BY PALOMA LACY
Once upon a time Canary Wharf was solely for business folk, jollying it up at lunchtimes and after work.
Weekend visits felt like entering a ghost town but that’s all changed.
Even before the pandemic, this magnificent addition to the City’s skyline was attracting weekend visitors, no longer put off by towering skyscrapers but drawn to it for this very reason.
Recently opened, The Ivy in the Park is the poster boy for the changing face of the financial district, leading the way and setting exemplary standards for the rest to follow.
Despite the brand rolling out a number of restaurants across London, it still feels more than a little special to say you’ve been to the Ivy, even if it’s not the Covent Garden original.
If the busy restaurant we met, in between lockdowns, was anything to go by, everyone feels the same.
This restaurant has a special air about it, from diners pausing outside before entering to take a snap underneath the ubiquitous bottle green awning, to those sitting out in the park opposite, in carefully marked out chalk bubbles, looking longingly and wishing they were going in.
This was for me also a special occasion, a chance to mark a dear friend’s 60th birthday, after her party had been cancelled due to Covid-19 early in the year.
Lorraine, Merle and I skipped along to The Ivy to make up for lost time. Everyone inside seemed to celebrating a special occasion – it’s just that kind of place.
The service pleasingly on point, each waiter treating every table as if it were the first they’d served that day.
Our waitress waltzed through the specials and other important information with an enthusiasm rarely seen.
She made us feel at home and set the tone for what was to be the highlight of 2020.
The Ivy has several classic dishes that it’s famed for, those that have been on the menu for more years than anyone cares to remember, which people come back for time and time again.
It’s a menu that’s always full of surprises but it’s tremendously difficult not to order prawn cocktail, followed by Shepherd’s Pie. No restaurant does these dishes quite the same.
The prawn cocktail is the largest, most spectacular ever seen and the other uses a combination of beef and lamb, creating the most delicious base. Topped with the smoothest mash potato, with just enough Wookey Hole Cheddar – it’s simply a taste sensation.
Quite how we managed it, I don’t know, but successfully stepped away from zucchini fritti, crispy courgette fries, with lemon, chilli and mint yoghurt.
This is perfect sharing plate to munch on, while soaking up the atmosphere but we resisted.
The Ivy is exclusive but the menu remains accessible, with starters starting at £8 and mains at around £13. And best of all, its managed to create a selection of dishes, taking you from healthy plates that’ll leave you feeling virtuous to the downright comforting and slightly naughty dishes.
My smoked salmon starter and The Ivy Hamburger were both classic choices. A light starter seemed the most sensible option to allow me to enjoy a fulsome burger, naturally cooked to exacting specification.
I like mine somewhere between medium and well done and this was achieved to my satisfaction.
Our table was full of standout fish dishes, tempura prawns with salt and pepper squid, fish pie and salmon and smoked haddock fishcakes – all excellent.
This place is a bit of a fish lover’s paradise – from traditional fish and chips and sole meuniere to lobster linguine and yellow fin tuna carpaccio.
My personal favourite – blackened cod fillet is always a winner and substantially better value than at other big name London restaurants. I’ve long admired the way The Ivy manages to take dishes from every corner of the globe and put them together into a menu that flows where in other establishments, it might look confused.
The nod to Asia is as strong as ever, with inclusion of aromatic duck curry and Keralan sweet potato and chestnut curry.
I could go but I think you’ve got the idea, I love The Ivy.
If you’d like to share the experience with a friend, gift vouchers are available.
50 Canada Square Park, Canary Wharf, E14 5FW.
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