Special dining without the special price tag is what Katie Beaumont found at The Ivy Collection in St Helen’s Square, York.
You don’t have to fork out in York for London level dining.
The world-famous Ivy in London, which attracts celebrities and artists like moths to a flame, has branched out around the country.
The Ivy Collection of restaurants, brasseries and cafes has sprouted up at a number of select locations with York’s former Blacks store in St Helen’s Square opening its doors as a 120-seat restaurant at Christmas – with a surprisingly affordable menu.
In the heart of York’s historic cobbled streets and in the shadow of the glorious Minster, it’s a site that was wasted on an outdoor apparel store and a restaurant of this standard is a much better fit for the location.
Serving all-day dining in a tourist trap of a city, it’s got a relaxed vibe, but it still has that air of elegance which has made The Ivy a household name. This is special dining, without the special price tag.
The decor draws from a vibrant colour palette, from the terracotta hues of the plush bucket chairs to the lush green walls which form the canvas for a host of art works, ranging from abstract to Missoni-esque stripes to still life.
Meanwhile, the front bar area with its Art Deco lines, marble top and purple leather bar stools is tailor made for the clinking of Martini glasses.
We took our seats at the back of the dining area which gave us a great view of this bustling restaurant which, judging by our visit, is proving a popular addition to the city.
The service is as smart as the waistcoated uniforms here and it wasn’t long after being seated that we were sipping on Champagne.
The menu is modern British classics, such as house burgers, blackened cod fillet and steak and chips, with a sprinkling of international cuisine, executed with flair.
Take my starter of Mozzarella di bufala (£8.95) for instance. It’s a standard starter I’ve had countless times elsewhere, but The Ivy’s version elevates it from its forgettable counterparts.
The mozzarella was melt in the mouth creamy, almost spreadable in fact, and was complemented perfectly by asparagus, a bite of edamame beans, roasted pine nuts, punchy pesto and topped with leaves of baby basil.
A simple, but effective, example of how the freshest of ingredients can make a dish shine.
At other places my mains choice of grilled chicken salad (£13.50) could have also been a bland affair, but The Ivy upped the ante once again, serving up a huge portion with plenty of hunks of chicken served with quinoa salad, avocado and kohlrabi, pomegranate, toasted seeds and coriander, along with a zesty yoghurt, ginger and lime dressing.
We managed to shoe-horn in a pudding (just) which brought some theatricality to the proceedings. The chocolate bombe (£8.50) is quite literally the bomb. A dish of chocolate bombe with a vanilla ice cream and honeycomb centre is melted at your table with a hot salted caramel sauce and we couldn’t get our phones out quick enough in an attempt to commit the dish to Instagram as it ran into gooey submission.
Prior to this visit, I wasn’t sure a chain could capture the essence of its mother ship restaurant, but The Ivy certainly grew on us.