Review by editors Kris & Jeff
Situated in the imposing building of the old post office in Ship Street, the Brighton Ivy is the group’s first coastal venue. We were warmly greeted on a balmy June evening and shown to the gleaming American style sit-up bar where we enjoyed Champagne, spiced olives and smoked almonds.
The restaurant is decorated in a tropical art-deco style with huge arched mirrors, large gold and glass light fittings and vivid jungle-themed wall paper. Modern prints in highly polished frames sit alongside abstracts of leaves, butterflies and prints of wild birds. It is a riot of colour, no space is left blank around this large room. There is plenty to look at and you could be in here for hours and not take everything in. In this way, oddly enough, the large space would work well even when less busy – you wouldn’t feel alone.
After our aperitifs we were shown to a cosy table with a great view of the rest of the restaurant. It was busy with every table in our view occupied and the low buzz of chat from other diners and the soft lighting made for a very pleasant ambience. The staff are all friendly in a natural rather than an obsequious way and it is easy to chat, or not to chat, to the waiters and bar staff.
The menu is mostly classic restaurant fare including steaks, fish, salads and not forgetting the famous Ivy Shepherd’s pie. There is an extensive wine list, with vintages from 2011 and plenty of choice – prices start at £20 up to £200+ per bottle.
My starter was four seared, succulent scallops with a sweet pea and broad been purée topped with flaked shallots. The scallops were thick and juicy and the purée had a zesty lemon tang. Jeff opted for the Steak tartare, an incredibly neat little package topped with a perfectly runny rich yellow egg yolk expertly dissected of its white. The meat was tender, flavoursome and topped with a layer of chopped parsley.
For a main course I chose the special pan-fried halibut which came with a grapefruit and red onion dressing and watercress garnish. The fish was tender and sweet with a crisp skin and the tangy dressing complemented it perfectly. Sides are extra and I chose olive oil mashed potato and spinach with pine nuts. I absolutely loved the bold flavours – utterly delicious.
Jeff chose the chicken salad which was a surprisingly large dish. Three generous cuts of juicy, lightly grilled chicken lay on a varied salad, decorated with sprinklings of pomegranate and mustard seeds. A separate thick creamy lemon dressing is on the side, as well as a pewter mug of chunky chips, perfectly crisp on the outside but soft inside and dressed with a salty truffle and parmesan oil. Jeff just about finished his salad but couldn’t quite manage all the chips.
Alongside this excellent food, we enjoyed a crisp, dry Grenache Blanc from the Languedoc region of France which was smooth and fresh. At the lower end of the price range we were very happy with this choice.
Loos can tell you a lot about a venue and it is no exaggeration to say that the Ladies at the Ivy in the Lanes is genuinely impressive. There is a central, pink suede circular seating area, the wallpaper is black with vibrant roses and exotic green and red birds. Long fringed palms, arched mirrors and diamond shaped glass wall lights keep the art-deco theme of the rest of the restaurant. Individual cubicles all have their own marble sinks with gold furnishings and of course there is an attendant keeping everything sparkling.
Could we manage dessert? Well yes of course… I chose the apple tart flambé as it’s always fun to set fire to food intentionally and our server performed the task with aplomb. The tart base had the delicate taste of quality French pâtisserie and the soft, thinly sliced apple was enhanced by crunchy pieces of toffee. It was served with vanilla ice cream which melted into the warm calvados used for the flambé – delectable.
Jeff liked the sound of the Cappuccino cake. Surprisingly this was actually a large wedge of dark chocolate cake, the tip of which dramatically speared a smooth, cream coloured mound which turned out to be milk foam (hence the Cappuccino reference). The cream/milk foam was extremely light and delicate – a creamier, smoother version of “squirty” cream but much nicer. It was topped with a rich, dark chocolate sauce. It looked like it was going to be incredibly sweet but apparently wasn’t. Jeff made the mistake of trying everything separately at first. The sauce was bitter chocolate – ouch – and the cake looked like it may be dry but literally melted in the mouth. The components of this dessert had been carefully crafted to be eaten all together and when doing so it worked perfectly.
We were very impressed with the Ivy in the Lanes, the amazing decor, the outstanding food and we had great service all night – attentive but not overbearing. Highly recommended. Price-wise, our bill was £137 which included the Champagne, wine, water and coffee. They also serve breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea and have a set menu offering two courses for £16.50 or three for £21. The venue would look equally spectacular in the daytime, and it is definitely worth a visit. Full menus, prices and opening hours can be seen on their website www.theivybrighton.com or call 01273 082200 to book.