We managed to wangle a table at the soft opening of the brand new Ivy Market Grill in Covent Garden. Great restaurant, great location.... this place is at the top of my list of London restaurants now.
Everybody has heard of The Ivy Restaurant. It was and still is one of the great celebrity spotting restaurants in London. Hordes of paparazzi lurk around the doorway and if you are lucky enough to get a table you normally get to see someone famous. It is also one of very few restaurants that deserves its reputation - I have had the pleasure of eating there a few times and have always thoroughly enjoyed the food and the atmosphere. Pricing there was also never as bad as you feared when you walked in.
And now The Ivy has given birth to a little brother and it is a fantastic idea. It features all day dining from breakfast until dinner and a very substantial menu. Only half of the tables can be booked in advance and the rest are for walk-ins. The location itself is genius.
The Ivy Market Grill is right on the square by Covent Garden Market and will get a great mix of tourists, business people and theatre-goers. As soon as you walk in you can feel that this place is well thought out. The design is classy and there is enough space between tables to feel comfortable. There is a great view towards bustling Covent Garden if you get a window seat.
We were there for a soft opening, which meant that the meal was free but we saw the prices and to be honest I thought that it was very reasonably priced for the location. Sandwiches were expensive but the rest of the food (which you can see here) was no more expensive than other restaurants in the area. It's not "cheap" but this isn't a restaurant that has an exorbitant price tag given that it has probably the most desirable location in London and a great name.
Originally we were going to go without the baby but due to a last minute change of plans we took her along. Normally I wouldn't warn a restaurant in advance that there is a baby coming, but on this occasion I did because I was aware that it was the soft opening. The nice lady on the phone checked with her manager and assured me that it would be fine to bring the buggy and they also have high chairs. When we were arrived I was super-impressed as the restaurant has actually gone beyond the usual "Just squeeze the buggy in somewhere" thought process and given us a table that effectively had a buggy parking space next to it :) . Top work from front of house!
The best bit though was the food. I had the ribeye steak and my wife had rack of lamb. Both were beautifully cooked and easily in our top three meals ever - not bad for a restaurant that still claims to be perfecting things. The vegetables and french fries were great as well. Both pieces of meat were cooked as ordered (lamb - pink no blood and steak medium) which is unusual enough in a restaurant, but whoever did the buying has an excellent supplier. The lamb chops were large and meaty and the steak had no fat on it at all - perfect.
Dessert took the form of the Chocolate Bombe and a vanilla ice cream - both of which were delectable.
The service was very friendly but the waiting staff need the better product knowledge that will come with time.
OK - this isn't most people's idea of a "quick meal with the kids" BUT it is great to know that places like this exist in London. It's a fantastic restaurant for families even though that is not its target market. Need somewhere to eat before the theatre? Want to treat yourself to a nice lunch but have the kids in tow? This is definitely somewhere that we will go back to.