Iconic London restaurant The Ivy’s foray into Birmingham adds a touch of luxury and a whole heap of glamour to the second city’s thriving dining scene, as Amy Norbury discovers
Fresh lobster? On a Monday? In Birmingham? Such decadence, I hear you cry. But decadence is all part and parcel of The Ivy name.
The original London restaurant, situated in the heart of theatreland, has been a byword for glamorous dining for decades, attracting a clientele that reads like a who’s who of the glitterati, literati and Hollywood’s finest.
Laurence Olivier dined there, Noel Coward was a regular and Dame Nellie Melba and Marlene Dietrich could be spotted at their favourite tables, while in the Nineties, it was a magnet for stars, with Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman attracting paparazzi and headlines with every visit. Tables were hard to come by – unless your name’s Kate Moss, that is. But if you could wangle a seat, chances are you’d spot a celebrity or three.
And now, you can get The Ivy experience right here in the Midlands, with the opening of the latest The lvy Collection restaurant in the heart of Birmingham. The Ivy Collection brings the inimitable service and vibrant surroundings for which The Ivy is revered to a select group of upmarket brasseries and neighbourhood cafés.
Each restaurant has been designed to deliver the memorable experience that is synonymous with The Ivy’s unique style, and extend the magic of the iconic West Street venue to handpicked locations across London and the UK.
While The Ivy Temple Row certainly exudes the luxury of its sister restaurants, with it’s stunning art deco-inspired decor and familiar modern British menu, there’s a focus on accessibility as well as glamour.
Booking a table on a Friday or Saturday night is par for the course, but the restaurant holds back a certain amount of covers each day for walk-in diners, so those living and working locally can drop in at their leisure.
J’AIME were invited to give the all-day menu a try – and when they say all-day, they mean all-day, with food served until 11pm on weekdays, 11.30pm on Saturdays and 10.30pm on Sundays.
On the Monday evening of our visit, the restaurant was packed with diners over both floors – impressive for the start of the week, the buzz of the new addition to Birmingham’s thriving dining scene still in full force.
What was a Louis Vuitton boutique has been transformed into a beautiful space; The Ivy Collection’s signature green colour palette contrasting with striking burnt orange banquettes and polished marble floors.
We were shown to a cosy table for two along the wall upstairs – the kind of intimate table it’s said to have been favoured by Laurence Olivier, Noel Coward et al – and furnished with a glass of chilled Champagne. So far, so glamorous.
The a la carte menu is a not-insubstantial selection of Ivy classics; think steak tartare, seared scallops and heavy dose of Asian inspiration, as well as The Ivy’s signature hamburger and shepherd’s pie. We were presented with a warm salt-crusted sourdough, £3.95, and truffle arancini, £5.50, to nibble on while we made our choices.
The bread was a thing of baked beauty, with the salt adding a wonderful crunch to the crust, and the arancini – fried balls of arborio rice with a hefty punch of delicious truffle – were incredibly moreish.
To start I opted for the steak tartare, £9.95, which was a rich and indulgent plate, the finely chopped steak topped with a Tabasco dressing, cornichons, shallot, parsley and a sizeable egg yolk.
My husband’s duck liver parfait with caramelised hazelnuts, truffle and a tamarind glaze, £6.95, was rich and silky, the savoury flavours complemented nicely by a sweetness from the accompanying pear and ginger compote and toasted brioche.
Onto the main event, and I just had to give the lobster a whirl. It’s not something you find on many a menu in these parts, so the chance couldn’t be passed up. A luxurious dish for a luxurious setting, right? At £34, it’s the priciest item on the menu, but you certainly get plenty of bang for your buck. The whole – that’s right, whole – lobster is simply grilled and served with garlic and parsley butter, watercress salad and a bucket of perfectly fluffy-yet-crisp thick-cut chips.
Thankfully you’re presented with the appropriate tools for the job – it can get messy, but the succulent, sweet lobster meat with a hint of smoky char is oh so worth it.
My husband’s rib-eye steak, £27.95, was again cooked to a perfect medium-rare, as recommended by our waiter over my husband’s usual rare-to-blue to give the fat in the meat chance to render down and add flavour. Side orders of truffle and parmesan chips, £4.50, and delicious zucchini fritti, £5.75, were tasty, and the substantial portions all round meant – admittedly with one eye on dessert – we just couldn’t finish it all.
For a little sweet something to end the meal, our waiter recommended the chocolate bombe, £8.50, which we opted to share, alongside coffees. This heavenly dessert adds a touch of theatre to the meal, with hot salted caramel sauce poured over a dark chocolate sphere which melts away to reveal a honeycomb centre. A must for chocolate lovers, it was a fitting end to a fine meal.
For decadent – yet relaxed, convivial and very reasonably-priced – dining with a heavy dose of glitz and glamour, The Ivy Temple Row it the place to be. Celebrities, on this occasion at least, not included.