The Ivy in the Lanes Brighton.
The Ivy is an internationally renowned and quintessentially British restaurant in the heart of London’s west end and has been an iconic establishment since it first launched in 1917. As one of Britain’s most loved and in demand brasseries you can find Hollywood A-listers dining with British royals. It’s been said that the roaring success of this superb restaurant is due to its integrity, history and an award winning recipe for balancing fine dining and the highest standards of traditional British hospitality.
In 2014 the company decided to spread its magic and sensitively season a new breed of restaurants from coast to coast. The Ivy Collection is the new generation of localised fine dining establishments, bringing the inimitable flare of the majestic original, from the exquisite surroundings and impeccable service to the sensational modern British cuisine to which The Ivy is synonymous with.
The Market Grill in London’s Covent Garden was the first and just the start of a fierce four year nationwide rollout. Now with over thirty-three on the map and more to come, this is a very exciting time for the collection.
I spoke to the Executive Director of operations Yishay Malkov, who enlightened me about The Ivy Collection. He explained that this national growth is not about recreating the original, but evolving from the well known restaurant and creating accessible glamour for all across the country. Each restaurant provides the same high standards of cuisine, in an environment that reflects the local region and with the Ivy’s impeccable hospitality.
Each and every one of the collection is carefully thought out. It takes months, sometimes years to find the perfect location and ideal venue. Brighton was always on the top of the list given its seaside chic style, yet it took time and patience to source the perfect backdrop and finally a union between two historical establishments met in the heart of Brighton’s lanes. The much loved grade II listed old post office has been lovingly refurbished into a vibrant all day day brasserie, drawing in crowds since its launch in May.
My mum, Claire, introduced me to The Ivy many years ago and I immediately fell in love with the glamour, elegance and sensational cuisine. For twenty years, I have remained loyal to one of my favourite, fine dining brasseries and as soon as I found out that the collection was extending to the south coast I jumped at the chance to review Brighton’s Ivy in the Lanes. The aim of the collection is to encapsulate the flare of the original whilst making the collection available to a wider demographic, so I was intrigued to investigate.
On a warm Thursday evening in June my mum Claire and I headed to The Ivy in the Lanes. As we stepped out of our taxi, we both immediately noted how the building appeared alive again. Having housed cafes, clothing shops and market stalls at one point, it was pleasing to see the once atmospheric post office was again ebullient and distinguished. The elegant green canopies covering the three large windows gave a small glimpse into the wonderful Ivy experience with the iconic logo placed in large bold letters for all to see.
On entering the building you are immediately transported into the sleek and glamorous Ivy world. Two large stained glass doors provide the grandest entrance in Brighton, complete with low lighting and foliage and The Ivy’s trade mark green reminding you that you are now apart of this refined dining experience.
A warm welcome greeted us by the two immaculately dressed hosts, wearing well tailored cropped cream jackets – the perfect introduction to this sophisticated evening. I was impressed to see the elegance and maturity of The Ivy continuing through to the collection of restaurants. They say first impressions count and I already felt consumed by this extraordinary concept.
In the main restaurant you can feast your eyes on a contemporary celebration of colour and Brighton’s unique tongue in cheek charm with wall to wall brightly coloured artwork enlivening the venue and bringing it to life.
This is a true sensory experience: a magical oasis hidden in the centre of Brighton. Inside feels incredibly cosy considering the high ceiling and vast 6000 sq.ft space. The mix of stylish booths for larger groups and cosy corners for intimate diners are strategically placed around the shimmering central bar, creating a sense of continuity and flow in this hive of calm activity.
We were seated in the perfect position to soak up the incomparable decor and the first thing that I noticed was the sense of ease amongst the team, gliding across the floor and each exuding confidence and charm.
The gorgeous burnt orange velvet booths complete with plump cushions offer style and comfort and go hand in hand with the crisp white linen tables. It is apparent that the whole concept has been lovingly and thoughtfully designed to offer the perfect mix of opulence and simplicity. I immediately felt relaxed and that there was no sense of urgency. This is a place to sit back, chat and simply be in the moment.
Our delightful Italian waiter Lorenzo greeted us offering a description of the specials and also his recommended cocktails. I was bowled-over to find out that the staff are put through an intense two week training course which includes sampling the whole entire menu! This knowledge of the product inspires confidence and instils a passion for the company and according to Lorenzo, really built a sense of camaraderie between the team.
The ample menu covers all from Eggs Florentine at dawn to Grilled Whole Lobster at dusk. There is just the right amount of surprise blended with familiar favourites.
The cocktails are as refined as the venue and I could not resist starting my evening with a delightful English spritz, which I highly recommend for a crisp, light and refreshing libation. The manager recommended the Martinborough, craggy range Sauvignon Blanc for our table as we were both leaning towards white fish. This zingy wine lived up to expectations and worked perfectly with the citrus and garlic flavours.
To start, I ordered the yellowfin tuna carpaccio with tomato, watermelon, ponzu dressing, miso Mayo and sesame. It was perfection, so much so that I have been incredibly decadent over the past few weeks and been back half a dozen times for this starter and a glass of The Ivy champagne.
My mum Claire ordered the tempura prawns; crunchy fried Nobashi prawns with pickled mouli, cucumber, edamame and a matcha tea sauce. These are well balanced texture and flavours and not too heavy allowing room for the next course.
I decided to order the blackened cod fillet for my main course, baked in a banana leaf with citrus-pickled fennel, grilled broccoli and chill yuzu mayonnaise. This dish was sensational with an appealing texture, great flavour and evidently cooked to perfection as the fillet fell perfectly into large chunks of succulent fish.
There are certain Ivy favourites that have amassed their own following over the years such as the shepherds pie or The Ivy signature hamburger and since the Brighton launch this spring I have heard rave reviews about so many delights on the menu. However if you enjoy seafood I can promise you this was the best cod that I personally have experienced on the south coast.
Given the warm summers evening my mum decided to also try the fish on the specials board and chose a beautifully presented whole oven roasted sea bream with aromatic fennel, lightly spiced. To accompany ,we ordered the baked sweet potato and tender stem broccoli as sides to share and these two were packed with flavour.
We were informed by one of the team that chef Olsi was in charge of our evening and given the smiles and gasps of excitement, I would say that we were not the only table satisfied with our delectable cuisine.
Our first two courses were equally accomplished, however the piece du resistance was by far the divine melting chocolate bombe. As this glorious chocolate ball arrived we both stopped talking to gaze in awe as our waitress slowly poured the hot salted caramel sauce across the crisp shell only to reveal a honeycomb centre with vanilla ice cream. A Willy Wonka moment that ended our delightful dining experience on a tremendous chocolaty high!
As we finished our meal we moved to the central bar for a night cap and to soak up the electric colours and beautiful design.
The Ivy in the Lanes has some fantastic unique touches including a private dining room that hosts 20 guests and a magical ladies loo. Yes that’s right! The ladies lavatory is fast becoming an Instagram favourite with its glorious golden floral wall coverings, circular design, velvet sofa and true Hollywood glamour fit for a starlet. It really is show stopping!
The Ivy has certainly spread its magic to our South Coast shores with its Gatsby feel, eclectic mix of art and design. This is luxury, but without the prohibitive prices – distinctive and divine and definitely somewhere incredibly special for all to enjoy!