The Ivy, is one of the most renowned restaurants and celebrity hot spots in London. Part of Richard Caring’s Caprice Holdings, The Ivy collection is a group of chic brasseries’ that combine The Ivy’s incomparable style and service in a more casual setting.
Wanting to make the most of London’s tropical heat wave, I was seeking an extra special al fresco dining space for my birthday. I had read reviews and heard mutterings about how impossible it would be to acquire a table, however two days before the desired date I managed to secure a midday lunch booking. Due to a hair emergency, I had to change the original booking to later in the day and the restaurant was more than accommodating. I was not sure what all the fuss was about.
I arrived at The Ivy Chelsea Garden in an incredibly agitated mood after being severely delayed (South Eastern Trains!) and then travelling by tube across London in 34 degree heat. Entering through a Wimbledon themed doorway adorned with wisteria and tennis balls, had an Alice in Wonderland feel to it as though entering into a fairy-tale land.
I was greeted by ladies in questionable flowery suits that looked remarkably like my Nanny’s curtains. These were however the only dubious design choice amongst the utterly beautiful interiors and exteriors of the restaurant. At the bar a Bellini was ready and waiting for me. After attempting to lower my stratospheric body temperature by positioning myself under an air-conditioning unit and downing four ice cold glasses of water, we were led to our table in the garden.
It was an Instagrammer’s dream; it is not often that I am blown away by somewhere being so aesthetically pleasing. The dining room, orangery and terrace are decorated in green and burnt orange hues, even the floors and the ceilings are something to behold. Antiquated mirrors adorn the walls both inside and out, the garden channels a Mediterranean vibe with nautical stripes. Luckily we were situated in the shade, underneath an overgrown pergola. It was a feast for the senses, the air was perfumed by flowers and perforated with the sound of trickling fountains.
So the big question, was the fare going to live up to the spectacular surroundings? In all honesty I was not that hungry, which is very unusual for me; however I still managed to sample a starter and a main.
I ordered a refreshing Mojito and some Zucchini fritti for the table which were light and pleasant, especially as I am not a fan of courgettes. We mulled the menu, comprising of British classics and comfort food. We were not in any rush, as a three o’clock table definitely means you are not doing anything else for the day. The Tuna Carpaccio was the perfect dish for the hot weather, yellowfin tuna garnished with tomato, watermelon, ponzu dressing, miso mayonnaise and toasted sesame. The Tempura Prawns were also satisfying and seemed more bread crumbed than battered which I preferred.
We finally decided on our mains and both chose the crab linguine however to our utter disappointment this was finished for the day. I went for the Chelsea Garden fish cake (without the egg) as well as the baked sweet potato with yoghurt and kale pesto as well as tenderstem broccoli.
As we waited for our mains I ordered a Chelsea Old Town, a champagne cocktail with fresh raspberries, Briottet rose liqueur and lemon with Kamm & Sons aperitif. This was my least favourite drink and I was expecting some fizz, the rose was also overpowering. The fish cake was delicious and the sides complimented it perfectly. I do not normally chose sweet potato with fish however it worked well as the yoghurt cut through the sweetness of the potato.
The service was adequate, we were there for so long that we experienced a staff change over. The first waitress was very friendly and talkative but did seem to want to push along our order. The second waiter seemed rather stern, however I think I would be if I was serving food in a waistcoat and tie in the interminable heat.
The Ivy Chelsea Garden has to be one of the most delightful al fresco dining spaces in London, the food also lived up to expectation and I would have been equally as happy to eat inside. For an established high end chain restaurant, it carries the name well. If you are seeking some decent English cuisine and delightful cocktails at a reasonable price you cannot do much better.
Zucchini fritti £5.75
Tuna Carpaccio £9.95
Tempura Prawns £10.65
Chelsea Garden fish cake £16.95
Roast Rack of Lamb £22.50
Baked sweet potato, yoghurt and kale pesto £3.75
Tenderstem broccoli, lemon oil and sea salt £3.75
Chelsea Old Town £9.00
Chateau d’Esclans, Whispering Angel £46
The Ivy Chelsea Garden, 195 -197 King’s Rd, Chelsea, London SW3 5EQ
020 3301 0300