Hear the name “The Ivy” and it’s hard not to feel a little bit star struck. The iconic London restaurant has seen many famous faces walk through its doors over the years, so when I discovered that its sister chain was to open a restaurant in Bristol (its first outside of the capital) called The Ivy Clifton Brassiere, I couldn’t wait to finally experience for myself what all the fuss is about this brand.
The restaurant opened during the first week of August to lots of excitement and many great reviews – clearly meeting the high expectations that local food critics have for this restaurant chain, which also has a branch in Kensington. My boyfriend booked us a table for a Friday evening, a few weeks after the initial opening, and with my stomach rumbling in eager anticipation we headed to Clifton – read on to see what I thought.
The Ivy Clifton Brassiere is located in an old branch of Natwest in Clifton village, a grand Georgian building that stands impressively on the corner of Caledonia Place – and I was pleased to see that the obligatory ivy featured as part of the restaurant’s signage.
As we walked through the doors, we were welcomed by a very smart looking female maître de, who showed us to our table. As we walked through the restaurant I thought it certainly had an exclusive feel to it. Although the Brasserie chain is promoted as being a less casual version of The Ivy in London, I still saw lots of people who had made an effort to dress up for their meal here, which added to the the sophisticated feel of the place. I also really liked the decor, especially the retro floor tiles, and I loved the big floral bouquets that were on display too.
We were seated towards the rear of the main restaurant in the orangery area, a picturesque room with big glass windows at the back which looked out onto a small garden. A male waiter came and asked if we would like a bottle of water for the table, and then took our drinks order – naturally this felt like an occasion to enjoy some fizz so I ordered a glass of prosecco (£6) and my boyfriend ordered a Peroni (£4.50). Once our drinks arrived it was time to take a look at the a la carte menu – there was almost too much choice!
Not wanting to get ahead of myself and risk being too full for my favourite course (dessert, naturally), I chose the truffle arancini for my starter – fried Arborio rice balls with truffle and pecorino. When they were brought to the table I was really impressed at the presentation, and even more impressed once I’d tasted one – they were rich, moreish and delicious, so needless to say they didn’t last long!
My boyfriend chose the seasonal soup (£5.50) for his starter – a roasted vine tomato and basil soup with heritage tomato, goat’s cheese and olive croutons. We were very impressed at presentation of this dish too, which arrived at the table with the goats cheese and heritage tomato in the bowl, and the soup was then poured around this by the waiter – very fancy indeed.
I chose a posh version of chicken and chips for my main (roast Banham half chicken with rosemary and garlic pan juices and thick cut chips – £14.75) and my boyfriend chose the Clifton Brasserie shepherd’s pie (slow braised lamb shoulder with beef and Keen’s local Cheddar potato mash – £13.50). For sides we shared the slightly unusual green beans and roasted almonds (£3.75) and buttered kale and spinach (£3.50). Both mains were well received – my chicken was well cooked, flavourful and juicy and the chips were just as good chips should be. My boyfriend said his shepherd’s pie was one of the best he’d ever had and we both enjoyed the side dishes, especially the green beans and roasted almonds which isn’t something I’ve ever tried before, but thought the flavours worked well together.
After our empty plates had been cleared, it was time to get to the most important event of the evening – dessert. I chose the strawberry shortcake sundae (£6.95), consisting of poached strawberries, vanilla ice cream, shortcake, and baked meringue. I honestly don’t have enough good things to say about my choice – the dessert was really amazing, and I was so glad that I left room! I especially liked the home made shortcake, the richness of the crème Chantilly and the mini meringues – it was incredible. My boyfriend ordered the lemon baked Alaska (£7.25) for his dessert – baked meringue with lemon ice cream, lemon curd sauce and baby basil. He was equally as impressed as I was, not only was it another example of great presentation, but he said the flavours of the lemon ice cream and lemon curd sauce were pretty special too.
Overall it was really great first experience of The Ivy brand. I loved the retro feel of the place and the food, which, I would have to say was pretty outstanding. I think that this restaurant would certainly be the perfect place for celebrating a special occasion. Given the price of the food here (particularly the starters and the desserts) I don’t feel that the service during our meal was quite spot on – we had a pretty long wait to order drinks and then our food after that, but it was reasonable considering how busy it was during our visit. We will certainly go back to The Ivy Clifton Brasserie –not only because of how good the strawberry shortcake sundae was!