There will not be many foodies out there who will not have heard of The Ivy restaurant. It has been a staple on the capital’s dining scene, much-loved by actors, celebrities and those from the arts.
First opened in 1917, it has occupied its landmark building in London’s West End since 1929. Sitting on a corner site, it resembles a stately liner from the art deco era, with its iconic harlequin stained-glass windows shrouding famous diners from passers by. In more recent years, the restaurant’s owners have created The Ivy Collection, which has seen Ivy branded brasseries launched elsewhere in London and selected towns and cities outside. With luck, one such venue is in the newly redeveloped Tunsgate quarter in Guildford, where the Ivy Castle View opened earlier this year.
This restaurant occupies two floors, the bottom of which houses a private dining room for functions. The main dining room is on the second floor, and what a glorious space it is. The room is beautifully light and wonderfully airy, with picture windows on two sides overlooking Guildford’s ancient castle. It appears to hover amongst the trees, with far reaching views of a distant countryside that beckons from afar. With balconies on both sides, this offers superior alfresco dining.
The main menu is both large in scale and in content. There is plenty for everyone and it is changed seasonally. A daytime set menu offers fewer choices but all are original and tempting, good value at £16.50 for 2 courses and £21 for three.
Marcus and I arrived in late June during the heatwave. An indoor table near the window with a castle view is spot on. With a cocktail on offer, it is hard to decline. A classic ‘Raffles’ Singapore Sling with our own local Silent Pool gin and a Surrey Passion with flaming rum are both deliciously dispatched. With 14 starters to choose from, the choice is not simple. Prawn Cocktail is one of the best-sellers but I opt for the Tempura Prawns and receive 5 lovely big, crunchy crustaceans. The matcha tea sauce is lovely but the pickled mouli and cucumber could do with more zing. Marcus plumps for the Steak Tartare, finely diced raw beef with the usual accompaniments with sauce bottles on the side for extra piquancy. Very fresh.
Over 20 main courses are on offer. Marcus much enjoyed his Crab Linguine, with lots of lovely crab meat and chilli spice. I plumped for the Market Special, which was a breaded veal escalope. Easy to get wrong but this was super crisp on the outside yet the meat was very moist and tender. A burnt butter with capers and lemon came with it, and olive oil mashed potatoes and creamed spinach with toasted pine nuts were the perfect sides. This was all washed down with the charming sommelier’s choice, a Cotes de Provence Rosé called Whispering Angel. Not cheap at £55 but very delicious and a fine choice.
Regular readers will know I am not a big dessert fan but in the interest of a balanced review, we both agreed to try a couple. Our waitress raved about the Chocolate Bombe, where hot salted caramel is poured over a chocolate dome covering ice cream and honeycomb. It was both theatrical and fabulous. A Rum Baba with raspberries was light, fresh and boozy. Perfect.
This Ivy is a great addition to the local restaurant scene. It is not inexpensive but the quality of the food, the service and the surroundings elevate it to something really rather special. SR