Alexander Larman visits the SW3 outpost of the famous Ivy restaurant, and finds a venue that outshines the original
Probably the most exciting arrival in SW3 since the day that Oscar Wilde set up on Tite Street, The Ivy Chelsea Garden lives up to anticipation and then some. Following on from the legendary celebrity haunts in the West End and Covent Garden, it was always going to be difficult to maintain the reputation for good food and service that goes several extra miles to make the evening a special one, but it’s all here – and with an unexpected bonus. Readers, it is my duty to tell you this: the prices here are exceptionally kind indeed.
The interior is very much along the same lines as the progenitor. The banquettes are comfortable and of generous width and the ambience is bustling and friendly. The service is charm itself; there are few people on the floor here who would not be picked by Fred Sirieix or Michel Roux for their next TV series in the art of making their guests feel very welcome indeed.
Even if the food had been mediocre, in a sense it wouldn’t have mattered. But for what it’s worth, it wasn’t. Happily, the determinedly old-school menu sticks to the traditions that the Ivy has established so well; thus, the shepherd’s pie is still one of the best in London, and the Parmesan and truffle chips have the air of a well-heeled dowager showing her pretenders that she, too, can still cut the mustard.
Normally, a large menu in a restaurant spells either a sense of panic or a quiet confidence. Here, self-assurance is not only the guiding spirit of how the restaurant operates, but a watchword that imbues every dish and every motion of the staff.
Criticism is hard here. The crispy duck salad that I started with was pleasant but perhaps a tad mundane. The wine list, however, is flawless; a Malbec that appeared, as if by magic, had the silky vanilla flavour of a superb vintage without any of the tannin burn. And my espresso martini was superb, it does everything it can to pep you up with few of the caffeine-fuelled consequences. It seems The Ivy in Chelsea is here to stay. I’d wager Oscar would have been proud to raise a glass to it.
197 King’s Road, Chelsea SW3 5EQ; theivychelseagarden.com