9 Mar 2008

Painted Jellyfish

‘…like being promised a dark date with Kate Moss in a tight sleeping bag and waking up underneath Stirling Moss…’
[A.A. Gill]
WHEN THE adrenaline of hype disperses, the hangover of reality begins...' This could be The Ivy’s motto. Or ‘an irritating experience: poisoned, rather than ivy-league’. Even better, to get the idea, apply A.A. Gill’s unrelated but apposite quote...
The 1920’s façade of this famous gastronomically gentrified café, just around the corner from Equity's offices, is currently scaffold-shrouded. A film of green gauze bound around diffuses a dirty light within, more stagnant water than dazzling emerald.
One hour and thirty minutes is all you get, the reservation confirmed by a ‘you should be grateful’ sounding message two days earlier. It must be like running air traffic control between the varnished veneer, directing luminaries to the part leather, part rubber banquettes and bussing out the slag when the meter expires. To add insult, your momentary presence within the Harry’s Bar décor is reinforced by ironically indulgent waiter spoken niceties like “take your time.” But time doesn’t wait
Once installed at a peculiarly low table, it became clear that there were no side plates for the bread, leaving you crumby. Glorious, delicate raspberry scented ‘04 Hush Heath Rosé perked the spirits, however, even if this feintly tinted traditional method Kent fizz was served in silly flutes that splashed back in our faces.
My posh Pole companion enjoyed excavating her starter of creamily Truffled Potato and Watercress Salad with bursting poached egg balloon. Critically, this is tame cooking, but nonetheless reassuringly edible. My craving for blood was fulfilled by Steak Tartare, although the plated patty looked like it had been driven over. By more than one vehicle.
To follow, a ghastly link was forged. A diner opposite embarked on an operatic sneeze as a well-fingered plate simultaneously landed on the breaded linen. This featured a deeply unappetising specimen: allegedly cod fishcake in parsley sauce. This unbalanced smoked catastrophe looked like a corpulent jellyfish's head doused in a slough of clogged painted flour. Gharish. I doubt they list this damp horror in the prominently displayed Ivy cookbook. My Eggs Benedict was predictably uninspiring, but good, although the appurtenant ‘squalls’ (ragged hash potato balls which looked like origami of moths wings) leached rancid oil.
Two glasses of robust, mineral but anonymous 03 Graves red from Château des Gravières, Portets (no time for a whole bottle) just about rinsed away these tough ensembles, although the distasteful memory lingers. Puddings were just too dull to mention. And there wasn’t time for coffee (in this former café). The price of indigestion? (including a glimpse of thespian Simon Callow - but so what, I prefer artistic merit on my plate): £110 (including £4 cover charge and 12.5p/c mandatory service).
Exactly 90minutes after entering, a thought occured on the damp, but thankfully non-Hedera hued street: considering celebrities ‘cling together like the ivy’, maybe the public provide them more curiosity here then the other way round...
Incidentally, the downstairs loo features a number of snide caricatures, one of which depicts a diner foisted displeasing food. The caption reads 'you'll have it boiled and like it.' How apt.
The Ivy - West Street, London. WC2H 9NQ. T. 020 7836 4751
To minimise the water torture in guzzlingly greedy restaurants, why not ask about corkage on Bring Your Own H2O?
Unsavoury, but have you noticed how many sommeliers pour wine like passing water? Wringing out the last drop, adding a final shake or two...

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