The Ivy: is it set for a starring role in Birmingham?


The Queen was no where to be seen when I ate at Birmingham’s newest restaurant.

Nor Geri Halliwell, Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Angelina Jolie, Madonna, David Beckham nor any of the other celebrities who’ve scoffed dinner at The Ivy in London’s West End.

It’s sibling restaurant overlooking Birmingham Cathedral was nevertheless busy on a midweek evening when the sun was shining.

Such, I guess, is the lure of a name associated over the years with an array of stars and dignitaries.

Buy a bowl of soup at a joint used by the stars and you’re buying a tiny fragment of their lifestyle.

That fork with which you eat your lamb might have touched the bulbous lips of Angelina Jolie.

That cup from which you sip your coffee might have survived the ordeal of coming into contact with Tom Cruise’s rictus grin.

Nicole Kidman may have farted on the seat on which you sit and David Beckham may have once sat at your table discussing Derrida with Geri Halliwell.

Which isn’t, of course, true of the Birmingham outpost.

This, it seemed to me, is just another chain restaurant which, in truth, I found rather dull.

The decor

There’s a 1920s vibe to the place, with lots of florid decor and prints.

The downstairs room, with its attractive bar, is light and airy.

We were ushered to the upstairs dining area, which is darker, with sage green walls and the same preponderance of prints.

Tables are so close together that waiting staff struggled to edge past my chair to pour wine for the women sitting next to us and for me to strike up a conversation with the guy sitting on the other side.

The service

The Sardinian waiter who tended our table was charming and attentive.

But dishes were very slow emerging from the kitchen and the bottle of Austrian grüner veltliner we drank was inadequately chilled when first brought to the table, though cooled down in an ice bucket as the evening wore on.

The cynic is me is tempted to suspect that they’re trying to get you to drink faster and buy more.

Perish the thought.

The food

There’s an all-day offering ranging from breakfasts, sandwiches, afternoon tea and more formal dinner dishes.

Plenty of boxes are ticked – British classics here, Italian staples there, a nod to the Far East.

Odd that such an extensive menu should leave me unexcited.

The Ivy, Birmingham

But my starter of a mild goats cheese with sliced apple, golden raisins, hazelnuts, pickled walnut and Belgian endive was rather good.

There was a good contrast of textures and a well-judged balance of sweet, savoury and bitter flavours.

The Ivy, Birmingham

My wife’s raw market salad was an exceptionally pretty dish – beautifully thin slices of vegetables with vibrant colours enhanced by a garnish of flowers.

Beneath an avocado hummus was very pleasant indeed.

But now, however, the big moan.

The fish and chips that for me came next were something that won’t linger fondly in my memory.

One cod fillet was good – flaking white flesh beneath a crunchy amber batter.

The other was horrible – the batter pale and soft.

The Ivy, Birmingham

The mushy peas were OK, if a little under-seasoned for my taste.

But the chips were no where near crisp enough. Tartare sauce was far too astringent for my palate.

And to add to my woes neither the vinegar pot nor salt cellar would dispense adequate quantities of the seasonings that lurked inside.

Lynn’s salmon and smoked haddock fish cake with a pea and herb sauce and poached egg, however, looked good and apparently ate very well.

The tender stem broccoli we ordered as a side was on the rigid side of al dente.

Neither of us ventured on to desserts.

Instead we returned to our very unceleb suburban home.

Need to know

We paid just under £90 for two courses each and a bottle of wine.

The place is child-friendly.

It’s accessible for the disabled.

There are vegetarian options.

The Ivy

67 – 71 Temple Row, Birmingham B2 5LS.  0121 725 2110.

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