffle and for you waiter to call you sir.
I am going to be honest – The Ivy isn’t for everyone. However, if you want to eat luxurious food in a glittering, gleaming, sophisticated environment potentially surrounded by a famous face or two, then the Ivy Brasserie is going to knock your socks off.
The Ivy, The Pavilion, Byrom Street, Spinningfields, Manchester, M3 3HG
0161 503 3222