This week really reminded me how time flies, it seems like only yesterday that I reviewed the opening of The Ivy in The Lanes on Ship Street in Brighton but I’m reliably told that it was actually five years back. There’s clearly been a lot of Chardonnay under the bridge since then.
Hence I thought time for a re-visit to see whether the restaurant had changed, and I’m pleased to report its very much the same today as it was then. Noticeably, the theatrical interiors haven’t dated at all and are still in pristine condition which is no small feat with the number of guests they can pack into the main and secondary dining rooms.
The service is still absolutely impeccable, and I know a fair number of staff have been with restaurant since day one so clearly feel its a great place to work. At a time when staff retention in the hospitality industry is hugely challenging, that speaks volumes about the positive work culture that The Ivy offers.
And so to the food. Just as the neighbouring Ivy Asia restaurant, The Ivy in the Lanes has a pretty epic a la carte menu so there’s oodles of choice for dinners; their classics such as Truffle Chicken Milanese and Smoked Haddock and Salmon Fishcake are always there but they also shake things up with a decent seasonal specials menu which in June includes six main course options.
They also offer quite a lot of promotional menus and it was the All Day Dreamers menu that caught my eye. Available all day from Monday to Wednesday, and until 6.30pm on Thursday and Friday, it’s an affordable £18.95 for two courses or £23.95 for three. I should note that sides aren’t included and at £4-£6.50 could easily rack up your bill so something to be aware of.
I was joined at 4pm on Tuesday by my favourite Brighton dining partner who loves her food and also is the font of all local gossip. To lubricate, we started with their Champagne Dream Cocktail, priced at £9.95. Described as ‘black gin poured over a cotton candy cloud, topped off with Champagne, pink grapefruit and colour-changing citric’ it piqued my intrigue.
A huge ball of blue candy floss arrived in a martini glass, to which the waiter poured first the gin then a blend of champagne and citrus juice. It was certainly showy and fun but – no surprises – a bit of the sweet side so perhaps not to everyone’s taste. I’ll think I’ll be sticking to my regular gin martinis moving forward.
The All Day Dreamers menu offers a choice of three starters, four mains and three desserts, so it’s not too much of a challenge to order your meal. I went for the Pulled Wiltshire Ham with a delightful Piccalilli mayonnaise, gherkin and toast. It was just as I expected and a perfect light and flavoursome dish to begin the meal. My dining partner – who continues to insist that she’s a borderline vegetarian which clearly is far from the truth – chose a very impressive Kiln-roast Salmon Rillette served on a bed of crushed avocado and herb salad with a moist rye bread accompaniment. More often than not, salmon is over-smoked which in turn over-powers the palate; this dish didn’t. It was good – in fact I’d go as far to say it was very good.
For our mains, my partner opted for Saffron and Harissa Marinated Prawn Risotto. I think we agreed it looked a bit microwaved but the rice was perfectly al dente and the dish was packed with flavour. The chef clearly wasn’t scrimping on the Parmesan cheese so it was most definitely rich. All in all, an enjoyable and hearty plate of well thought out food.
I went for the ‘Thinly Beaten, Grass-Fed Rump Steak’ which came with a fried egg and a portion of triple cooked fat chips on the side for a £4.50 supplement. To be honest, although pink in the middle, this steak was a little on the tough side for no apparent reason. It was thin – we’re talking about 1cm – but difficult to cut and a took one too many mastications to chew. Perhaps it needed a bit more fat. I polished it off none-the-less and little Miss Greedy Guts finished off the chips.
By the time we got to ordering pudding, I was sated but my voracious dining partner opted for the menu’s feature dessert: ‘Crispy Madagascan Vanilla Cloud’. Much like the themed cocktail, this was an aesthetic wonder of vanilla ice-cream and very chocolatey brownie smothered in hot yuzu caramel sauce and wrapped in a crispy tuille cloak. It’s definitely one for the sweet-toothed.
Unless you rigorously stick to the basics of the menu and drink tap water, you are probably realistically going to pay around £30-35 per head so I’d say also check out the regular a la carte menu as a few pounds more will give you a lot more choice.
All in all, we had a very pleasant and unhurried 90 minutes. Although a little disappointed with my steak, all the other dishes hit the mark and you’d be hard-pressed to find better service or such a stunning setting anywhere else in the city.
The Ivy in The Lanes, 51A Ship Street, Brighton BN1 1AF