Everyoneâ€™s a celebrity at The Ivy. As we walk through the green curtains we are hit with the lights reflecting the bar, glasses and mirrors, like the flash of baying paparazzi clambering for our photos.
As we walk past the bar, it feels as if weâ€™re models on the runway because everyone, it seems, is looking at us. Well, celebrity spotting, at least. Thatâ€™s why they come, my wife and I agree.
Upstairs is a different scene altogether. The internal lights dance beautifully on the windows and thereâ€™s no one sitting next to us, so our conversations remain private. The music is diverse, with a bit of lounge jazz thrown in. Iâ€™m glad to say, I know none of the songs played. The thing about The Ivy is that it has a great atmosphere, and a good level of noise.
Thereâ€™s a mixture of old and new money, with the ubiquitous well-heeled foreign students thrown into the pot. We relax, as best we can, and thereâ€™s a view along Rose Street, that reminds me of Christmas and simpler times.
The manager offers us tap water; his practicality off-sets his formal attire, a well fitted, and no doubt expensive three buttoned suit. He is replaced by a charming yet quiet waitress, who takes our orders promptly.
I order chicken Milanese. Normally, I wouldnâ€™t order chicken, but the combination of flavours, coupled with the brioche-crumb, on paper at least, sounds like a winner. When it arrives, the San Marzanino tomatoes pack a wallop, combined with the brioche and rocket â€“ but itâ€™s the half lemon Iâ€™ve squeezed over my food that makes the dish sing like La Donna Ã© Mobile from Verdiâ€™s Rigoletto. I catapult myself head long into the truffle and parmesan chips, no chill â€“ which does a great deal to stem the anguish from the flow of Pot Noodles and Marmite sandwiches I inflicted on myself as a student.
Claireâ€™s shrimp and avocado burger is a good size, but the taste reminds me of those dehydrated ones you get at the Chinese supermarket. Sheâ€™s disappointed it came with thick cut chips and snaffles mine every chance she gets. She doesnâ€™t manage to finish the burger or chips; donâ€™t think sheâ€™ll order it again.
For pudding, Claire has a chocolate bombe with salted caramel sauce which, with the inclusion of honeycomb, is meltingly oversweet. My rum baba is delectable, the sponge, light and moreish. I put the last spoon into my mouth and look mournfully at Claireâ€™s bowl of uneaten melted goo.
We both had an enjoyable evening.Â The Ivy is like a pair of old Italian shoes, comfortable and necessary. (I find myself on a broken loo seat and spend ten minutes trying not to slip in either the bowl or floor.Â Get that fixed quick!)
The bill, at Â£72 for two courses and soft drinks, is modest enough for the whole experience.
Photo Credits: Claire Nowbaveh