When a restaurant as well known as The Ivy turns 100, it’s time to take a look back over its long and venerable history. The Ivy is theatreland’s very own restaurant as it’s located in the heart of London’s West End entertainment district. Named after a phrase from a popular ballad at the time of the Great War, “we will cling together like ivy”, The Ivy started life as a simple Italian café under the ownership of Abele Giandolini. Unlike today’s swish style, there were lino floors, paper napkins and no drinks licence. Theatreland however immediately took the café to heart as M Abele was happy to send meals to actors’ dressing rooms between performances. It’s had a few owners in its history but it became famous again under the proprietorship of the dynamic duo Corbin & King who commissioned major works by architect M J Long and had the idea of commissioning unique artwork for the restaurant was initiated. Richard Caring has carried through this vision since 2005 and a decade on, undertook a five month makeover which saw a sparkling new interior which retained the restaurant’s classic vibe and essence – the cherished stained glass windows and green leather banquettes were retained.
So during the centenary year heralded by Kylie Minogue this past December, we should expect:
- A commemorative Green Plaque presented by Westminster City Council (already installed)
- A new cocktail menu inspired by a hundred years of history
- A limited edition Ivy Gin launching in April
- Star appearances from some of the West End’s finest actors returning “home” to perform vignettes in the restaurant.
- In June, a new book published by Quadrille entitled The Ivy Now giving a behind the scenes look at the personalities and patrons of this historic restaurant
- In the kitchen, Executive Chef Gary Lee’s menu retains the Ivy classics whilst bringing in some Asian flavours, more salads and vegetables and a sea and shells section due to public demand.
- Best news however – if you can book a table – the ever-popular pre and post theatre menus will be priced at £19.17 to commemorate the year of opening until March.
- For the festive season, an Ivy extravaganza is promised.
Can’t get a booking? Well, there are Ivy offshoots all over the capital under The Ivy Collection brand with a new one – The Ivy Soho Brasserie opening on 7th February 2017.
Contributor: Sue Lowry
Images courtesy of Caprice-Holdings (image one) and Sue Lowry.