We are fans of the Ivy restaurant: both the original and the recent revamp. We were nonetheless quite sceptical about spin-offs from the brand and had not even ventured to the Ivy Market Grill or the Ivy Chelsea Garden. Now that the Ivy Café has opened on Marylebone Lane, however, we thought we should at least try it for size before dismissing all these satellite restaurants out of hand.
The interior has been designed by Martin Brudnizki (who is also responsible for the central bar at the Ivy restaurant proper). There is an antique pewter bar, pendant lights and cosy red leather banquettes. Although it does not scream “occasion restaurant” in the same way as the mothership, this is clearly still a place to come and relax, and be treated well.
Our lunch got off to a good start with salt crusted sourdough bread, brought warm to the table. We were perfectly pleased with our starters of prawn cocktail and smoked salmon (the latter served with crab mixed with dill and cream) alongside granary toast, but it was with the main courses that things really took off. We had one of the best sirloin steaks, served with green peppercorn sauce and excellent chips – fluffy on the inside, crispy on the outside – that we can remember eating. Beautifully tender, it was a reminder of how sub-standard many of the steaks served in restaurants are. Our friend ate roasted butternut squash served with a salad of buckwheat, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds and pomegranate with crumbled feta and a harissa yoghurt and coriander dressing. It looked as worthy as it sounds but our friend pronounced it “unbelievably delicious”, mainly because the squash was so soft as opposed to the stringy texture we often end up with when we cook it at home.
As well as a decent wine and cocktail list, the Café also offers a range of very good juices should you be that way inclined. Our friend raved about the crème brulee but we were stuffed enough after our steak and chips not to be able to manage a dessert. We will be back however, not least because half of the tables are held back for walk-ins and there are menu options for any time of day – including elevenses and afternoon tea. The staff are also noticeably accommodating of babies – always a good sign.