To be honest, the arrival of the Ivy Brasserie in Bath has been so hotly anticipated that half the city has piled in since the doors opened a few weeks ago – so I wouldn’t really be surprised if you’ve already been (and if you have, leave me a comment and let me know what you thought). I was lucky enough to get a few sneaky peeks before the official launch, but now I’ve been in with my reviewing hat on, so for anyone who hasn’t visited yet, read on for the delicious details…
The beautiful old bank building on Milsom Street, with its lofty ceilings and elegant blue and white rococo, was always a little wasted on Natwest, the previous occupant – so I was delighted to discover that the Ivy have done a wonderful job of turning it into something really special. The restaurant is full of colour, from the deep blue leather banquettes piled with luxurious cushions, to the gorgeous silk-printed artworks (all specially commissioned for Bath, and taking inspiration from Georgian prints and Roman mosaics) that cover the walls, to the floor tiled in warm, autumnal tones. The centrepiece for me is the long bar that separates the two restaurant spaces, with its polished brasswork gleaming in the candlelight, hung with sparkling cut glass stemware, and a long marble top with elegant padded barstools in deep orange leather drawn up alongside. Whether you’re visiting for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea or dinner, there’s definitely the sense of a special occasion.
|The Ivy is full of gorgeous colour & detail|
Having said that, the menu is definitely not as expensive as you might expect – this is one of those things that everyone has asked me about, and I think the prices are pretty reasonable. Most main dishes are around £15, and on weekdays until 6.30, there’s a set menu with three courses for just £21. So while you might not grab lunch here every day, it’s definitely not going to break the bank when you feel like treating yourself.
We started our evening with a champagne cocktail from the bar – a Milsom Street Royale, with rose liqueur, sloe gin and hibiscus syrup, topped with fresh rose petals. This cocktail is special to Bath and absolutely delicious, not too sweet but with a lovely hint of rose, so I’d definitely recommend it. For my first course, I ordered Atlantic sea scallops on a bed of truffle risaroni, which was gorgeous – the scallops were perfectly cooked, and the risaroni (that’s a sort of risotto made with orzo, if you’re wondering) was rich and sticky with lots of melted parmesan. The only element I wasn’t sure about was the sweet potato crisps on top – I’m just not sure they added much – but those aside, this was gorgeous, one of those dishes that I ate really slowly because I didn’t want it to be over. My dining companion chose wild mushrooms in a creamy truffle sauce with toasted brioche, which again was really luxurious and full of flavour – I’d be hard pressed to decide which starter was best.
|Atlantic scallops with incredible truffle risaroni|
For the main course, I couldn’t resist the legendary Shepherd’s Pie, a dish from the menu at the Ivy in London. Before you scoff, it might just be a humble Shepherd’s Pie, but a simple dish done well is a thing of beauty, and this was superbly executed. The mash on top was fabulously cheesy (made with Wookey Hole Cheddar) and underneath was a dark, velvety gravy with tender pieces of beef and lamb shoulder. My only criticism is that many of the main dishes don’t come with a side of any sort, so I had to order something extra alongside, but the peas, sugar snaps and baby shoots recommended by the waitress were delicious and just the thing to freshen up a heavy dish. My dining companion, meanwhile, ordered Chicken Milanese, in golden brioche breadcrumbs, topped with a fried egg and truffle mayonnaise. The chicken was moist and tender, but the star of this dish for me was the truffle mayonnaise – I just had to steal a few of his chips in order to dunk them. To wash it all down, manager Katja suggested a bottle of Pinot Noir, which was just the thing – a little bit lighter than most reds, but still with plenty of flavour, making it suitable to accompany all the dishes we chose.
|The Ivy Shepherd’s Pie with incredible gravy|
Like the main menu, the dessert selection is pretty classic, but there’s nothing wrong with that – we had a difficult time choosing but eventually picked a crème brûlée, and a baked apple tart with vanilla ice cream. The tart was accompanied by a splash of flaming Somerset cider brandy, flickering brilliant blue, but it wasn’t just a gimmick – the hint of brandy created a lovely warmth and countered the sweetness of the apples. The crème brulee had a perfectly crisp sugar top and a silky texture underneath – another simple dish done well.
For a final flourish, I couldn’t resist the salted caramel espresso martini from the coffee menu – I much prefer an espresso martini to a coffee at the end of a meal, as I think it’s nicely refreshing to have something cold. The salted caramel was delicious but not overpowering, and the bar had no problem with my request for a decaf version (which apart from being more suitable to the end of the evening, proves that the Ivy’s espresso martinis are made with fresh coffee, which gets extra brownie points from me). The service throughout was swift and attentive, and the staff were very knowledgeable and eager to help.
|Cheers! Salted caramel espresso martini|
Frankly, I was wondering whether the Ivy Brasserie might turn out to be style over substance, but I’m delighted to say that the food absolutely lived up to the hype. I can’t wait to try more of the menu (I’ve particularly got my eye on the afternoon tea, which looks like a bit of a steal at £17.95) and I’m sure we’ll be spending a few special occasions at the Ivy in the future. Highly recommended.