The Local Foodie gives her verdict on The Ivy Brasserie of St Albans
PUBLISHED: 16:35 30 May 2018 | UPDATED: 16:35 30 May 2018
The Herts Ad's food columnist checks out St Albans' hot new restaurant...
There has been a lot of interest in the recently opened The Ivy Brasserie; the Caring group apparently paid a million pounds for the site on Verulam Road to bring their glamorous brand to St Albans.
I went to the launch party and was invited to a brunch, but I thought the only way to really find out what it is like was to go on a busy lunchtime and pay my own way (we still do things the old-fashioned way at the Herts Ad!).
First things first; The Ivy in St Albans is one of 26 chain spin-offs from the original Ivy in London. It shares the same styling with the signature diamond stained-glass windows, bold artwork and banquette seating. I love the look of the interior which is inspired by St Albans with prints of the Cathedral and huge murals featuring roses. There are fresh flowers everywhere and the tables are set with smart linen and plateware.
In true brasserie style The Ivy is open all day so you can go for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, drinks or dinner. The tables along the banquettes are a little close together so not the place to discuss anything top secret; the round tables are more spacious and were given to families; I was really pleased to see that youngsters were given high chairs and parents made to feel very welcome, which is so important in our city. There are tables outside and bar stools so you can pop in for a coffee or a quick drink if there is space. They are keeping a few tables each day for walk-ins but it is already very popular with tables booked up for weeks ahead.
The restaurant was completely full when we arrived but service was quick and efficient throughout lunch; there are a lot of staff bustling around. There is a long “all day” menu with Ivy classics such as shepherd’s pie and salmon and haddock fish cake as well as plenty of steaks and grilled fish with prices from about £13. We were given a set lunch menu too, with two courses for £16.50 which is a great option.
I chose the roasted butternut squash with buckwheat, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, pomegranate, crumbled feta, harissa and coriander dressing and it was excellent; perfectly cooked squash and piled with delicious flavours. My partner chose chargrilled halloumi with Padrón peppers, red pepper sauce and toasted fregola; again a very generous meal and the halloumi was griddled until really delicious. We didn’t need sides. As we were going back to work afterwards we asked for tap water; this is filtered and they charge a cover of £1.50 a table. Is this cheeky?
Puds include classics such as apple tart and creme brulee nudge £8 which is high for St Albans. There was quite a bit of up-selling; did we want starters first, or are we sure we don’t want alcoholic drinks? I would be the first to order drinks on a Friday night but not on a Tuesday lunchtime.
A quick note on the drinks menu; there are non-alcoholic coolers and juices including rosemary lemonade, which sounds lovely. The cocktail list includes the famous Ivy bloody mary and a negroni tasting set which I want to go back and try. I was pleased to see they are selling The 3 Brewers of St Albans IPA and Classic English Ale. You can get a glass of decent wine for £5 a glass or choose a bottle of Laurent-Perrier, Grand Siecle Champagne for £170, with plenty of delicious-sounding options in between.
Service of 12.5 per cent is added to the bill automatically.
I loved the food; it was delicious, imaginative and generous. The restaurant was busy as brasseries should be, and had a fun atmosphere; I am sure it will continue to be hugely popular.