THINK OF THE IVY and you think of glamorous London dining; all celebrities, the paparazzi and more. Well, a little bit of this stardust has arrived in Norwich, with the opening of The Ivy Brasserie in the former Gap clothing store on London Street. It’s a tremendous building, once a bank, and the brasserie makes the most of original features, and has then added some! Think marble flooring, an onyx bar, leather banquettes, and bronze artefacts, all set within the brasserie’s signature green palette. The artwork is bold, to say the least. There are two dining levels, with a great stone spiral staircase taking you to the first floor. And almost 150 diners can be accommodated.
So, the setting is splendid. And the staff are very much on the money. In sharp suits, with bow ties, the service is spot on, being both friendly and efficient. The brasserie bosses are keen to stress that they offer all day dining, in a relaxed environment and you can certainly pop in for breakfast, elevenses, lunch, afternoon tea and, of course, a full-on dinner. Brunch is a popular option.
I dined with my better half and it felt like quite an occasion as, dressed up, we sat at that glitzy onyx bar, sipping our drinks, and, of course, having a good nosey round who else was in. Well, it is Norwich, after all.
It’s an exciting drinks offering, with plenty of cocktails, quirky soft options and a good selection of beers and lagers – plus plenty of spirits. I spotted Woodforde’s beers and Boadicea Gin from West Norfolk so opted for a Iceni Martini which had more than a kick to it and set me up nicely for the evening! Himself had a bottle of Scotland’s Old Engine Oil, which was thick and very rich!
The menu is straightforward, with plenty of choice. It’s modern British cuisine, with firm favourites such as shepherd’s pie, grilled fish, chicken Milanese (briochecrumbed chicken breast with a fried egg) and slowed cooked lamb shoulder alongside slightly more ambitious offerings like grilled whole lobster.
We sashayed through to our table, nestling in a corner with again more great views across the dining room. And yes, there are crisp white tablecloths and ultra shiny silver cutlery.
I started with wasabi prawns and salt and pepper squid, which came with a wasabi mayo and miso sauce. As with all the dishes, it was beautifully presented, in a silver bowl, and tasted as good as it looked. Sir tried the apple and Stilton salad which was tangy and crispy, with hazelnuts and celery.
Next I opted for an eight ounce sirloin steak, cooked medium, with a green peppercorn sauce. None of those onions rings, mushrooms and tomatoes here, just a terrific steak, which my knife glided through! I added a tomato and basil salad and some olive oil mash which, together with the sourdough bread (with some very yummy salted butter), was a goodly spread!
He had a monkfish and prawn Keralan curry, with jasmine rice, coconut yoghurt, coriander and sweet potato crisps which was another hit, with a bit of a bite.
Desserts were the highlight as we selected ones which had a little bit of drama to them. The chocolate bombe with vanilla ice and a hot salted caramel sauce melted enticingly, and my apple tart was flambéed with Calvados at the table with a real sense of theatre. Naturally, both dishes were devoured pretty quickly!
We selected an easy drinking Spanish white,Verdejo, and rounded off the meal with peppermint tea, served, with a final flourish, in large silver teapots. Such elegance!
For my money, the brasserie is a fun dining destination; somewhere you can dress up for, and there’s a happy atmosphere which is catching. And it is great to see such a beautiful building singing again.
Published in Feast issue 30 – October 2018