Now the more eagle-eyed of our regular readers may recall I reviewed The Ivy in the Lanes in spring of this year. I don’t typically do two reviews of the same restaurant so closely together but I have to say on that earlier visit the meal was rather disappointing and didn’t reflect the quality that I know The Ivy can deliver so last week gave me an opportunity to revisit with the expectation that normal service has resumed.
I can happily report that The Ivy is back on form and our lunch was pretty good, although that’s not to say there weren’t a few anomalies along the way.
With it being December, the restaurant was keen for us to sample their Festive Menu with a choice of five starters, mains and desserts. Two courses are a very considerable £50 whilst three courses are £55. My ever-astute dining companion noted that firstly some of these dishes have appeared on earlier promotional menus – in fact we had the seabass dish on our last visit although clearly nothing screams ‘Christmas’ more than sea bass in saffron sauce – and, secondly, that many of the Festive Menu dishes actually appear on the main a la carte menu.
Stay with me on this because I’m sharing a Martin Lewis style tip to save you money. On the main a la carte menu, the Goose and Turkey Shepherd’s Pie is £17.50 and the Polar Bear Christmas dessert is £11.95… which adds up to a grand total of £29.45 so – if you can bear to forgo a cracker, side dish and mince pie – you’ll save a whopping £20 than if you’d ordered off the Festive Menu. Incidentally the salmon and sea bass dishes on the ‘Winter Specials’ section of the a la carte menu are priced at £19.95 and £24.95 respectively.
Whilst baffling guests with umpteen printed menus is an established trait of the The Ivy brand – I assume they own their own forests to facilitate their paper demands –, a brain at head office really needs to get this one sorted sharpish before the complaints start to roll in. Twenty quid is a bit steep for a Christmas cracker, hashtag just saying.
Anyway, whilst the menu pricing detective work filled our time before the mains arrived when they did they were both excellent. My guest enjoyed a hearty fillet of pan-fried salmon with green beans and a magnificent Moroccan sauce that was pleasingly spicy without being hot. I revisited the baked sea bass with mussels in a saffron sauce; it was an absolute delight and perfectly cooked with crispy skin. Hand-on-heart both dishes would put the cooking of numerous seafood-focussed restaurants in Brighton to shame.
The Ivy has a superb wine list. We enjoyed a glass of multi-vintage blended Nyetimber sparkling wine from West Sussex and it was a joy; a perfect example of how sophisticated the products of our local wine industry have become. The two cocktails we sampled, whilst by no means bad, were slightly less successful with a focus on whimsical style over actual substance and taste. The ‘Gin-gle Bells Fizz’ seemed to be missing the fizz, whilst the ‘Festive Citrus Sparkler’ appeared to have no alcohol in it but we were assured they’d given us a shot of Beefeater Gin. Either way, it wasn’t a particularly well-balanced drink.
I’m a bit picky with my desserts as I don’t have a particularly sweet tooth, but it is Christmas after all so I pushed the envelope and went wild in ordering the ‘Polar Bear Christmas’ confection of light-as a-feather white chocolate foam with a bombe of clementine sorbet and pieces, topped with a moreish warm caramel sauce. The hidden popping candy brought an unexpected zing to the party. Although I couldn’t finish it, it was hugely enjoyable and no doubt younger diners would happily whop it down.
The Ivy remains an impressive venue on the Brighton dining scene. The venue is hands-down the most visually spectacular in the city, the service – including from our server on the day, Emma – is impeccable and the food well cooked and presented. Just keep a very beady eye on those menus when it comes to pricing to ensure you get bang for your hard-earned buck.
The Ivy in the Lanes, 51a Ship Street, Brighton BN1 1AF