The new Ivy doesn’t have the old magic (if there ever was any)

The original Ivy, the Mummy Ivy, the Iviest Ivy of them all — her children have eaten her

27 June 2015

9:00 AM

27 June 2015

9:00 AM

The Ivy is a Playmobil-style faux-medieval restaurant in a triangular building opposite The Mousetrap; of the two, The Ivy is more ancient and threatening. It has mullioned windows, a photogenic lamp post and a parking space for paparazzi to shoot people who want to be shot, as in early Martin Amis novels. It has been refurbished for its 100th birthday, in the manner of an ancient dowager empress seeking new fingers. Of the ‘celebrities’ or ‘notables’ or ‘people who are better than you’ who used to dine here I cannot speak; but apparently it was a live-action re-enactment of a Nigel Dempster diary. Christopher Biggins blah. The pig from Babe blah.

It is, you must understand, a ‘legendary restaurant’. It is, with its new fingers, currently engaged in some made-up PR-created ‘war’ with the Chiltern Firehouse in Marylebone, fought on the papery battlefields of the style pages. My spoons! My money! My quiche! I loathe the brittle spells of PR witchery. I do not wish to be told that I — or my readers — am not good enough to eat iconic shepherd’s pie in this dismal corner of the universe and should go somewhere less fashionable and more dismal still. Lies, all lies. Perhaps I should write a Network-themed restaurant review, and tell you instead — stop reading this review! Stop it! Stick your head in a KFC Bargain Bucket instead, for there is as much truth — and, yes, joy — there! Or maybe I should just say that I do not trust tales of ‘legendary restaurants’ or ‘legendary parties’, or anything that was, socially speaking, ‘legendary’. ‘Legendary’, here, is usually a synonym for ‘many alcoholics’. Why were they in the Antibes, or the Ivy, or even in the pages of The Spectator’s gossip column, in the first place? Because, reader, theyhad nothing better to do.

But that was then. Now, under the swooping, golden cloak of Richard Caring, the ‘cool’ people, the ‘better’ people, the ‘people who are more attractive than you’, have gone upstairs to the Ivy Club for private members, which has an entrance ‘discreetly concealed within a flower shop’. I will ignore the fact that nothing can be discreet if it is published on a website.

Elsewhere, the brand is getting fat, buying slacks and moving to Esher to play golf and hate itself. There is a new Ivy nearby and an excellent Ivy Garden in Chelsea, which I liked, because it had sky. Sky, I predict, will soon become a luxury product. Hermès will sell it in boxes. Editorials will be written praising it.

But of the original Ivy, the Mummy Ivy, the greenest Ivy of them all — what now? Well, her children have eaten her. It is true that last week it managed to entice the weird triumvirate of Salman Rushdie, Anton du Beke and Goldie Hawn. Otherwise the magic has fallen off a cliff.

It’s pretty, it is true, with its wild mash of Playmobil and Art Deco, and the bar has moved to the centre to become ‘a dining bar’— this is apparently notable — and Damien Hirst has painted some dots on a canvas on the wall. But the stillness of the day resents it. It is the dog-end of lunch, businessmen and bored rich women fingering their hair.

The food is merely OK. Cornish lamb rump is sweet enough; the Ivy Burger is adequate; the puddings excellent. But the Ivy closed its doors to real people for so many years; now it opens, it can only disappoint. I ask: can I see the Ivy Club that is through the flower shop? I surely cannot, he says, with a too-brief smile; some other time.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

The Ivy, 1–5 West Street, London WC2H 9NQ, tel: 020 7836 4751.

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  • Jambo25

    My son had dinner at the Ivy late last year and thought it was OK but not nearly as good as a number of restaurants in Edinburgh he’s been to and not nearly as good as Mr Underhill’s in Shropshire. Mind you, at that level its opinion. He also recommended the Artichoke in Amersham.

  • StevenMPagan

    ….All time hit the spectator Find Here

  • normalfornorfolk

    I have eaten there only the once. Maybe the chef was having an off day, and it is probably unfair to make a judgement on the basis of one visit, but the food was distinctly mediocre (that is, on a par with my local Harvester). Plenty of other places nearby which, in my view, offer better service, food and atmosphere.

  • jim

    ….”cool people”?….There are no “cool people” anymore..The tacky glamour of Richard Burton,the classy elegance of a David Niven, the swagger of MitchumMarvin and co when they blew through town….All a thing of the past. Whatever they were like in real life they at least seemed to have some quality of self assertion about them. Today’s PC endorsement pimp celebutwats are despised and rightly so. BronsonConnery and co make today’s breed look gay .And despite all the brainwashing that ‘aint cool.

    • Garnet Thesiger

      “celebutwats”. Fantastic word, one to savour, thanks.

      • Jambo25

        I agree about the word and the general sentiment. I do not know and do not care who half today’s ‘slebs’ are. However the ‘stars’ of the cinema’s golden age exude glamour and character and the films they made exhibit a weight and enduring appeal that few of cinema’s ‘products’ of the last 30-40 ears do.

    • post_x_it

      You sound like an off-cut from a Taki column.

      • jim

        You sound like you think that’s an insult.

  • logdon

    Nero fiddles?

  • Roger Hudson

    Who was it who said ‘school lunches at silly prices’?