Last year saw the expansion of a stalwart among London’s legendary restaurants with The Ivy taking over prime real estate in Covent Garden (a natural), Marylebone, Chelsea, Kensington, as far west as tony Wimbledon and a few hours further, to Bristol, one of the foodiest cities outside the big smoke.
From its original location near Leicester Square, this favourite among celebs has taken it’s reputation for all-day bistro food and a convivial atmosphere to the bank carrying with it a sense of ‘dining as destination’ rather than just another newcomer creating an ‘experience.’
Determined to strike a balance between chain restaurant and comfortable familiarity, each menu offers a few signature items unique to the location. In Kensington, bespoke drinks are a nod to The Ivy’s neighbours with cocktails like the Ivy Kensington Royale (Kensington Palace) with a hint of hibiscus; Night at the Proms (Royal Albert Hall) made with floral Ivy Collection gin; and summery English Rose (Kensington Gardens) with lychee syrup.
The buzzy brasserie is a draw to any of The Ivy venues – one dines here not necessarily for a quiet conversation, but to feel among the great, the good and the beautiful. The menu, with its bounty of ‘something for everyone’ dishes seems, by design, devised not to out-shine the glittering guests. It’s a classic Ivy mix of school dinner favourites like fish and chips, apple and Stilton salad, burgers, and mushrooms on toast, elevated with well-sourced ingredients and a deft chef’s hand. Other, more modern offerings reflect the current appetite for interesting fusion, and healthier options, with things like duck curry, seared scallops with celeriac and apple puree, a grilled chicken and quinoa salad, and my favourite – tuna carpaccio comprised of raw yellowfin with avocado lime crème fraiche.
A theatrical presentation accompanies a decadent dessert, with warm caramel sauce poured over a melting chocolate orb with ice cream in the centre. The Ivy, like other restaurants in the group, thankfully offer a plate of chocolate truffles for those wishing to partake in a slightly less guilty pleasure.
On the night I visit, there’s a mix of people there for special-occasions, and regulars. For many, The Ivy has become a go-to for Kensington residents dropping in for a quick bite where everyone knows their name. It’s also a welcome addition in a swish neighbourhood where, surprisingly, nothing else like it really exists – all of the attitude and atmosphere of the West End, without the schlep and decent food without being too fussy or fast. Welcome to Kensington’s canteen.