The Ivy Cobham Brasserie
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Surrey’s newest brasserie brings the Big City buzz and time-tested style of its parent restaurant, The Ivy in London’s West End to Cobham…
This year the famous – sometimes infamous – The Ivy in Covent Garden turns 100. That’s impressive for any restaurant, so there must be something about The Ivy that has been impressing the generations of actors, artists, politicians and power players that have dined there for so many years. Finding out just what that is though is the hard part. Notoriously difficult to book a table (unless your last name is Moss, Cowell or Beckham), a glimpse into the dining room of the great, the good and the glamorous is off the cards for all but the most patient diners. Until now, that is, with the arrival of the Ivy Brasserie in Cobham.
On the outside, Cobham’s newest restaurant is non-descript to the point of invisible. The old building’s red brick facade trimmed in muted dark green and opaque harlequin windows the only signs betraying the hottest brand to arrive in Surrey for a long time. Even when you enter the tiny lobby, the restaurant remains out of sight until the red-dressed greeters check you in and usher you gracefully through the door. But then what a sight it is.
A dazzling, incandescent bar beams out over the first of several dining spaces, all of them dressed in the Ivy’s signature green, all glinting copper and vibrant art deco style. It’s crammed with tables and banquette seating, as if they’d been counting on daily invasions of diners. If that was their assumption then they’d clearly bet right, as the place was rammed for lunch, from the bar all the way to the conservatory and garden. But this Ivy has an army of its own to with which to handle this hungry horde. I lost count of the sharp-suited managers, black-clad porters and hipster-smart servers, but found the smooth operation truly impressive, especially as the brasserie had only been open for a couple of weeks.
We squeezed into a table in the bright and airy conservatory, where a manager was anxiously retracting and expanding the fold-out ceiling, torn between bathing the diners in natural light and the grumpy, restive looking clouds above. A couple of peachy cocktails in hand moments later and we were so enraptured by the Maître D’s zippy pronunciation of ‘Zucchini fritti’, we just had to take his word for it.
What arrived were courgettes spiralised into great coiling tendrils lightly battered and laced with a little chilli and lemon and a mint yoghurt sauce to swipe them through. To say this ‘appetiser’ was generous would be to understate what a bowling ball-sized clump of gently fried, outrageously tasty fritti has to offer an eager diner with an empty stomach, or the challenge it presents to eat it with any dignity in a restaurant crowded with the well-coiffed and well-heeled of Surrey.
Like some of The Ivy’s other high street offspring, this brasserie offers a breezier menu than its more high-end parent, but then for all its celebrity dressing and Private Club posture, the West End mothership never pretended much towards nosh that was overly posh (read: they serve burgers.) But everything on the all-day menu is as polished and enticing as anything you’d find at a quality pub or restaurant these days, even if it’s only a sandwich or other modest, crowd-pleasing fare like fish & chips or shepherd’s pie.
If you’re thinking these don’t exactly capture the level of luxury you’d associate with a name like The Ivy, be assured that we discovered plenty of flash and flourish given to nearly every dish. And there’s a slightly zealous enthusiasm for truffle here, from chicken sarnies to arancini, parmesan chips to mayo, which is always a good thing.
Crispy Duck Salad
From a surprisingly good value set menu, £16.50 bought us a cheerful golden fishcake flaked through with salmon and haddock, boldly paired with a punchy horseradish crème and gossamer-thin leaves of apple and fennel; then a fillet of roast salmon perched over a delicate salad of quinoa, all pretty in pink with spots of bright radish and pomegranate rubies.
Going a la carte brought me a warm crispy duck salad that was, I don’t mind saying, pretty amazing: a perfectly tuned cascade of aromatic flavours and textures, all folding and flowing into each other. That duck, frazzly and crisp and bathed in a treacly, smoky five-spice glaze, was beyond tasty but boosted further by the rubble beneath, a delicious mass of toasted cashews, beansprouts, wafer-thin discs of nutty yuca (I think) and refreshing hunks of watermelon.
After such a superbly refined starter it felt cheap to order a humble burger but this special was, they informed me, formed from wagyu beef. All resistance collapsed. What arrived was indeed a burger of an altogether higher breed, super juicy and sexed up with prosciutto ham and comte cheese melting in curtains around the patty, and all couched in a squishy brioche bun. With twice-possibly-thrice cooked chips and a pot of fragrant truffle mayo to slather over it all, this must be about as much fun as you can have at The Ivy without punching a paparazzo in the face.
We just about found room for dessert; a charming ‘cappuccino’ cake, flourless, light but richly decadent too, loaded with espresso and a milk mousse to scoop it through. It left us contemplating returning here for afternoon tea, but I felt unmanned enough already by the Ivy’s simple yet sublime food and lavish service for one day.
Until its joined soon by another in Guildford’s Tunsgate, Cobham’s newest brasserie brings the Big City buzz and time-tested style of its parent restaurant to the home counties. So, it’s not just Moss, Cowell and Beckham that can be “seen at The Ivy”. Now we can too.
Food Total For 2 = £59.95