We all know that ivy can spread like wildfire and so it seems has the legendary, once exclusive, Ivy Restaurant. Having launched a parallel chain concept to introduce their brand to the aspiring middle classes, it may well be coming to a high street near you. Okay, so the new restaurants have the subtitles, ‘Grill’, ‘Cafe’, ‘Brasserie’ or ‘Garden’ attached to them in order to distinguish them from their older, much grander big sister on West Street Covent Garden, but it’s nevertheless impossible not to get a little bit excited when one is due to open on your own doorstep.
Much as there is a tragedy in the Ivy name being banded about by all and sundry, owner Richard Caring has been careful about the locations he has chosen; the Ivy Clifton Brasserie in the most affluent corner of Bristol is a case in point and 39 Milsom Street in Bath is just about as fine a premises for a brasserie as you are ever likely to step into. Formerly a Natwest bank (what a waste), the multi-million pound transformation is nothing short of ravishing; showing off the high Georgian ceilings and arched windows looking onto one of the most famous shopping streets in the country, while the flattering lighting and Art Deco-inspired interiors are reminiscent of a grand brasserie you’d be likely to find on a boulevard in Paris.
Nor does this latest Ivy little sister fall into the trap of becoming anonymous; the cocktail list features revised classics such as the ‘Milsom Street Royale’, the ‘Somerset Spritz’ and the ‘Georgian Mojito’, while the walls are a colourful patchwork of art celebrating the city’s remarkable heritage, all specifically curated for the Bath Brasserie. This is pleasing to locals and visitors alike, and coupled with the experienced operations team who always attend new openings to ensure everything runs smoothly, it seems as though the restaurant has been around for years.
All-day dining means that you can find an excuse for popping along whenever you’re feeling a bit peckish; from the appealing breakfast with everything from a full English to pancakes with maple syrup; an avocado on sourdough brunch with lashings of fizz alongside; a virtuous salad lunch with the ladies; celebratory afternoon teas featuring gloriously sticky Bath buns; a quick pre-theatre supper; or my personal preference, the full a la carte when the lights are dimmed, the nostalgic-sounding jazz is turned up a notch and time isn’t an issue.
The heady truffle arancini are a must with an aperitif, and the menu is fortunately extensive enough to warrant a lengthy peruse. Packed with crowd-pleasing British classics and dishes with more of a modern spin, while I love the crunchy fried prawns with green papaya, cucumber, edamame and a slightly bitter matcha tea sauce, my chap never could resist a prawn cocktail, delightfully done. Meanwhile, my decadent duck liver parfait with a tamarind glaze, hazelnuts, a pear and ginger compote and accompanying brioche toast was my idea of seventh heaven.
As for mains, there is no pretentiousness save the whole grilled lobster, and even that is reasonably priced. Alongside, you’ll find pretty much every comfort food you can think of, from the signature fish and chips to fragrant duck curry or steak, egg and chips. Personally, I’m a fan of their simple, yet beautiful, crab linguine and the slow cooked dishes now that the nights are drawing in; the Ivy’s justifiably famous shepherd’s pie or the unctuous slow cooked lamb shoulder with roasted roots and creamed potato.
The desserts are equally pleasing, a lemon curd Alaska getting top marks with me, while with my chap happily exchanged an after dinner coffee for an airy flourless cappuccino cake finished with milk foam and an intense coffee sauce. Much as I am usually sceptical about chain restaurants, and even more so when it comes to such a famous name, all reservations were put to bed after my first experience. Those reservations have turned into countless more under the name of Lipkin. When the first floor terrace opens in time for summer next year I suspect nabbing a table will be rather like trying to beat your fellow holidayers to a sun lounger.
The Ivy Bath Brasserie, 39 Milsom Street, Bath BA1 1DS, is open daily from 8am. For more information and reservations please visit the website.