The original Ivy restaurant in Covent Garden has been a stalwart of the luvvie world for many a year and the brand has recently branched out with Ivy Cafés and Brasseries. Now they have taken a new path into the City with The Ivy Asia and taken over the former Jamie Oliver Barbecoa site overlooking St Paul’s Cathedral.
Having heard many a good review from friends and colleagues and seen a multitude of very lovely images on Instagram, I jump at the chance to visit for lunch. I struggle to find the entrance at first but once I do the interiors literally blow my mind. I take a good 10 photos of the reception area alone; the illuminated floor lined with pink onyx in the entrance hall is gorgeous and incites some serious shoe-gazing. It’s paired with a bright green jade floor in the main restaurant. Look up and there is a gold-gilt ceiling and sideways to eye-catching Japanese artworks and lush fabrics. There are even antique samurai warriors standing guard over proceedings (maybe just in case anyone is tempted to walk away with the pretty napkin rings or chopstick holders!)
For a rainy Tuesday in January the restaurant is buzzing. Clearly a destination for business lunches and social groups alike, it’s definitely a lot better than my usual Prèt lunch. The menu is divided into sushi and sashimi and small and large dishes. We decide to order something from each, but first there is the cocktail menu to tackle. I’m doing ‘Dry January’ as well as giving up sugar, so even a mocktail is off the menu for me, and I look on enviously while my dining companion samples a ‘K-Pop Passion’. I sip my sparkling water evangelically as she evidently enjoys the passion fruit purée and Absolut Vanilla cocktail which she proclaims to be ‘fruity, light and refreshing’.
The main menu
Still, the menu is a god-send for no-carbs me as I eye up the sushi on offer. We both opt for the tuna tataki which comes served in delicate pieces on finely sliced radishes with soy sauce. From the small plates menu we go for spiced beef and lamb skewers served with a pink peppercorn coating. It’s a fragrant and fairly hot mix of slightly rare minced meat which really hits the spot. We also try the glazed oyster mushroom kebab which somehow manages to be both soft and firm and tangy and sweet. There is no hesitation with what to have for our large dish – it’s black cod for both of us. An all time treat it’s as succulent and melt in the mouth as we hoped, served with a tongue-tickling ginger sauce. Served stylishly in a brown leaf fashioned to look like the sail on a ship, it comes in a very generously-sized portion which pleases us enormously. We can’t resist trying some aubergine tempura too and it’s hot and crisply delicious.
Once more my resolve is tested when the dessert menu comes round. Fighting the urge to order the warm doughnuts I watch as a literal sugar-bomb is demolished in front of my eyes. A white chocolate sphere covering ice cream and a passion-fruit coulis apparently offers a different blend of flavours with every mouthful. It’s made even more painful to my sad eyes as a warm salted caramel sauce is dramatically poured over it by our excellent waiter until it cracks open.
I may sound green with envy and rather belligerent with it, but to be honest the meal is so good I don’t have any sense of FOMO at all. Far from it when the food and ambience is this good, and besides, it just gives me a very plausible excuse to make a speedy return visit once January is mercifully over.
20 New Change Passage, St Paul’s, EC4M 9AG