This British institution is pure Bristol Class, writes Sammy Milton
If you’ve ever spent any time in London, then you will have heard of the infamous Ivy grills, brasseries and cafes. Dotted around the capital, they offer extensive all-day menus featuring the very best of classic British cuisine in relaxed dining atmospheres. I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting one of the branches before and have always felt I was missing out on something.
Happily, the Ivy Brasserie picked Clifton Village for its next spot so we gladly accepted an invitation to wine and dine ourselves in splendour on a sunny Wednesday evening.
Externally, this building is a beauty. Formerly a bank, it is huge and splendid, with ivy (how appropriate) clinging to its sides and a huge entrance porch to welcome you in. Inside is just as impressive. High ceilinged and decadent throughout, the bar stands proudly to the rear of the space — gold rimmed with happy cocktail makers in bowties stood behind, gallantly crushing ice and cutting limes for the evening service. Real leather booths line the walls and the expensively tiled flooring makes one think of an expensive hotel bar in New York — very exciting.
The service alone is outstanding. Beautiful servers in suits and red dresses greet you immediately and with beaming smiles. We were led towards the back of the restaurant, into the large dining area-come-orangery. A wonderful space, it is full of light and there’s even the glimpse of a garden out the back!
Once seated, our lovely waiter arrived promptly at our side. Tonight we were trying out the set menu, but first, we were brought a couple of rather exquisite champagne cocktails to tide us over. The daily set menu is a steal — two courses for £16.50 and three for £21, an absolute bargain in anyone’s books, so we went the full hog and had three.
To start, we went for ham and cheese croquettes. They arrived piping hot promptly and we dug in. The croquettes were excellent — decadently full of rich béchamel and chunks of ham, and were extremely satisfying. Accompanied by a light salad of celeriac and apple, there was a delightful squeeze of honey and mustard dressing lining the plate, a harmonious blend of sweet and spicy to give everything a kick.
For our mains we went with a couple of classics. Moules frites for my partner and steak frites for me. The mussels came in a gorgeous garlicky broth and the chips were a welcome dipping partner. This was a generous portion too — the set menu really is a excellent value for money. The steak was cooked perfectly, and the accompanying garlic butter was rich and strong — a perfect sauce to dip my remaining chips in.
For dessert we shared velvety chocolate ice cream with a salted caramel sauce and an indulgent pannacotta steeped in tangy blackberry compot. I have a thing for salted caramel, and this didn’t disappoint. My only complaint was that warm sauce made the ice cream melt too quickly so I didn’t get to savour it for long enough!
The pannacotta was set perfectly and the sauce added a sharp, seasonal bite — all in all, the perfect end to the meal.
The Ivy has proved itself to be something of a British institution. The brasserie based in Clifton may have the aesthetics of the London branches, but this place is pure Bristol class.
The Ivy Clifton
0117 203 4555