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The Ivy Brasserie, central Cambridge

Spirit of the Speakeasy amidst the cobbles - Muddy reviews the Ivy in Cambridge. Er, can move in please?

Location

The opening of the Ivy’s brasserie in Cambridge has been the hot ticket for weeks, and Instagram has been awash with pictures of puddings, cocktails and parties from its prime spot on Trinity Street. The original Ivy restaurant opened in London in 1917, and quickly established itself as a celebrity hot-spot for artists and theatre-types due to its proximity to the West-End. Those with regular tables included Noel Coward, Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier, and A.A. Gill wrote a book inspired by the institution in 1997, The Ivy: The Restaurant and its Recipes. So what, if anything, has been retained of the original spirit in the new regional brasseries, and where does the Cambridge edition fit it to the legacy of this illustrious brand? Well, before all that, let’s get to the good stuff…

The vibe

Art deco meets Peggy Mitchell. But in the most delicious way. The interiors at the Ivy are stunning; full of deco-themed prints inspired by Cambridge’s academic and scientific history. And you won’t find just one lonely picture hung in austerity, but panels stuffed full of bold, vintage prints sourced, curated and designed by Adam Ellis. Go just to see them. We were fortunate enough to visit on a Saturday night and inside is a glamourous, heady space with a gleaming bar and well cushioned, shadowy corners where anything might happen. On this particular night, we witnessed late lunchers lounging on for cocktails, energetic friends who’d bought their fashion A-game (glitter, gold, sequins, leopard print, you get the idea…), and couples out for date night. The vibe was fun, flirtatious and fizzy.

Scoff and Quaff

The kitchen is headed up by Stuart Conibear, an award winning chef whose impressive CV includes a stint as the private chef of Prince Charles. The food at the Ivy is an excellent example of solid, brasserie style dishes. This is the type of place you could bring kids, parents, friends and everyone would find something they’d love on the menu. It’s reliable. We started with a strawberry cream soda and peach and elderflower iced tea, both yummy. For starters, it was crunchy fried Nobashi prawns with pickled mouli, cucumber, edamame and a matcha tea sauce, and the duck liver parfait, which, as someone who can’t contemplate this as food choice, am reassured was very fine indeed. The prawns were tasty, and the Asian sauces and nibbly bits were very moreish. For mains, we opted for the lamb; slow roasted and herb crusted (which I took a snaffle of and was melt in the mouth), and blackened cod, another Asian inspired dish; sticky, unctuous and accompanied by a yuzu mayonnaise. Oh, and the truffle fries are a must. Pudding was the Trinity College burnt cream (crème brulee, in English) and the chocolate bombe which disintegrates when you pour over the melting caramel sauce in a bit of table theatrics.

Out and About

Slap bang in the centre of town, this is the perfect place for a post or pre-shop anything – cocktail, lunch, dinner or drinks. Add this to your list of must-do’s in Cambridge, if only for the fun vibe and gorgeous interiors. The space is very versatile and there’s also a beautiful private dining room downstairs, but, frankly, the Ivy is a great place to just people watch, relax and enjoy the atmosphere whether it’s for  brunch, a quick drink or three courses. It’s going to fit in just fine in Cambridge.

The Muddy Verdict

Good for – Anyone who wants a fun night out with good food, a great atmosphere and lots of options on the menu.

Not for – Picky foodies – perhaps not for you if you’d rather have space, time and relative quiet to pour over the finer details of your meals.

The damage

Very reasonable – Most entrees £7-10, mains are around the £14-16 mark, desserts £6-8.

The Ivy, 16 Trinity St, Cambridge CB2 1TB, 01223 344044

 

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