Ivy is covering London... and I couldn't be happier.

The Ivy. 

The name is synonymous with all things glamour, and with that also comes a reputation as one of the hardest restaurants to get a table at in London. It's understandable, everyone wants to experience the fabulous atmosphere and wonderful food, but unless you book far in advance it's unlikely you'll ever get that chance. At least this was the case 12 months ago before the Caprice Holdings restaurant group and it's owner Richard Caring decided it was time to spread The Ivy name across London and open new restaurants which claim to keep 40% of their tables free for walk-ins. Sounds brilliant right? So I thought it was about time that I tested out these restaurants for myself and see if they lived up to The Ivy name.

The Ivy Market Grill - Covent Garden

The Ivy Market Grill was the first leap into new restaurant offerings, taking prime place in the always vibrant, Covent Garden. The restaurant opened in November of last year and has been a hit ever since. Although it is apparently easier to get a walk-in table, I chickened out and pre-booked couple of days in advance as I wanted to visit during the busy Sunday lunch time. This was simple enough however as it can all be completed online. All booked up, myself, my sister and family friend arrived slightly before our allotted time. We were asked if we wanted to sit inside or outside, and opted for inside this time as the interior was so intriguing and welcoming. We were seated in a wooden booth, surrounded by art-deco inspired wallpaper and artwork. Drinks to start, we opted for non-alcoholic following our cocktail fueled night before, but there was a great selection of wines of offer. The menu was full and varied, from light bites to larger meals with everything on the side. There are different menus dependent on the time of your visit; brunch, cafe, all day, afternoon tea, and dessert. Our time slot fell in 'brunch' option, which as one would imagine, offered selections suited to both breakfast and lunch. As we had already had breakfast at our hotel hours before, we all opted for more 'lunch' inspired meals, Shepherds pie for my sister and friend, and Chargrilled Banham for myself. Both meals were beautifully presented and most importantly they tasted fantastic. The portions were just right as they left you satisfied but with a little room left to sample the all important desserts! Now this is where the meal becomes magical. Being the foodie I am, I had admittedly 'food stalked' the desserts prior to booking and was instantly taken by the 'chocolate bombe'. A dreamy dessert where I think I'll let the description do the talking:

Melting chocolate bombe with milk foam, vanilla ice cream and honeycomb centre with hot salted caramel sauce

Sounds good right? Wrong. It was amazing. Hands down, the best dessert I have ever experienced. I don't want to spoil the dessert any further because the pure concept of it is a show in itself which everyone should get to experience in reality. Very full and very satisfied, we finished out drinks and payed the very reasonable bill. Everything about the Ivy Market Grill met my expectations, I could give it no less than 5/5 in all aspects.

The Ivy Chelsea Garden - Kings Road, Chelsea

 Across the city, the next venture of the Ivy London take-over is The Ivy Chelsea Garden. Opened in April of this year, this restaurant is a little oasis in which you are taken away from the chaos of London and into tranquil surroundings dedicated to wining and dining. The restaurant has grown in popularity considering it's location and unique dining opportunities. As such, I'm not 100% sure on how easy it is to gain a walk-in table as even though I pre-booked (as advised by a friend), we still had to wait a little by the bar for our table to be freed up. This was probably due to requesting a garden table however. Still, I would advise you do pre-book and when you do, go for a garden table because my word is it worth it! We were seated next to a charming fountain on the sunniest of London days. It was pure bliss. Our drinks that we had ordered on arrival were brought outside to our table. We began with a refreshing Chelsea set cooler to quench our thirst after a walk in the beating sun up the Kings Road. It was just the ticket, and once re-hydrated we explored the menu. Like it's sister in theatreland, The Ivy Chelsea Garden offers a variety of menus dependent on the time of your visit: breakfast, brunch, all day, cafe, afternoon tea and the usual drinks/desserts. We chose from the 'all day' menu which offered a mix of light-bites, sandwiches and fuller meals. Following a busy morning exploring Buckingham Palace (a fabulous tour that I recommend to both tourists and home-birds of London alike), both myself and my mum decided we needed a quite hearty meal, and as such we selected the Chelsea Garden Burger and Chicken Milanese. As we awaited our food and bathed in the sun,  we were quite unable to believe we were still in the middle of London and not some secluded secret garden. The service was fantastic, as we were never left with empty glasses and our food arrived promptly, despite the evident popularity of the place. Our mains were plentiful in both taste and size, despite appearing 'simple' at first glance. Full, but with room for something sweet, we both ordered desserts. I could not pass up the opportunity to once again experience the chocolate bombe, and once again it did not disappoint. Washed down with a glass of champagne, we soaked in the last rays of sunshine before settling the rather reasonable bill considering the location, and left satisfied and already planning our next visit. The Ivy Chelsea Garden is truly a magical setting, that I can imagine offers a different dining experience every time you visit, therefore it is my intention to return over and over to experience all this place has to offer!

What's next?

With the success of the Icy Market Grill and Ivy Chelsea Garden, The Ivy is set to spread further with The Ivy Cafe set to open in Marylebone this November, and The Ivy Kensington Brasserie set to open in December. Both restaurants are set to keep 40% of tables walk-in to enable customers to just 'pop-in' and prices will be very similar to the two previous restaurants. Only popularity and time will tell if we really will be able to just 'pop-in' sans-booking, but either way I for one cannot wait to sample another taste of the Ivy magic!

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