Last week I had the pleasure of visiting The Ivy restaurant in Winchester to celebrate its opening on the high street at the end of May. Although I knew that there were several of the swish and stylish restaurants in London, it wasn’t until a friend mentioned recently that she had visited their restaurant in Bath that I realised they were also dotted around England and Scotland (and I was very excited to learn that we had one opening not far away in Winchester). Incidentally I think Winchester is the perfect choice for their Hampshire location – The Ivy looked incredibly well-placed amongst all the other contemporary bars and restaurants on the high street.
From the moment my feet graced the checkerboard tiles in the entrance-way I was utterly taken with the elegant interiors; the influence of revered Swedish designer Martin Brudnizki being clear throughout the restaurant (his design studio have worked on all of their sites). The swooping bar and stained glass windows were a highlight – it really feels like an incredibly special place to eat or have a glass of champagne.
Talking of champagne – we were greeted with a chilled glass on arrival, as well as a recommendation for a deliciously tangy Sauvignon Blanc, which was attentively topped up throughout the evening. The menu is diverse but very well-selected; a blend of old favourites and international dishes. They had specials of grilled fish and a rack of lamb, and the manager who spoke to us clearly knew the menu inside out – highlighting sides and making recommendations.
I went for a prawn cocktail to start (I can’t resist a classic) and Joe had asparagus with truffle hollandaise and watercress. Both were delicious, and the perfect way to kick off our three courses.
For the main course Joe opted for the whole baked sea-bass, which came with baby plum tomatoes, olives and a caper and shallot dressing. Joe stated that it was the best sea bass he had ever eaten, which may explain why it disappeared so quickly…
I chose the slow-roasted lamb shoulder and it was divine. The meat literally fell apart and melted in my mouth and the rosemary sauce was the perfect addition. It had a mustard and herb crust which was so, so tasty and all the flavours blended wonderfully together.
I can’t deny that, having a rather sweet tooth, one of the highlights was this rather decadent dessert. What could be better than strawberries, meringue, shortbread and a warm strawberry sauce? It was divine. Joe chose mini chocolate truffles with a salted caramel centre, and despite the size of my dessert I also had to try those too. They were very yummy but I think it’s fair to say that Joe rather had food envy…
All in all the food was amazing, the service was incredible and I also think that the menu is incredibly well-priced; their traditional fish and chips will set you back £14.95, their hamburger is £14.25 and steak, egg and chips is £14.50. If I hadn’t seen the menu but judged purely on the quality of the food, the service and the stylish interior I would be expected prices far in excess of that.
I would not hesitate to recommend it – they also offer brunch, lunch and afternoon teas and I’ll no doubt be visiting again soon (even just for that strawberry sundae…)