It’s difficult to write this post without sounding a little smug, but I was recently invited to take the place of the Punter in Olive Magazine’s Pro v Punter feature. This requires the Punter to go to a rather nice restaurant and sample three courses of their food and write a little review, the Pro does the same and we see if we get the same experience.
My feature in Olive had a teeny tiny word count and I had so much more to say about The Ivy Market Grill so I thought I’d share my thoughts here.
I’ll follow the format of Olive as I actually quite like it.
First Impressions of The Ivy Market Grill
The restaurant has a sort of comfortable taverny decor, very warm and welcoming. Aside from having to queue briefly in the cold we were made to feel very welcome. Unfortunately where we were sat the tables felt overly close, the staff needing to serve at arms length due to the lack of space but at least it was a talking point to share with our neighbours! Incidentally one of those neighbours was a a restauranteur, who whipped out a tape measure and said that the tables were smaller than a normal place setting – no wonder if felt cramped.
We had a lovely interaction with our west country waitress, I asked lots of questions including that the market specials were, it must have been a small catch day because there was no market fish but the market grill was a tempting pork with black pudding. There were a few questions that she didn’t know the answer to, e.g. where the lobster was from, but she happily went and asked and was back in a jiffy.
Unfazed by our disparate food choices, the sommelier gave three recommendations spanning the price scale and showed off his knowledge about Austrian wine. Tap water came without quibble and as a full jug which was replenished without me even asking – anyone who knows me will know how happy this made me and how impressive it is for someone to be able to keep up with my fish like water drinking ability.
The menu was almost too broad, a typical grill with Italian additions. There were two very uninspiring vegetarian options, one of which was butternut risotto, but if you are taking pescetarians they are well catered for.
I didn’t think I’d get through 3 whole courses, so rather than a starter I had one of their dishes ‘for the table’. One of the aformentioned random Italian inclusions Truffle Arancini. I forgive their inclusion as they were light, fluffy, with waves of truffle and tangy parmesan. From the starters section David picked the paper-thin Beef Carpaccio which came with a creamy sauce with just the right sharpness. The sauce was called Cipriani which we weren’t familiar with but the waitress explained it well and we were so pleased we picked this as a starter.
For my main, I splashed out, and picked the Whole Lobster. I was so looking forward to it, but the dishes took over the tiny table. The meat was juicy and tender but I didn’t enjoy the process of eating it. Before I could get started I had to request two small plates for the carcass as well as leave the table to wash my hands. I can see why they didn’t provide these initially though as there would have been literally nowhere to put them. I was able to swap the frites that came with the lobster for green beans and broccoli which ended up wedged precariously on the edge of the table.
David’s roast duck came pink as requested, featuring a succulent confit croquette. The redcurrant sauce lacked enough sharpness to cut through the dish but was welcome all the same.
The format of the menu suggested that you needed sides with all the mains (and we asked the waitress and she agreed – upset tactics?) so we added a side of Zucchini Fritti, another of the random italian dishes. They were lovely but totally unnecessary given the presence of carrot mash and greens not mentioned on the menu.
I’m glad we ordered the Fritti though as we had seen pictures of them on Instagram earlier in the day and really fancied them. If I was going again with my own money I would not order them as most of them went to waste we were just too full.
Onto the best bit of the meal, the dessert! I opted for The Dark Treacle Tart which had a depth of distinct caramel flavours but the pastry was undercooked. *soggy bottom*
I think the dish could do with refining as it didn’t need both ice cream and cream, it seemed superfluous, it may be nicer to be given the choice and then maybe some fruit garnish.
In the background you can see David’s choice. The delicate lemon ice cream in the Lemon Meringue Alaska was ramped up with an intense curd sauce. A great end to the meal combined with a fresh, fizzy Moscato.
I followed my meal with a coffee which was good but nothing special – especially not at the price – a little biccie on the side would have been nice.
The Bottom Line
The dark wood and leather gave a warm, welcoming atmosphere made a little too cosy by the tight tables. Whilst an enjoyable experience, for me, the value wasn’t quite there to make a special trip to the restaurant to eat a la carte. You can go to many other restaurants in London at similar a la carte prices and get extra little touches like bread and petit fours. The restaurant is well located and does have that special ambiance, I would certainly head over for their super value pre/post theatre menu.
3 course for two, with wine, including service: £127.13
Food: 7 marks out of 10
Atmosphere: 6 marks out of 10 (because of the tables)
Service: 8 marks out of 10
TOTAL: 21/ 30
Look out for me in the latest issue of Oliver magazine!