The Mystery Muncher orders port in The Ivy

By The Mystery Muncher

When the Mystery Muncher had the opportunity to visit that famous London showbiz eatery, The Ivy, it was exciting.

Not because I expected great food but because I expected lots of celebs and hoped that with my natural good looks, people might think that I was a little famous too. My expectations were confounded.

First of all I was disappointed by the lack of paparazzi outside, then by the lack of A-list stars inside (a few minor TV faces and that’s your lot), and no-one was looking at me with stars in their eyes. But after that, everything about this place exceeded my hopes.

The Ivy is in West Street right opposite the St Martin’s Theatre and you really have to look hard to find the door. Once in I had house champagne in an exquisite glass at the tiny bar and people-watched for a while. This place has its foibles: gents, if you use the loo, it is down in the basement and has no doors – which is a real test of self confidence if you are going for a pee. When you come back up the iron spiral staircase to the restaurant you notice how comfortably old fashioned it looks, with mirrored pillars, stained glass and lots of dark panelling.

The menu is just as comforting with English classics like dressed Dorset crab, roast Devon chicken and Black Mount venison, but also some surprises like caviar and roast Arctic char. I started with griddled squid and chorizo salad followed by grilled calves liver, served pink, and nearly finished with Welsh rarebit as I much prefer savoury to desserts.

I say nearly finished because in the end I found myself unable to resist the sticky toffee pudding. A fellow muncher started with eggs Benedict, which was served perfectly, a double lamb chop and creme brulee. Other guests sampled everything from pheasant to Angus steak and all were excellent.

The wine list was unusually comprehensive and, for a top-rate restaurant, not ridiculously overpriced. We had a rather decent Gavi de Gavi at £35 and that classic bottle of wine for everything gamey, a vintage Chateau Musar at around £70, which is a lot of money but I’ve seen it a lot more expensive elsewhere. At the end of this, we couldn’t resist finishing with a bottle of the finest vintage port I’ve had for years – a 1983 Warre.

In case you think that the Mystery Muncher was so affected by the venue that he was starting to drink like WC Fields, I should explain that we were part of a table of six. But this is certainly not a place for a health conscious eater or drinker – there is just too much to tempt you.

The staff may not have thought I was famous but they certainly treated me famously. Everyone from waiter to maitre d’ was knowledgeable, entertaining and seemed genuinely interested in our questions. I always ask the sommelier what they recommend when I have a strange mix of food as I find that they very seldom rip you off in good places. The Ivy was no exception. I’ll remember this restaurant for the food and the atmosphere rather than the famous faces. Don’t wait for your agent to invite you, do lunch (or dinner) now.

The Ivy

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