Some may consider this a strange thing to say, but restaurants are not all about food. Of course, it must be edible - interesting would be a good thing – and The Ivy Chelsea Garden does all of that, with a well-practiced, tried and tested aplomb.
Diehard fans of the original Ivy in London’s theatreland don’t much like that it has spread its wings, almost franchise-like, to other spots around London; but this particular outpost, on the King’s Road, is just perfect for right now in the September sunshine and with what seems like all of fashion week dropping in for very little to eat, but lots of air-kissing and pushing salads around plates. Actually on that note, as I sat in the Terrace Garden, I couldn’t help but reflect that it was somewhat fortunate I’d ordered a salad, since much of my time had been spent mesmerised by the eclectic mix of personalities, at every turn, rather than eating. Of course, it could be this particular ‘Ivy’, in this particular spot, with its changing seasonal frontage that instagrammers adore, to which such an entertaining crowd gravitate. On various visits I have been seated next to Joan Collins and Davina McCall, among others. So that seems the natural conclusion.
That said, it’s surely no coincidence that the design of this space seems to accommodate them so effortlessly. I’m tempted to liken it to Narnia, but something is not quite so otherworldly, so much as it’s from another time.
Antique mirrors, trellises and a seemingly random selection of antique pots and planters (which I suspect were anything but random) are filled with magnolias, hydrangeas, cyclamens and Boston ferns et al, making the garden luscious and relaxing.
Then, there are upholstered velvet chairs and cushions, flickering candles & cosy rugs, and a central fire pit in the garden (thankfully unlit, given the temperature) … but I think you’ll get the picture. I’ve no doubt, on cooler autumnal days, it would be completely different but equally beguiling.
Apparently, Cameron Gardens designed the space; and, in my opinion, it’s hugely successful. As an added bonus, this relaxed, lush garden is situated at the back of the building, isolating its visitors from the hustle and bustle of the city, (as well as the now swollen queues of bloggers out front, wanting ‘that shot’) adding to the attraction.
Sorry… this is a restaurant review; I just remembered! Do you see what I mean? … order a salad!
Yes, they have food. It’s well-prepared, well presented and efficiently served. The menu is huge, so I can’t vouch for it all. That said, there were numerous, “Oh, I wish I’d had that!” moments, as those around me were served. There are no ‘foams’ or ‘spumes’, that I could see, and nor would you expect that, at the Ivy.
It would be wrong to categorise it as ‘pub grub’ or even ‘home cooking’; it’s decidedly more than that. Those in the know know that the Shepherd’s Pie was the dish to get in the original Ivy. And the sprouts with chestnuts at Christmas time were just the business. It’s just delicious, well-made food from great ingredients - not pretentious nor too complex for its own good. If it were, I suspect that might ruin the atmosphere they’ve managed to create and diminish it, somehow.
There’s more to this place than just the terrace, of course. There’s a private dining room that seats 30, on one long table, or 24 on three round tables. Perfect for entertaining, of all sorts, particularly if you wish to avoid being watched…spoilsports!
It’s an ethereal thing, The Ivy Chelsea Garden, on which it’s difficult to put one’s finger. As you might detect, it has the effect of causing me to waffle, just trying to convey, in words, what it really needs you to experience. You can read this, and stare at the pictures, but you’ll never really grasp what I’m trying to express, unless you get out there and sample it for yourself. Do it. Do it now!
Have you been to The Ivy Chelsea Garden? Was I just lucky and caught it on a fascinating day, or was it the same for you? Let me know in the comments, below.