This week I enjoyed lunch with a friend at the recently opened and ultra-stylish The Ivy Brasserie in Cambridge. I had been very keen to visit this new restaurant because it’s had many gushing and superlative reviews about the food and I’ve heard mixed ones about the service. My own experience was a curious one in several ways but nothing negative could be said about the food which we both agreed was excellent. We fully appreciated eating in this elegant and sophisticated restaurant which is a welcome addition to the Cambridge foodie scene. The rise of a new breed of gastro chains is a growing trend which has been led by The Ivy Collection group who have now rolled out 15 spin-off brasseries with more planned, including one which is due to open soon in Norwich.
The Ivy has own unique bright and vibrant style and the iconic ivy emblem is evident on everything from serviettes to sugar bowls! We observed exceptional attention to detail in the finish of this upmarket restaurant and clearly no expense has been spared. A special mention has to be given to the Cambridge-themed artwork which adorns the walls making it a visually stimulating environment of endless fascination.
The Ivy offers all-day casual dining and the restaurant is open 7 days a week for breakfast, weekend brunch, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, including set menus. We chose to eat from the set menu on this occasion which is available from 11.30am–6.30pm Monday to Friday at a very reasonably priced £16.50 for two courses or £21 for three courses. Booking is advisable but the restaurant also has a dedicated number of unreserved tables available throughout the day for walk-ins. It’s a surprisingly big space and there is a private dining area downstairs.
Our starter of Potted kiln-roast salmon with lemon, dill crème fraîche and granary toast was a savoury delight.
Our main course of Pea, asparagus and goat’s cheese risotto, with rocket and baby shoot salad was a surprisingly generous sized portion and we could only eat half of it. The melting goats cheese sitting atop the risotto was a lovely twist to this classic dish.Our dessert of Lemon posset with Poppyseed shortbread was absolutely divine!
You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned drinks so far in my review because it was rather a fiasco trying to get a soft drink at all, so more on that saga to follow. First, there was confusion on arrival in the lobby area where I was greeted warmly by one member of staff who took my coat and gave me a cloakroom ticket. So far so good until another member of staff appeared who without any interaction took the ticket from my hand and proceeded to give me my coat back when I assumed she would be showing me to my table! Note to the staff – what is wrong with speaking and communication?
When I was eventually seated I was offered still or sparkling water so I asked for tap water whilst I waited for my friend to arrive. A carafe of water was delivered promptly to the table but it wasn’t chilled. After my friend’s arrival, we perused the menus which were on the table and chose a soft drink each. We had to ask a member of staff for the Lunch and Early Evening set menu though and we gave our food order. Despite the restaurant being less than half full (and there seemed to be a lot of smartly dressed staff walking about) I felt the need to complain because I had waited over 30 minutes for my soft drink although my friends Ginger Beer had arrived without delay. I asked our server where my drink was only to be told that some of the components of my drink (a Strawberries and Cream Soda) were unavailable. I ordered a Fever-Tree Elderflower tonic as an alternative. What followed is too long a saga to relate here but we encountered rudeness from a member of the bar staff who eventually brought my drink order when we pointed out politely that it was wrong. There was a curious incident when a small copper jug appeared on the table without any explanation. After asking a member of staff if it was sauce for the fish starter it transpired the jug contained Elderflower cordial for me! Again I say to the staff – where are your communication skills?
When it came to paying the bill we noticed that we hadn’t been charged for my soft drink or for the carafe of tap water which has been refilled on request. I objected to being asked to pay the whopping discretionary 12.5% service charge due to the poor customer service experience we had encountered. When I explained why to the member of staff who took my card payment we were offered an apology and complimentary coffee or tea to complete our meal as compensation.
Despite these small incidents, the food was exceptionally good so both my friend and I plan to return to eat at The Ivy, and we especially like the look of their very moderately priced Afternoon Tea.
Finally two more hints I would pass onto any would-be visitors, – make sure you don’t get charged for tap water as the people at the next table to us were astonished to be billed for it, and be warned that it’s an awful long way to the toilets which are located downstairs and seem like something of an afterthought for a venue of this size.