Many restaurants have sister restaurants but this is a one and two for the eponymous restaurant that is the Ivy. The Ivy is in fact in two parts, the Ivy and the Club at the Ivy. Anyone can go to the Ivy, (providing you can get a reservation) it is affordable and a fun place to go and people watch. The Club at the Ivy, is a private members club and I assume that is where all of the A-Z listers hide out. The Ivy, is part of Caprice holdings, which includes Daphne’s Caprice, J. Sheekey and Scotts (16 in all). The Ivy is very discreet, hidden down a side street in Londons west end, as is Caprice and J. Sheekey. The new off shoots, The Ivy Chelsea Garden ( March 2015) and the Ivy Market Grill ( November 2014) are more visible, one on the Kings Road in the Chelsea area of London and the other right on the very busy square of Covent Garden.
We tried the Ivy Market grill and the first thing we noticed was that we were able to book for 8 people. Many of central London better restaurants will not take such a booking, maybe for lunch but not for dinner. The second thing that we noticed was it was the same very smart interior and very smooth service. So how was the menu? It too was similar in feel to the Ivy. An eclectic choice to suit all tastes and for central London it was affordable. The restaurant is open from 8 am until late, so open for Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch, Afternoon Tea, Pre theatre dining, Dinner and Post theatre! So fine dining all day ! We were spoilt for choice, but I chose the seared scallops which were just wonderful, they were served with truffle creamed potatoes, Parmesan crisp and shaved truffle.
However for me the test was Fish and Chips. This is my all time comfort food, and if I were a condemned woman, it would be my request for my last meal. But, if it were not up to scratch then I would be sorely disappointed. Although this my number one meal, I rarely have the chance to eat it hence I am really fussy where and when I eat it. Not for me if the batter is soggy, not for me if the chips are floppy and cold. They both have to reach my standard. The batter has to be crisp and dry , the chips, firm, hot and crisp.
Deal on the south coast is a small old town ( dating from before the 13 th Century) is the home to an old fashioned Fish and Chip restaurant, the kind which sells Take Aways in the front and has a small un inspiring restaurant in the back. Their Fish is perfect, but the chips are very English, a bit boring. Then there is Sittingbourne, a town in the middle of Kent, which has seen better days. They too have an old fashioned kind of Fish and Chip restaurant, where they even serve Kiddie size portions ( you have to be a big kid to eat it as the portion size is not small) for OAP’s. Again they reach the mark with the fish, but fall short in the chip department.
Move on to Marlow in Buckinghamshire to the award winning 2 Michelin starred Pub of Chef Tom Kerridge. He, who currently has a Pop Up restaurant in Harrods. Again, he has great fish with wonderful crispy batter, but for the chips again fell short. I am convinced that they are extruded, they were crisp but the interior was just not right and in dong some research I discovered that many chefs use this method,i.e. make mashed potato and pipe it out in exact lengths before deep frying.
So onto the Ivy Market Grill, and bingo, the Fish and Chips hit the spot, the batter was crisp and dry and so were the chips and hot! Wonderful. And the Mushy Peas, well forget those, no one serves real mushy peas these days.
Mushy peas are dried marrowfat peas which are first soaked overnight in water with bicarbonate of soda then rinsed in fresh water and simmered with a little sugar and salt until they are soft and mushy. Very often food colouring is added to keep them green. Nowadays, many restaurants serve “Mushy Peas” but in fact what they do is take peas ( probably frozen) cook them and then mush them a bit. I have to admit this way of eating peas is preferable to either balancing them on the tines of your fork ( English style) or using your fork as a shovel ( American style) , but they are Not Mushy Peas!
Only one of us tested the desserts, but it looked an impressive Baked Alaska. We left the Ivy Market Grill more than satisfied with our new find and I am sure we will return.
One final note, according to my sources, Richard Caring who owns this group of restaurants, was the man behind the Brasserie style cafes called Côte. This chain has now been moved on but the new kid on the block from th same team is Bills. Cheaper than Côte, marginally, not as slick as Côte, but it works, we love it as there is one about 30 seconds from my front door, so what’s not to like?