When you think of the word café you probably most likely think of something cheap and cheerful, where you can get enough food to feed a small army for less than a fiver (you might need to leave London for that to be a reality, but you get my drift). If not those you might think of the grand cafés of Europe with their high ceilings, antique lighting and smart service, it is, naturally that The Ivy Café falls into this latter category.
Having opened at the start of last month in Marylebone, the café offers all -day dining and unlike The Ivy which might seem inaccessible, this café keeps half of its tables for walk ins, so if like us you find yourself needing a little rejuvenation whilst running your errands (or in reality battling our conscious in Selfridges) then you can just drop in.
Designed by Martin Brudnizki Design Studio, a curved bar runs through the restaurant with subdued red leather high stools to perch on, whilst the edges are piped with the same red leather banquettes. The blue, grey walls are adorned with paintings, prints and photos and the room is lit with antique lamps – it’s grand, it’s art-deco inspired and yet it is still cosy and intimate.
The menu isn’t fine dining it’s more comforting, hearty dishes but done very well with dishes including ham hock fricasse, fish and chips, tuna carpaccio and apple and Stilton salad.
Seared scallops arrived on creamy truffle potato with Parmesan crisps and shaved truffle, it was decadent with the truffle and Parmesan complimenting each other without being too strong. I stuck with classic smoked salmon with crab and dill cream – you know if they take care over the simple dishes it’s a good sign. And this was done perfectly.
Known for their Shepherd’s Pie we promptly ordered it, tender slow braised lamb shoulder mixed with beef hid beneath a layer of Keens cheddar mash. Oh it was a thing of beauty, comforting, rich sauce, fluffy potato – I know you’re meant to think your mum’s home cooking is the best , not any more. A 7oz English fillet steak was served with a pepper corn sauce and having enjoyed the parmesan and truffles in the scallops so much, we ordered a portion of truffle and parmesan fries to go with it. Unfortunately the way that they were served in a bucket meant that the parmesan couldn’t melt onto the chips so most of it ended up falling off and onto the table cloth; there was also little truffle flavour – that said the actual chips were good.
To finish we went for the frozen berries mixed with yoghurt sorbet and white chocolate sauce, in a light but decadent pudding. Having seen the classic chocolate bombe on several tables – a chocolate ball which has hot salted caramel sauce poured over it so that it melts enticingly to reveal a honeycomb centre, I thought I would go off piste and order the dark treacle tart with clotted cream and Jersey pouring cream. Whilst the tart itself was sticky and sweet the cream was a little sour and I almost felt like I shouldn’t have strayed from the path.
The Ivy Café is serving up good, comforting yet refined dishes, with charming service in a neighbourhood restaurant with a little more grandeur than the rest.