Find and book great restaurantsFind a Restaurant
|Address:||1-5 West Street, London WC2H 9NQ|
|Tel:||020 7836 4751|
|Price: £55.00||Wine: £25.00||Champagne: £63.00|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Sun 12N-11.30pm (Sun -10.30pm)|
This review hasn't been rated yet.
Coming back into The Ivy, stationed on Covent Garden's West Street for the last 90 years, is like sliding into a favourite chair, or pulling on ‘that’ pair of jeans. It's somewhere that makes you feel comfortable and cosseted. Whether you're going there weekly, or for your first visit, once you're on the other side of the stained glass panelled windows, you're treated like you belong.
The sense of history at the restaurant comes more from the staff than the decor. It's not a formula, they're all allowed to express their own personalities and behave like, well, human beings. Compared to some of the Michelin starred restaurants in town, with their robotic teams of perfectly drilled matched staff, that's got to be a positive. They keep their staff, and move them round within the Caprice Holdings Group (for of course it is they, along with Sheekeys, Scotts, Caprice and newer sibling the Dean Street Townhouse) and there are enough people on their board of directors who have been with the business for 20 years or more who worked their way up. Jesus Adorno (with Le Caprice since the day it opened in 1981), Fernando Piero (the formidably cultured director of The Ivy) and chief exec Des MacDonald are, for some, better known than most restauranteurs.
I used to be brought in here by suppliers and clients, when I worked more regularly in the theatre, and you could always spot those who didn't go there often. They would call you up with a time and date, clutched like a golden ticket, their voices quavering with excitement, two months out. The Ivy doesn't work like that. Like most top restaurants, they dress the room keeping back tables for nearer the time, to ensure that the right mix of people fill the space (a balance of industry, entertainment, old friends and the odd rubbernecker). It's more casual than many think, shhhh… they now take some (non peak) bookings online…
Warning signs should flash here. It's NOT somewhere for a special meal. It's a good, rising to great, local restaurant. So often do you see or hear people comparing unfavourably to Le Gavroche or Royal Hospital Road, but truth be told, it's not trying to compete. The food focusses on simple ingredients, cooked well, British cuisine with some (very loose) Med influences and a strong focus on matching seasonality with their old favourites. Yes they have a pasta list, but you could sample their expertly made gnocchi following a starter of caviar or tuna sashimi. The winelist is extensive, intelligent and full of enough surprises at all levels. A standout Douro and an aromatic Gavi di Gavi are highlights on a small list by the glass.
I go for a spicily perfect Steak Tartare that comes with fresh toast (seemlessly replaced when I run out), my guest's Beetroot and Goat's cheese salad comes studded with tiny blue edible flowers and a rapeseed oil dressing. I enschew the usual shepherd's pie (one of their more famed dishes, rightly so, along with an excellent burger and a surprisingly good, though inauthentic curry – see what I mean about it being simple food here?) and go for a meaty and thick monkfish tail (one of several daily, seasonal specials) served with saltily spiky coastal greens and a butter sauce. My guest had a Blythbourne Pork Belly with lentils, morcilla and peas. Sated, we skipped dessert, though I could recommend a slate of frozen Scandinavian Berries with a hot white chocolate sauce, another regular on a groaning dessert list. We take coffee and try to recover.