The moment we’ve been waiting for is finally here – The Ivy Victoria Quarter opens on Tuesday.
The Ivy’s reputation precedes it. The original Covent Garden restaurant opened over 100 years ago, but it’s as popular today as it’s ever been. And now it has siblings – The Ivy Collection offers a more relaxed take on all-day dining. Their new Leeds restaurant is one of the most anticipated openings of the year, and it officially opens its doors on Tuesday 25th September 2018.
You’ll find it at the bottom of the Grade II listed Victoria Quarter, near the main entrance on Vicar Lane. It’s undeniably modern, and yet, totally in line with the history of the building. They’ve preserved the original fireplace on the first floor, so there’s a little bit of Victoria Quarter magic here, but it’s also an explosion of colour. From the eclectic collection of chairs, which range from mustard and teal velvet armchairs to bold floral printed chairs and burnt orange leather banquettes, to the floor beneath your feet, which switches from chequered marble to glossy parquet, they’ve created a very distinctive look.
It’s not completely unique, their style has been carried over from their other restaurants. As always, they brought in the critically-acclaimed Martin Brudnizki Design Studio to perfect the look. It’s both intimate and surprisingly spacious. The downstairs dining area has space for 100 people, while upstairs has room for another 60. By day, it’s bright and airy with floor to ceiling windows letting in the light, but come the evening, it turns into a cosy hideaway, lit by their statement pendant lights.
The decor is designed to make a statement. The walls are either decked out in eclectic artwork, clustered together in an almost over-the-top fashion, or bespoke wallpaper that’s big, bold and impossible to ignore. Both are the work of Adam Ellis, The Ivy Collection’s Design and Art Consultant. They’re made in their studio by a crack team of designers, illustrators and painters, so everything is unique to Leeds – although they’ve also sourced a series of Tait limestone lithographs inspired by the city and its heritage.
“I think the most important thing is that everything looks beautiful,” he told us. “It is that mix of old and new. We have a lithograph next to a mezzotint, next to a screen print and an illustration, so there should be a lot of variety in style and colour. We have strong black and white optical pieces, botanical prints – it’s eclectic, so no matter what your particular interest, you can’t help but be seduced by the space.”
As for the food, it will take you from morning until night. They kick off the day with breakfast, and the menu is just as impressive as you’d expect. In fact, it’s huge – you can get eggs every which way, tuck into a traditional (or veggie) Full English or keep it light with smoothies, granola and kippers. But if you want a recommendation from Executive Chef Sean Burbidge, it’s the avocado, tomato and sesame.
“This dish is relatively healthy for a breakfast dish,” he told us. “It’s a bit different to what you’d get everywhere else – the combination of the tomato, the egg and the avocado is classic, but the sesame dressing brings a different dimension to it and some more underlining flavours. There’s sesame, rice wine vinegar, some garlic and soy in there. It’s like a nutty, salty flavour.”
Later in the day, you can stop by for lunch, or perhaps a spot of afternoon tea. They do a simple cream tea or a more elaborate affair with the option to add champagne into the mix. It’s not your usual fare, they’ve got truffle chicken brioche rolls, marinated cucumber and dill finger rolls and smoked salmon on rye with cream cheese – but it’s the cakes that will really win you over. The obligatory fruit scones are accompanied by raspberry cheesecake, chocolate and salted caramel mousse and creme brûlée donuts.
In the evening, they whip out a menu of refined dishes that take inspiration from all over the world. Miso-coated chicken breasts rub shoulders with slow-cooked lamb shoulder and chargrilled halloumi with padrón peppers, so there really is something for everyone.
Their most famous dish is an absolute classic – The Ivy shepherd’s pie. “It’s a dish that people come back for. We braise diced lamb shoulder and add beef mince, so you’ve got chunks of lamb and minced beef with carrots, celery and rosemary going through there. Then we cook the stock down, so it becomes thicker and rich, put a little bit of the cheese on top, pipe mash over it and bake it to order. We get that nice crusted top on it.”
Their menus change every three months to make the most of fresh seasonal ingredients, but they always maintain the same fundamental balance, so you’ll always have a good selection of meat, fish and veggie dishes to choose from, with traditional eats alongside more adventurous plates, like the blackened cod fillet, which is one of Burbidge’s favourites.
“A fat piece of cod loin, we put a glaze on that’s made from soy, chilli, lime, ginger and a bit of brown sugar. It coats the cod and then we bake that on a banana leaf in the oven so that all the juices stay in there and keep the fish nice and moist. We serve that with some grilled tenderstem broccoli, and citrus yuzu pickled fennel. The fish is quite rich because of the glaze that’s on it and then you’ve got this fresh yuzu fennel that cuts through that.”
If you just want to enjoy the colourful surroundings, you can nip in for drinks, instead of a meal. Despite its reputation, it’s surprisingly relaxed inside, so they’ll welcome you in for post-shopping coffees and pre-party drinks. They have a perfectly paired G&T menu and a curated collection of cocktails, many of which give a nod to Yorkshire. You could sup the Rhubarb & Raspberry Crumble, with its mix of Slingsby rhubarb gin, Chambord, lemon juice and Fever-Tree ginger beer or try their Candy Floss Fizz – this nostalgic creation is made with Fairy floss, Prosecco, rosé, lychee, ginger and Havana 3 year rum.
Alongside the drinks, you can indulge in a tasty treat or two – their bar snacks are as good as their cocktails, with hickory smoked salted almonds and truffle arancini to tempt you in. If you want something to share, there’s always the zucchini fritti. “It’s long matchstick pieces of courgette which are dipped in milk, dusted in cornflour and deep fried,” Burbidge explained. “We serve that with a chilli, mint and lemon dip sauce. The acidity and the heat with the freshness of the mint cuts through the fact that the courgette has been deep-fried, it brings a nice freshness to it.”
There’s no doubt that The Ivy Victoria Quarter is a cracking addition to the city’s food and drink scene, but is it worth the wait? Check it out for yourself and let us know in the comments.
The Ivy Victoria Quarter, Vicar Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6BB. Book your table now…