This is the latest opening from the ever-growing Caprice Holdings group. Situated in High Street Kensington, almost opposite the tube station, this all-day dining brasserie opened its doors on December 15, 2015.
An off shoot of the original (and recently revamped – reviewed here) Ivy in Covent Garden, this the 4th sister site, the others being The Ivy Market Grill, The Ivy Chelsea Garden and the Ivy Café in Marylebone.
All share a modern British menu including breakfast, elevenses, lunch, afternoon tea, weekend brunch, light snacks and dinner. Tables are held back for walk-ins so it’s not always necessary to book. The Kensington branch is much more of your neighbourhood local where you can just pop in for a reviving snack whilst out shopping or later for a relaxing dinner.
The interior very much reflects the Ivy character – the original restaurant was recently re-fitted by Martin Brudnizki Design Studio and also consulted on the design of the brasserie.
It cleverly reflects some of the Ivy’s iconic features – the diamond shaped leaded windows are not here but the mirrored panels and the diamond patterned marble floor carry on that theme, as do the dark green leather banquettes and vintage style brass studded stools along side the gleaming antique pewter bar.
Vintage artwork around the room depicts the Great Exhibition 1851 and many illustrate the crystal palace, which cleverly gives the effect of those famous leaded windows.
After a warm welcome by the charming maitre d’ we were promptly shown to our table. My first impression reminded me of a traditional French brasserie, at the front more casual dining, circular tables without cloths for those who drop in for a coffee and a snack(daytime only), further back behind the lattice screens are the crisp white linen clad tables for more leisurely visits.
There is a raised area with a large ten-cover table giving you a great vantage point over the restaurant, perfect for family gatherings. It’s hard to believe this has only been open a few weeks as it already feels established like a favourite local haunt – it was busy with a nice buzz and everyone seemed very relaxed and comfortable.
The menu is modern British and you will find a few of the old Ivy classics, the famous shepherds pie is there and the frozen berry dessert, as you would expect the food is about comfort classics but with some modern twists.
Depending on what time of day you are here, the menu offers all-day dining, with afternoon teas and brunch at weekends, but we were there for dinner.
Our immaculately dressed waiter settled us in and while we perused the menu we plumped for a couple of cocktails as an aperitif. Being surrounded by the great exhibition images I went for the ‘exhibitionist’ a blend of Bourbon, Cointreau, cranberry maple syrup and bitters, served in the bottom half of the cocktail shaker complete with the strainer.
While it looked amazing it was pretty awkward to drink and would have been so much better in a glass; thoughtfully the waitress spotted my struggle and came to the rescue with a straw. However it was delicious and very potent.
My companion plumped for ‘a road less travelled’ – equally delicious and in a beautiful flute. There are 12 bespoke cocktails to choose from and I am sure if you have a particular favourite there wouldn’t be any problem in them whipping one up for you.
The wine list is well chosen and something to suit everyone’s pocket – a bottle of house red or white for £19.50 is great value and at the other end of the spectrum Grand Cru Bordeaux is available for £200 a bottle.
The sommelier was well informed and helpful when choosing the wine, I ordered a New Zealand Chenin Blanc, Te Arai (£42) which was delicious – it was recommended to go with my fish and was a great choice.
The menu is broken down into several sections – Breakfast, All-day, Afternoon, al la Carte etc so there is plenty to choose from.
To start I went for the Chicken liver parfait (£6.75) with warm toast and chutney. It came in its own individual kilner jar and was far from small. The pate was smooth and nicely pink but was enough to feed two easily, it could easily be a meal in itself – as I am about to find out the portions here are generous.
My companion picked a starter of truffle Arancini (£5.50) from the all-day menu, dinky little crispy balls in a paper cone. Very moreish.
As a main I tried the roasted cod fillet with creamed leeks, bacon and haricot beans with Champagne and clam sauce (£16.95). I was informed that the clams would be substituted with Mussels, which was fine by me.
It was a nice chunky bit of cod, crispy skin although I felt it was a little overcooked and a bit dry. A little copper saucepan on the plate had the mussels in Champagne sauce, which was lovely. In a moment of weakness we ordered some Parmesan truffle chips (£4.50) to go with the dish, definitely worth the extra calories.
My companion chose the slow roasted shoulder of lamb (£16.25) on parmesan polenta, roasted peppers and rosemary sauce. The meat was meltingly tender, the polenta soft and buttery, and the sauce rich and flavoursome. A popular dish around us seemed to be the mussels and chips, endless trays pilled with big black pots of mussels wafted past us – they must be good to be that popular.
At this point, dessert seemed impossible, but being unhurried and able to pace ourselves we managed to be tempted. Chocolate is my weakness and I couldn’t resist the warm flourless chocolate cake (£7.50) served with Kirsch cherries and whipped cream. It was light, not overly strong as some chocolate cakes can be and perfect with the little alcoholic cherries.
The lemon meringue Alaska sounded amazing and just had to be tried as well – it was a triumph and looked spectacular. Only one thing could have improved it and that would be to sharpen up the sauce a little.
Warm, welcoming, immaculately dressed and well informed. Staff seemed happy and confident, and went out of their way to ensure you had a good experience.
Good location and a great way the get the ‘Ivy experience’ without waiting months for a table. It’s smart but not stuffy – the sort of place that anyone would be comfortable in. As we arrived we overheard a guest leaving and booking another table for the next day – already it seems to be well established as the neighbourhood place to go. I would definitely return.
- OPENING HOURS Monday to Friday 7.30am-11pm, Saturday 8am-11.30pm, Sunday 9am-10.30pm
- PRICES Starters from £5.50 -£11.50 Mains £13.50- £34
- CONTACT The Ivy Kensington Barasserie, 96 Kensington High Street, London W8 4SG; Reservations 020 3301 0500 theivykensingtonbrasserie.com