Here’s a concept for you; take your well oiled high end brand, much sought after by the trendies, the tourists and the out-of-towners and turn it into an accessible, middle-of-the-range ‘brasserie’ bang slap in the middle of Covent Garden. Day two of opening I managed to get myself a table at the Ivy Market Grill for a catch up lunch with mother.
The menu is huge, although once you look properly you quickly find that half of it is irrelevant to dining at lunchtime. The wine list is fairly sparse; they’ve covered the basics and very little else. So we went for a bottle of Pinot Grigio and some tap water.
For starter I had a favourite dish of mine ever since I once went vegetarian for lent – mushrooms on toast. Except restaurants do it so much better than I do because they have access to such a fantastic range of these delicious fungi. It was creamy, it was rich, it was probably saltier than it should have been but it was gorgeous. A lightly toasted baton of brioche held itself together surprisingly well languishing in a puddle of cream and weighted down by mushrooms. Sorry, I’ve gone all Nigella with that description. Mother opted for the crispy wasabi tempura prawns. Which came on a slate, sitting in a couple of different puréed. It’s a pretty looking dish, but it seems like an odd thing to have on a menu consisting of classics absolutely nothing else vaguely resembling a nod to Chinese / Japanese cuisine.
On to the mains and I had their version of what is gradually becoming my usual choice of dish vienna schnitzel, except it wasn’t veal – chicken Milanese with a fried duck egg and black truffle – which was way way too greedy for lunch, but it was lovely. The chicken was good and moist under the crispy breadcrumbed coating and it had a good flavour. The egg and the shaved truffle along with whatever sauce it was that was zig-zagged over the chicken made for a delicious dish, but as I mentioned above, too much even for me to finish.
The only slight gripe, and I imagine it’s purely down to it being very early days, is that the service is slow. Charming and subtle, but slow and it was clear a couple of times that the waitress’ grasp of English wasn’t as good as it should be, but at the same time, they didn’t get anything wrong, so it’s a bit unfair of me to say that. I had arranged with a colleague to take a long lunch but once the main courses had been cleared I realised we were approaching 2 hours which was a little over the – oh, I’ll be back in an hour and a half – casually said over my shoulder as I was leaving. So a quick coffee and the bill. And we were off.
I didn’t see the bill as mother kindly took care of that for us but, as a guess, for the quality of food and size of portions the bill wasn’t too scary. Obviously because it’s part of the Ivy and because it’s in Covent Garden they can probably charge a little more, but I think it’s a great addition to the area and I would choose there over Balthazaar any day.