Timelessly classic and exuding the sort of laid-back sophistication that people picture when thinking about al fresco dining in Paris or Florence, the brand-new Ivy Café stands tall within Wimbledon. With its sleek, pillared and ruddy exterior set against signature green awnings, it complements the street perfectly.
As I enter I’m greeted cheerily by every member of staff I pass, from the front door to my snug corner table. The dining room gives the impression of vastness, thanks to the high ceilings bedecked with 1920s-style lights and full-length glass doors leading to a patio outside. The walls are covered in botanical drawings and sketches, interspersed by panel mirrors that combine with the lights to give the space a warm glow – almost as if one were already a glass of wine into the evening.
I start with a bowl of succulent spiced green olives alongside the Negroni tasting set, something I’ve been eager to try since looking at the menu a few days prior. Ranging from light to dark in pink/orange hue, my taste buds travel from fruity with Dolin bittersweet strawberry vermouth, to a more herbal affair with Ivy gin, and finish with the robust ‘Boulevardier’, accented with Bulleit bourbon. This sees me through my starter – mozzarella di bufala with asparagus, pine nuts, edamame, a touch of pesto and basil. It’s a delicious dish with plenty of crunch, which complements the fluffy mozzarella perfectly.
The Ivy Café is timelessly classic and exudes the sort of laid-back sophistication that people picture when thinking about al fresco dining in Paris or Florence
Next I eagerly await grilled swordfish with chimichurri dressing and rocket, as well as a side of tenderstem broccoli and wonderfully potent truffle and parmesan chips. The meaty nature of swordfish and my preference for red lead me to spurn the usual pairing of white wine with fish for a beautifully light New Zealand pinot noir, which to my relief didn’t overpower the gorgeously dense slab of fish. The swordfish steak could almost be described as sweet, but the grill has seen that the flavours are balanced out perfectly – a hint of charcoal against zesty lemon and peppery rocket creates a whirlpool of goodness that I’m more than happy to work my way through slowly but surely, savouring every bite.
In my family there’s a phrase for that moment in a meal when you’re totally full, but then someone mentions dessert. I find myself ‘hungry for nice’ as soon as I spy the chocolate bombe. A solid orb flecked with gold arrives amid a cloud of milk foam. The waitress proceeds to melt away the bombe with salted caramel sauce, revealing a centre of vanilla ice cream and honeycomb. Show over, I’m left to revel in the spoils, pausing intermittently to sip a lightly sparkling Moscato d’Asti dessert wine.
Serving classic British plates with hints of influence from all over the world, there is a reason The Ivy is its own claim to fame. The latest opening is consistent with its reputation for exciting yet trustworthy dishes, and I can’t wait to return.