by Katie Duffin
“You’re going to the Ivy? Isn’t that the posh restaurant in London?!” My mum asked with raised eyebrows. Originally, yes, and as you walk in you can see they’ve definitely brought a shedload of that chic London style with them to little old Wales. The Ivy Brasserie is popping up everywhere these days, from Brighton to Glasgow — and most recently, Cardiff. Located on The Hayes where Jamie’s Italian once sat (R.I.P), it catches your eye straight away with its trademark green awnings and floral display. Once you’re inside, it really is like stepping into another world — the swanky bar, well dressed waiters and ambient lighting makes it look like a 1920s upper-east side club, and floral decorations cover the room in a forest of elegance; a far cry from Chippy Alley just 100 yards away.
Once inside, our coats were stored away and we were shown to our table upstairs, where the amazing decor continued. As I sipped on my first cocktail of the evening — a caramel espresso martini with just the right amount of caramel — my friend came rushing back from the toilets telling us we just had to go in there. As I pushed open the door I was met with a ceiling covered in pink and white flowers, and a beautiful marble statue in the centre of the room, all encompassed by well-lit mirrors and pink details. How often is it that you get to rave about a place’s toilets?!
When it was time to order I went for the seared Atlantic scallops, served with cauliflower purée, caper butter, tamarind glaze, apple batons and a golden crumb. It was absolutely divine — as was the truffle arancini that I pinched off my friends. The vegetarian shepherd’s pie that came next was so good I wanted to ask for the recipe — the meat version didn’t even compare. There were only good reviews around the table for the steaks served too, which makes The Ivy a great place for carnivores and herbivores alike.
The table went quiet for a while as we all ploughed through our meals (a good a sign as any), and we ordered a few more drinks. There were a few Clwb Tropicana IPAs brewed by Tiny Rebel floating around the table; a standard event for bars and restaurants around Cardiff. Although I can appreciate flavours like passionfruit and peach, for me they just don’t belong in a beer, so I opted for a Mermaid’s Dream hi-ball, described on the menu as winter berries and fresh mint mixed with Brecon Botanicals Gin, lime juice, apple juice and vanilla syrup, topped with Fever-Tree Ginger Ale. Once again, they know exactly how to shake their drinks. I was far too full for dessert with all of the bread I’d stuffed in my mouth before our starters too, but the baked apple tart with Calvados flambé looked very impressive.
At this particular restaurant, the food, decor and atmosphere could not be faulted; however, as the night went on we did find the service to be more and more on the slow side — perhaps it was because we were sitting upstairs and the waiters didn’t pass as often, but as a large party with some loud voices (myself included) it was hard to miss us. Moreover, when the bill was requested it seemed they forgot, and we had to ask a few times again before we finally got it.
Other than the service, the meal was excellent. I would definitely recommend going here, but only if you’ve saved up a bit of your student loan, the cocktails don’t come cheap!