Food: 8 Drink: 8 Atmosphere: 9 Overall: 8.5
Celebrating the final close of your University experience marks a momentous occasion; it ought to be done with the ones you cherish, in the best way you know how. Graduation will be a memory you’ll hold dear for days, even years to come; whether it’s a final pub trip send-off with your closest, a photoshoot in gowns, or a celebratory meal in one of the finest eateries. If you’re swaying towards the latter, and plan to celebrate the day in style, then perhaps The Ivy Clifton is the place for you.
Matching the familiarity of their London household with their shiny residence in Clifton Village, The Ivy is a classy, timeless affair. The familiar art-décor style may look gregarious to some, it’s aesthetic far more chaotic compared to the minimalist style of the independents surrounding the area. The majestic building, formerly occupied as a bank, (note how the downstairs toilets once operated as vaults), is filled with plump leather booths, twinkling silverware and waiters in polished white suits. Abstract, busy and beautiful paintings of vintage ships and airplanes border the room, working to evoke the flamboyant, carefree appeal of the roaring twenties.
The Ivy’s menu, grounded in British classics, is by no means revolutionary, but certainly a mouth-watering read. A grand scale of hearty meat staples balances the impressive showground of fish dishes, though a truly ungenerous offering of two vegetarian mains diminishes the impressive scale of the former.
Starting off with the all-important vino to kick-start the evening, and two bottles of Grenache blanc (£19.75) and an Italian primitivo (£22) were eagerly ordered. My table of six boasted an all-encompassing order covering meat, fish and veggie, with credit due to our observant waiter, who made an impressive mental note of our requests. Perhaps it was the beautifully smooth, rich flavours of the primitivo, or the sophisticated energy of the room, but the unavoidable delay for food was an occasion more joyous than usual.
The first to arrive were the meaty mains in the form of the aromatic duck curry with lemongrass, lime, chili, roasted cashews and steamed jasmine rice (£14.75) and the slow-roasted lamb shoulder, mustard and herb crust with creamed potato, glazed root vegetables and rosemary sauce (£16.95). Next, the fish dish: line-caught swordfish with red peppers sauce, provencal black olives, fregola and chimichurri dressing (£15.50). Unsurprisingly, the two veggies of the group went for the only two dishes available: the dukka spiced sweet potato with aubergine baba ganoush with labneh and a Moroccan tomato sauce (£13.95), and the roasted butternut squash with grains, pomegranate, crumbled feta, harissa yoghurt and coriander dressing (£12.75). This was all served with a solid side order of thick cut chips, baked sweet potato with yoghurt and kale pesto, creamed spinach with toasted pine nuts and Gran Moravia cheese - elevating the meal from dinner to banquet.
By catering for all, there was little room left for critique. The meat-based dishes seemed to go down a storm compared to the vegetarian plates, alongside a high appraisal of the swordfish. My only advice would be to majorly bulk up the vegetarian options and include a vegan alternative, if anything to simply respond to the growing demand of meat-free diets.
The desserts, ranging from £3-8.50, scream indulgence. All six of us greedily tucked into cherry sundaes, baked Alaskas, chocolate bombes and a crème brûlées; nibbling and pecking on one another’s to compare. What was most exciting was the widely-admired dessert trend, ‘the chocolate bombe’ (unless you’re sick of the sight of them): a warm melting pud with a vanilla ice-cream and honeycomb centre with warm salted caramel sauce.
Veggies and vegans should arrive with caution; a trip to The Ivy induces an evening based on expert service and luxury, with quality wines and indulgent puddings; its rooted in classics as opposed to taking to new tricks. If you fancy a try at innovative food, head to one of Clifton’s impressive independents such as Wellbourne, Shop 3 Bistro or Wallfish Bistro. What’s rather predictably admirable about the Ivy, however, is the service; all the waiters are at your beck and call, which makes it perfect for large groups with food queries or dietary requirements.
The Ivy is designed to deliver a memorable dining experience; it is seamlessly suited for a special occasion such as graduation. If it’s ticking all the right boxes, book now to avoid disappointment!