This glitzy Asian spin on the seemingly inexhaustible Ivy concept has launched in London 12 months after a successful premiere in Manchester and its opulent interiors should be equally at home in the City of London, in the former Jamie Oliver Barbecoa site overlooking St Paul’s Cathedral.
Everything here looks precision-tuned for Instagram, from the gold-gilt ceiling and lavish Asian fabrics to the Japanese artwork, mirrored bar with a pagoda-style roof and – most eye-catching of all – the illuminated floor lined with semi-precious gems; pink onyx in the entrance hall and fluorescent green jade in the restaurant upstairs. The moment we stepped through the door, a waiter offered to take our photo beside an antique samurai warrior.
You'd be forgiven for expecting style over substance – and admittedly we weren't expecting wonders from the rather muddled menu. However, it must be said that the cooking wasn’t bad. Ok, authenticity was awry in places but overall we were pleasantly surprised.
The bang-bang soft-shell crab salad was the perfect balance of sweet meat and bitter leaves, while yellowfin tuna tataki was a delight – simple but fresh, with just the right amount of citrus and white soy. Elsewhere, black truffle, pork and prawn dumplings – sprinkled with gold, naturally – were underwhelming, and our sea bass fillet was bony and lacking the promised punch of Thai flavours. The black cod was easily the star of the show – flaky and moist with the earthy taste of miso and a zingy ginger sauce.
For dessert we were disappointed to miss out on the samurai chocolate extravaganza (don't leave your order too late) but intrigued by tirayuzu – an Asian take on the Italian classic, using green tea in place of coffee. Light sponge and a creamy topping fresh with the tang of yuzu made for a visually bold but delicately flavoured end to a meal from which subtlety had thus far been absent.
Whether it's for a full fusion feast or just cocktails with friends, the interiors alone make The Ivy Asia well worth a visit and it’s all set to a lively soundtrack from the in-house DJ.