Cardiff has seen an upsurge in upmarket eateries over the past few years. The Welsh capital may have lacked places like this, but now things appears to be changing with the appearance of The Ivy Collection.
Whilst the glory of Jamie Oliver having a successful dining empire might have dwindled, perhaps this well-regarded institution might fare better in the Welsh capital? They are taking over the space where he was, after all.
There was a nervous energy on opening night. We’ve seen proposed interiors for some time now, though they remain near the mark to what we expected it to look like inside. This feels like an English’s person view of how Welsh themes should be incorporated into a dining experience (one wonders how many Welsh speakers are in the staff). The giant dragon above the bar is an imposing figure, if somewhat overbearingly theatrical in the space. There are touches of old school designs (greens and reds feature heavily), with chic prints on the walls that have slight evocation of floral arts and crafts. It almost works, in an elegant — if somewhat lacklustre — finish. The potted plants which scatter the venue are a welcome touch, though a smattering of the stained glass was missed, like those in their famous London venue. Even the cutlery had a sleek funk all of its own.
Skipping the starters, I though I would head staring in The Ivy Burger. For its price, this was a burger of no real substance, the potato bun flat and giving little. A medium rare burger would have been my preference, and the horseradish mayo hidden below the patty also added little to the mix. Salad featured on the side, classic for a burger with a gherkin and onions. The thick cut chips are what made it a more satisfying endeavour. The tiny relish to dip said chips in was also basic and need a little more spice to liven it up. I’ve had better burgers for much cheaper in Cardiff; this much I know.
Now, those who know me know how much I love a green tea. The waitress informed me the teas served are The Ivy’s own brand, so a chance to try their sencha was exciting. Served to me in a silver tea pot, I admired it for a while…only to find that the pot spoiled the tea with an awful metallic tang in the mouth, given the refreshing quality of the tea no chance. The fact it was just a pyramid teabag and not loose leaf is also shocking. Green tea should really be served in a ceramic pot (in fact all teas, really). Tap water doesn’t appear to exist at The Ivy either, as asking for iced water resulted in being brought a bottle of Kingsdown Still (£3.95!). I had something similar happen in their London flagship as well.
When settling in to my table, a lady seated nearby remarked how she could not read the print and how little it was within the menu. An air vent above me made it cold and unpleasant, and no doubt for most of the tables next to me. The toilets were a stunning refuge, with etched vintage owl decoration and a copper stained mirror. I could have stayed in there longer; the upstairs floor also looked lavish with a colourful tree feature more appealing than the manic dragon below.
Two diners next to me could not get over the absurd service charge (for them over £12) and was something that had to be sorted. Thankfully, my charge was not so absurd. I took a pass on desert, though an up-selling waitress was recommending the Chocolate Bomb. I was worried this might end up like the restaurant scene in Atlanta…
I’m having a real hard time thinking that Cardiff people will pay these prices, unless they have a whacky amount of disposable income. The waiting staff were friendly in that sort of playing way within places like this. Though I did have some pleasant chatter and one of the managers was happy to invite me back. But the real question is, will I return?
Fierce & stylish, if uneventful.
Rating: 3 stars
The Ivy is now open in Cardiff, and reservations can be made on www.theivycardiff.com.
Photo Credit: Weeping Tudor