I’d forgotten how glamorous The Ivy was, how all enveloping, the wow factor that caresses you with its elegant fingers the minute you step through the doors off Oxford’s High Street into its welcoming sleek embrace.
The art nouveau decor alone makes it worth a visit, that and a reverence not only to a bygone era of decadence and Bohemia but also to a suited and booted style of service rare these days that makes you feel special, spoilt, cosseted, refined, it’s that kind of place.
And when you’ve been cooped up indoors for three plus months, very welcome.
Of course there were changes. Our temperature was taken by an officious machine on arrival, there were less people, the tables were further apart, the hustle and bustle that has come to characterise Oxfrd’s Ivy was notably lacking.
It felt liberating to be wearing a dress, heels, lipstick, to walk down Oxford’s wet streets, stomachs rumbling
But in its place there was space, space to admire the beauty of the rooms, relish the high ceilings, wallow in the occasion. It didn’t feel sparse or awkward, but more private members club than party destination.
I loved it. I’ve been to The Ivy several times before, from the opulence of the opening party to lunches, coffees and dinners since. But it has been a bit hit and miss to be honest, mainly due to the vast numbers of people processing through its doors, too many to cope with it seemed sometimes, foisted by its own petard.
But on this showery weekday lunchtime it was perfect. We dressed up of course, my wardrobe to be unexpectedly required for something other than comfortable clothes. It felt liberating to be wearing a dress, heels, lipstick, to walk down Oxford’s wet streets, stomachs rumbling.
The starters were so enticing we almost forgot the mains, nibbling on asparagus with a plump shiny yellow truffle hollandaise and some pert pea soup with just the right bite, served from a silver jug
It also meant that we could choose our table rather than being wedged into a space somewhere, picking the prime spot in the far corner against the old bank’s front windows, the dining room flooded with light.
A glass of champagne (well why not – it’s not as if we’ve been out much recently), some lovely house rose to accompany the meal, olives and almonds to whet our appetites, then some heavenly Zucchini fritti (crispy courgette fries with lemon, chilli and mint yoghurt).
The starters were so enticing we almost forgot the mains, nibbling on asparagus with a plump shiny yellow truffle hollandaise, some pert pea soup with just the right bite, served from a silver jug with a layered pastry crouton stick complete with edible flowers. It is this attention to detail that counts.
The Laverstock Park Farm mozzarella with hazelnut, grapes, parsley and mint was another exciting starter which melted on the tongue.
Mains included blackened cod fillet baked in a banana leaf with a soy and sesame marinade, citrus pickled fennel, grilled broccoli, chilli and yuzu mayonnaise (£17.50); a beautifully cooked and marinated piece of fish.
The Keralan sweet potato curry with choy sum, broccoli, coriander and coconut with steamed jasmine rice was another exotic offering, in stark contrast to The Ivy’s old school reputation of shepherds pie and Caesar salad.
However the vegetarian menu, which was so enticing, had to be asked for like a dirty secret, rather than presented or handed over with the main menus, which was surprising considering the vast numbers now adhering to, or choosing, a more vegetarian diet.
Room then for dessert – a top-tappingly pleasing creme brûlée and a masterful French apple tart with vanilla ice cream; thin buttery pastry, light slices of pomme, drenched in Calvados, reminiscent of Brittany.
In the meantime though we were more than content to let the afternoon slip delicately away while we put the world to rights in this wonderful corner of Oxford.
The perfect escape from normality in every sense of the word.
And with the government’s new discounted lunch scheme (READ ABOUT IT HERE https://www.oxinabox.co.uk/eat-out-to-help-out-is-the-difference-between-survival-and-bankruptcy-what-oxfordshire-eateries-think-about-the-chancellors-lifeline/) there really will be no excuse not to.
Go to https://theivyoxford.com to book or find out more details.