Marlow might already have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to dining but when word got out that The Ivy – the storied London restaurant beloved of celebrities and foodies alike – was opening an outpost on the High Street, the excitement was palpable.
Local residents watched with amused anticipation as the old Clark’s shoe shop (where I was bought my first pair of school shoes) was transformed into an elegant destination restaurant.
This year The Ivy celebrates its 100th anniversary, and its owner, Caprice Holdings, has been building up to this landmark birthday by growing the restaurant’s footprint well beyond its Covent Garden home. The Ivy Collection of chic cafes and brasseries has brought the luxury and brag-factor of The Ivy HQ to buzzy neighbourhoods across the capital, as well as outposts in affluent Bristol, Cobham and now Marlow.
The Ivy Marlow Garden – the third spin-off with the ‘Garden’ moniker – opened at the end of May serving an all-day menu, seven days a week, from breakfast through to lunch and dinner, with light snacks, sandwiches and afternoon tea. Unsurprisingly, it has already established itself as Marlow’s must-book restaurant to see and be seen.
And there is indeed much to see. Sharply dressed staff led us through the vast and elegant dining room, which felt atmospheric and full of energy. The restaurant itself is a feast for the eyes, with polished parquet flooring, an Arancia onxy bar surrounded with port coloured leather bar stools and caramel leather banquettes.
The acclaimed Martin Brudnizki Design Studio, who redesigned The Ivy, and whose other clients include Aquavit in London and Soho Beach House in Miami, consulted on the interiors. It is a masterclass in opulent Art Deco style.
Beautiful artwork sourced and created by Adam Ellis Studio adorns the walls, and the centrepiece of the room is a stunning atrium, glazed in The Ivy’s signature leaded windows. The dining room gives way to an elegant garden room before opening up into the titular garden. Abundant pots overflow with established planting and jasmine clambers up the fences. An antique marble fireplace adds to the design to ensure that it looks as though the garden has been here forever, not just a month. It would be a wonderful place to enjoy breakfast or lunch on a summer’s day.
Back inside, we enjoyed a chilled glass of house champagne and some truffle arancini, which was piping hot, crisp and unctuous – just as arancini should be. The menu is inspired by The Ivy’s modern brasserie style and provides a slightly off-beat mix of dishes. One does wonder whether aromatic duck curry has a place on a menu next to fish and chips and roast chicken, but it certainly provides something for everyone.
To start, I chose the mozzarella di bufala – a salad of sliced peaches with Nocellara olives, smoked almonds, pesto and mint, which was fresh and summery. My husband chose the wasabi prawns with salt and pepper squid, which was perfectly cooked and well seasoned.
The sommelier perfectly matched a glass of Gavi with my starter and main course – the blackened cod fillet baked in a banana leaf with a miso glaze. This was surprising to see on the menu, but the fish flaked perfectly and was delicious. My husband ordered the rib-eye steak with a rich green peppercorn sauce and truffle and Parmesan chips. The dish was beautifully cooked but slightly under-seasoned.
What some of the food lacked in seasoning, the service made up for in spades and when we were presented with our desserts – I chose the signature chocolate bombe and my husband the strawberry ice cream sundae – they were served with a flourish by no less than three waiters.
The chocolate bombe is a nice piece of gastronomic theatre, with a vanilla ice cream and honeycomb encased in a crisp chocolate shell which has a hot salted caramel sauce poured over it. A must-order for true chocoholics.
The Ivy Marlow Garden is a real showpiece restaurant, bringing city elegance and glamour to the town. With sparkling service and beautiful décor, this is a restaurant to truly savour.