Photo: Paul Winch-Furness
By Jonathan Hatchman, Food Editor, @TLE_Food
Re-opened earlier this year in time to celebrate its centenary in 2017, The Ivy – London’s most famous restaurant and one of the city’s most prominent celeb haunts – has been refurbished and brought up to date (well, kind of) featuring a prominent central bar as well as new artworks from some of Britain’s most prestigious artists, most notably. Still unsurprisingly, albeit 98 years old, it’s still unbelievably difficult to book a dinnertime table within the theatre land favourite. Thankfully, The Ivy Market Grill is located just a stones throw away – right in the heart of Covent Garden’s piazza – and its much easier to secure a booking, most probably due to the incredibly high ratio between space and tables with proximities that are almost communal.
Opened as a chain-version of the ever-popular original, there’s always going to be an air of trepidation that comes with eating at this type of venue for the first time, but quite surprisingly, the food here is actually very enjoyable. Also, the glitz and the glamour of the original isn’t quite so present, but given the fact that The Ivy Market Grill’s food is a little more reasonably priced and the location is ideal for tourists to visit a spin-off of London’s most famous restaurant, we’re still impressed during a recent visit.
As for the menu, the focus is on an all-day brasserie style menu; stylistically it’s more similar to The Wolseley than The Ivy, although many of the dishes share similarities. There’s also a version of The Ivy’s famous Shepherd’s Pie (£13.50 instead of £15.75) that features slow-braised lamb shoulder, smothered in creamy mashed potato and a thick layer of cheese. It’s baked and served in a single dish that allows the pie to retain its almost molten filling long after the rest of the table have finished with their mains. Elsewhere, starters of seared scallops (£10.95) and beef Carpaccio (£9.25) are each wonderful. The scallops are cooked well and perched atop a bed of vibrant green peas and harmonious chorizo dice, while the Carpaccio (albeit showcasing a low amount of cooking skill) is presented with a smattering of pine nuts for texture and an appetizing Cipriani sauce. My friend’s main of sautéed tiger prawns (£19.50), on the other hand, is okay but less memorable than the standard of the starters (and the name above the door) would suggest.
Before the curtain closes on our trip to The Ivy Market Grill, the desserts are typically comforting. Classics including crème brûlée and dark treacle tart are joined by more modern, health friendly alternatives such as coconut pannacotta that’s free from dairy, and flourless chocolate cake. Strawberry shortcake sundae (£6.95), however, is fantastic, accompanied by a long finger of homemade shortbread above lashings of cream and fresh tasting strawberries. My friend’s chocolate bombe (£8.50), on the other hand, is far more indulgent. Delivered to the table as a dome of luxurious chocolate that collapses as a jug of decadent caramel sauce is poured on to the structure, resulting in a messy chocolate lover’s dream and the first real bit of theatre that we’ve witnessed this evening. Albeit unsurprisingly less enthralling than its older sibling, you could do far worse for a pre or post-theatre meal within central London.
The Ivy Market Grill can be found at 1 Henrietta Street, London, WC2E 8PS.