The Ivy arrived in Norwich last year and I have visited three times now. Each of those times for a special occasion. As I have said before, we are absolutely spoilt for choice when it comes to dining out in Norwich, but if you are looking to celebrate or go out for a special occasion- I think your choices refine as you search for the perfect place to visit.
A few Sundays ago, my Husband and I had one of those occasions and on a Sunday evening we headed out with a reservation at The Ivy.
We stopped en-route for a pre-dinner drink at Panda; a wine, cocktail and deli bar on Redwell Street. Panda is fast becoming one of my favourite places to go for either an aperitif or a night cap! It has a wonderful atmosphere and a great choice of wines. Bear had a pint of Asahi Beer and I had a glass of Montauto Gessaia Savignon Blanc, which was dry but fresh with hints of elderberry. We spent about an hour here and then wandered down to The Ivy.
The Ivy on London Street is one seriously good-looking restaurant. From the beautiful high ceilings and stunning chandeliers to the decorative foliage and subdued lighting.
It is an expected, but still impressive dose of Ivy magic that greets you when you walk in.
The restaurant creates a sophisticated atmosphere, with delicate jazz playing in the background, and gorgeous whimsical décor (the hot air balloons floating up the wall are my favourite). When the aesthetic values are this high, the food has to stand up and be just as impressive- and this is the wonderful balance and promise The Ivy has made all over the country for many many years.
Our reservation was for 7.30pm, and when we arrived we were shown straight to our table. The restaurant was much quieter than I had seen before. My last two visits had been on busy weekend days with every table occupied, a full complement of staff and people drinking at the bar awaiting their tables. On this bright Sunday evening, the restaurants’ mood was calm and quiet.
We requested The Ivy’s Vegan and Vegetarian Menu – and I was happy to see it had changed from my last visit, making the most of seasonal produce.
Tomato and basil soup, served with red pepper, vegan cheese and black olives
Sweet potato Keralan curry with chickpeas, broccoli, coriander and coconut served with rice on the side
Polenta cake stack with aubergine, spinach, tomatoes and vegan parmesan cheese
Chenin Blanc, Acacia Tree, Western Cape, South Africa
The food was wonderful and I have come to expect nothing less. The tomato soup was just perfect. It landed in front of us, with the fresh ingredients placed perfectly in the centre of the white bowl. The waiter poured the soup at the table, submerging the flavours, as the bowl filled with a vibrant red soup.
I had only glanced at the menu for a second before I spotted the polenta stack and knew that was my choice! The polenta cakes were crunchy on the outside and light and bouncy in the middle. The dish had a certain amount of impact, mostly because of its height and it was a great summer main dish.
(A note, if like me you are a polenta addict- I have noticed that sadly, it has already disappeared from the menu so hopefully it will return again soon!).
Bear had the colourful and hearty sweet potato Keralan curry and he thoroughly enjoyed that too. The rice on the side is a great idea, giving the diner the choice on how to balance curry-to-rice ratios. Needless to say both plates were empty when they were collected!
We had ordered a side of chips to go with our meals, which didn’t come when the mains arrived. We prompted our waiter who said it would be, right out. The side followed about fifteen minutes later- piping hot, and so it was rather obvious it had been forgotten about.
We also ordered a bottle of Chenin Blanc to go with our food. Our waiter poured our first glass and then took the bottle away to the far corner of the restaurant, and as you would expect, explained they would keep our wine topped up. Again, we had to prompt our waiter for the duration of our meal, everytime our glasses emptied. Even with the bill on the table- we had to ask again if there was any wine left and to my surprise there was still a glass each.
There is a certain level of expectation in a restaurant like The Ivy, particulary because they add a 12.5% service charge to your bill. While it is optional and can be removed at the diner’s request- I think the inclusion of it as standard on the bottom of each bill is a sign of the restaurants confidence, commitment and implied assurance to you, that their service will be attentive and friendly.
This expectation coupled with, a quiet restaurant of maybe five or six small tables and my experiences of amazing service when the restaurant was full to bursting- led to a few niggles and frustrations.
However, the food was still beautiful and I cannot help but love The Ivy. So I will forgive them a more laid back Sunday service and of course return- hopefully to find the polenta stack back on the menu !