DUBLIN GETS ANOTHER OUTPOST OF A UK
HIGH STREET CHAIN AND MADNESS DESCENDS.
13-17 Dawson Street
Phone: 01 695 0744
The Irish Daily Mail
11 August 2018
This was the first time that our photographer was refused access to take pictures for a review. The reviews published so far have been largely positive, with one exception, the one from Leslie Williams in The Examiner (which is worth seeing here for balance). Since my own appeared a friend said to me “The Ivy is for the 30-somethings who go to Marco Pierre White down the street just because he’s on television.” There may be something in that, but the food is better.
Cultural cringe? I thought this was why tables at newcomer The Ivy on Dawson Street are even rarer than a TD in a well-cut suit. This is the twenty-somethingth manifestation of The Ivy, all the others being in the UK, the last one bringing a touch of London glamour to the blazer- and twin-set-and-pearls world of Guildford in the Surrey stockbroker belt.
But no. When The Ivy opened at Chelsea Harbour the well-heeled of SW3 were so seduced that there was, at first, a waiting list of several weeks.
After a few false starts and using an assumed name I eventually managed to get a table for two. The ruse didn’t last long as I was soon greeted by name by Ian Kenny, an exceptionally good bloke and one of the assistant managers, whom I know from his days at The Guinea Grill in Mayfair.
The place is vast, a riot of botanical design with lots of brass, shine and sparkle. As is compulsory these days there’s a bar the size of a Saint Tropez yacht and muzak detectable solely by the throb of bass.
There were girls’ nights out in progress, some having spent hours in titivation, others – the ones having more fun, possibly – having come in their work clothes. There were scattered outbreaks of fake tan and couples taking selfies to prove to social media that they have managed to get a golden ticket.
Marina O’Loughlin has described The Ivy’s schtick as “the dollying up of basic foodstuffs with the trappings of grand hotels”, but this is not the whole story. I mean, I first encountered halloumi in the original Ivy in London in 1993. But The Ivy does like a bit of theatre and there’s an elaborate ritual of what looks like – in the distance – setting fire to a tarte tatin at the table.
My daughter loved the crispy duck salad that came with watermelon, toasted cashews, beansprouts and a kind of all-purpose Chinese dressing. I would have liked it more had the crispness not been pretty well its sole raison d’être.
My tuna carpaccio wasn’t. Carpaccio implies slices so thin that you can see the pattern on the plate through it. But what I got was better: thin (smoked salmon thin) slices of yellow fin tuna, dressed with cubes of watermelon, tomato, an intense soya sauce, citrusy yuzu mayonnaise and black sesame. Simple, delicious, faultless.
My daughter’s roasted salmon was cooked à point, served with unseasonal asparagus, a half lemon wrapped in muslin and a little boat of sharp, creamy, green, herby sauce. This is the old very grand hotel thing, a revival of how things used to be done, nostalgic for older people, a revelation for younger ones.
Good very buttery mashed potato accompanied the main courses, the other of which was “flatiron chicken”. Both breasts were flattened out and cooked quickly, finished under a hot grill while keeping the flesh moist. And it worked. The intense, lemony “jus” was a taste of home, literally very similar to our own chicken gravy, although made with gremolata and rosemary.
Dessert was a chocolate bombe, essentially an outer shell of chocolate in the shape of a sphere in the core of which was honeycomb ice cream. Hot salted caramel sauce poured over the top melts the casing (there was a nanosecond when we thought it might not quite manage it) to reveal the inside. It’s more theatre, more restaurant as entertainment, and it’s no hardship to eat.
Two quibbles. I asked for a sliver of Cooleeney to finish, rather than the menu’s trio and got a whole cheeseboard of Cooleeney: far more than I could eat or wanted to pay for. This seemed rather telling, underlining that The Ivy is a formula to be rolled out, with no room for discretion. And there were lengthy pauses between ordering, starters arriving and between courses; lengthier than is acceptable in this kind of restaurant. But it’s early days.
Service was very good and our bill, including mineral water and a bottle of Mâcon-Villages and a glass of red came to €160.