Restaurant review - The Ivy Spinningfields, Manchester
PUBLISHED: 08:57 08 January 2019 | UPDATED: 08:57 08 January 2019
It's the biggest restaurant to open in the UK this year - the northern outpost of a brand synonymous with celebrity. We try out Manchester's version of The Ivy
I’m sitting in the biggest, glitziest, most hotly-anticipated restaurant of the year, and I’m eating chips and gravy.
Well, not quite. I’m enjoying The Ivy’s signature shepherd’s pie (£13.95) - a staple dish you will still find on the menu of the original Ivy in West Street, London.
It’s a more-ish puck of slow-braised lamb shoulder with beef, topped sparingly with mash enlivened by Wookey Hole cheddar. But there’s a silver gravy boat accompanying the pie, and that glossy, translucent gravy goes very nicely with a side order of thick-cut chips (£3.75). There’s modern British, and modern Manc.
The exquisitely-styled four-storey pavilion which is The Ivy Spinningfields bursts on to the city’s dining scene at the most uncertain, Brexit-befuddled times. This is a huge vote of confidence in Manchester’s drawing power, although it must surely have caused a shiver of trepidation among other of the city’s eateries whose gastronomy also comes with a side order of celeb-tinged glamour.
First the floor plan. The ground floor is the Ivy Brasserie - open all day, seven days a week. First floor is private dining, second floor is Ivy Asia - Asian-inspired food and cocktails - and the top floor is the Ivy Roof Garden, offering food and cocktails amid a riot of foliage and fire pits, with the retractable roof down, weather permitting, which, this being Manchester in winter, won’t be any time soon. We’re in the Brasserie, days after opening, on a cold and rainy night, and it’s already looking like the place to see and be seen. The furnishings and decor are a riot of opulence with the accent on art deco. The room is broken up nicely with booths, the atmosphere is buzzy and the music - funky, jazzy - is pretty loud.
There are some very affordable options on the menu, and wines by the 175ml glass from £5.95. Or you could go the lobster and champagne route. We start with a crispy duck salad (£8.50) - another one from the London menu - which has shreds of five spice-flavoured duck with toasted cashews, watermelon and beansprouts. It’s a delicious combination, by turns nutty, sweet, aromatic and crunchily substantial.
Our other starter of smoked salmon and crab (£11.75) arrives as a huge glass plate, covered with salmon, a dollop of crab and dill cream, with dark rye bread on the side.
That Ivy shepherd’s pie is delicious, and I could, have eaten it twice over. Our other main is slow-cooked lamb shoulder (£17.25) with a herb crust, a rosemary sauce and creamed potatoes, carrots and swede. It’s a British dish done perfectly.
Then, a bit of theatre. Chocolate bombe (£8.50) is a sphere of chocolate over which the waiter pours a hot salted caramel sauce, the dome melting to reveal the core of vanilla ice cream. The Ivy’s version of rum baba is a chunky portion of cake with chantilly cream and raspberries, with a tot of rum to pour over it yourself.
The food is, then, pretty special. But the acid test for a brand so steeped in celebrity culture is whether the place makes you, the customer, feel special. With a small army of attentive staff and interior design which shrieks glamour, the answer to that question is, probably yes.
The Ivy Spinningfields, The Pavilion, Byrom Street, Spinningfields, Manchester M3 3HG. Tel 0161 503 3222 theivymanchester.com