Peter Ranscombe reviews the summer menu at The Ivy restaurant on Glasgow’s Buchanan Street.
LET’S face it, it’s been a pretty drab summer so far.
Apart from the small matter of a record-breaking, climate change-induced heatwave last month, the weather’s not been quite as sunny as we wanted.
That’s why the summer menu at The Ivy restaurant on Glasgow’s Buchanan Street is a splash of colourful sunshine.
The original Ivy opened in London’s West End in 1917 and began spawning a chain of brasseries in 2014, with Edinburgh added in 2017 and Glasgow the following year.
The Dear Green Place’s addition to the chain sits on the corner of Buchanan Street and Royal Bank Place, which leads past the Gallery of Modern Art (Goma) into Royal Exchange Square and the delights of the Merchant City.
Its building was once home to the Royal Insurance Company and, more recently, a branch of the Nationwide building society.
Not that anyone who ever nipped inside to use the cash machine is likely to recognise it now.
Like most of The Ivy’s brasseries, the starting point for the decor is broadly art deco – but the Glasgow branch takes the idea and adds its own twist.
Sitting on the first floor – which houses the largest bar in The Ivy’s chain – diners are surrounded by a surreal mix of the old and the new.
Framed prints of heraldic shields and wading birds jostle for position amid the uber-modern turntables in the DJ’s booth and the pink feathers at the bar.
Pink tiles are dotted among the black and white squares on the floor, while bright green and orange chairs shout at the more muted teal green of the paintwork.
The overall effect? Fun, fun, and more fun. The decor put a big grin on my face during another dreich day outside.
A splash of sunshine
And that smile grew wider when I opened The Ivy’s summer menu.
That jostling from the decor continued on the all-day a la carte, with old favourites like buffalo mozzarella salad rubbing shoulders with newer items like the goat’s cheese and courgette tart.
There’s a big focus on fish among the main courses, including blackened cod fillet, monkfish and prawn curry, and lobster linguine.
Frozen berries and rum baba are among the eye-catching summer dishes among the desserts.
But first – a cocktail.
As JD taught us in the television series Scrubs, there’s no shame in ordering an appletini – and so, I reasoned, a green cocktail was in order in the Dear Green Place.
I opted for the sparkling peartini (£12.75), made with a mix of Grey Goose Le Poire vodka, Italicus bergamot liqueur, Lillet Blanc, lemon, and The Ivy’s own-label Champagne, all served in a coupe.
It was suitably refreshing, with a sweet-and-sour mix from the lemon and the liqueur, enlived with slices of fresh pear, and delivering a creamy mouthfeel.
That fruity fix was also the ideal lead-in to a starter of crispy duck salad (£9.50) with a distinctly Asian feel, complete with five-spice dressing, toasted cashews, watermelon, beansprouts, sesame seeds, coriander, and ginger.
Texture was the name of the game here, with the contrast between the stickiness of the duck, the softness of the watermelon, and the crunchiness of the nuts.
Really well-balanced flavours too.
I fear the print of the mallard on the wall was giving me a dirty look, though.
That’s da bombe
After a mix-up with my first steak – which arrived grey all the way through rather than medium-rare – the kitchen pulled out all the stops with my 12-ounce rib-eye on the bone (£33.95) and it was worth the wait; perfectly cooked at the second time of asking, pink and juicy, and one of the most-satisfying steaks I’ve had in a long time.
The accompanying red wine sauce enhanced rather than detracted from the dish, while the chips were up to scratch too.
Although the staff assured me that the steak was Scotch beef, no mention of its origin was made on the menu, which was a missed opportunity – it’s not enough to simply use Scottish ingredients, we also need to shout about them too, especially to highlight provenance to visitors.
I also opted for Alain Jaume’s Haut de Brun Cotes du Rhone (£9.50 for 175ml), which leapt from the glass with its sweet vanilla, ripe red cherry, and almost blueberry-like bramble fruitiness, alongside enough chewy to its tannins to handle the steak.
The wine list more broadly is very competent for a brasserie chain, with stalwarts like Gerard Bertrand, Journey’s End, and Paul Jaboulet Aine among the reds, and Bodegas Castro Martin, Craggy Range, and Creation among the whites – lots of wine supplier Bibendum’s bottles at sensible prices, considering this year’s high inflation.
That steak was going to be a hard act to follow, but I’d spotted an old favourite among the puddings.
The chocolate bombe (£9.50) always adds a wee touch of theatre to the proceedings, with the warm – if not hot – salted caramel sauce melting the chocolate dome to reveal vanilla ice cream.
In terms of flavour, it’s the caramel that dominates over the chocolate, but that’s a small gripe for a delicious dessert.
A pot of The Ivy afternoon tea blend (£3.95) was the ideal pick-me-up after the rich pudding, before venturing back out into the afternoon’s city centre drizzle.
The Ivy summer menu is being served until the end of the month and provides an ideal splash of colour in even more colourful surroundings.
Read more news and reviews on Scottish Field’s food and drink pages, in association with Cask & Still magazine.
Plus, don’t miss the secret diner’s restaurant review in the August issue of Scottish Field magzine.