The Ivy Brasserie Outpost of the famous London restaurant
The Longer Read The Ivy Brasserie Cheltenham opened late in 2017 to an enthusiastic reception. Peak time bookings were hard to come by well into the new year. It’s not The Ivy London, of course, but enough associated glamour rubs off to attract punters to their multiple regional openings. ‘Wetherspoons for the Middle Classes’ was one way of putting it.
The Ivy’s owners certainly did themselves a favour in Cheltenham by acquiring a unique landmark. The grade one listed Montpellier Rotunda is a distinguished building, created 200 years ago to capitalise on the popularity of nearby Montpellier Gardens.
The Ivy just after opening. Note the Deliveroo rider beetling past.
Design at the Ivy Brasserie
The big surprise is inside. There’s a spectacular dome, which was built to emulate The Pantheon. It’s an impressive copy. If only the same could be said for the fountain outside the Municipal Offices*, said to have been inspired by the Trevi Fountain. But not often said by people once they’ve actually seen the Trevi Fountain. You can’t see The Ivy’s main dining room (the one with the dome) from the street, but it’s the biz. It’s the biz to the extent that it might be a source of wistfulness amongst diners, if they happen to be allocated a table in one of the slightly less glamorous areas. Some tables look out the main road, for example.
Staff on bookings and reception will look blank if you are you gauche enough to try to insist on a table in the main room. You’ll be told you can ‘make a note’ when booking. Whatever that means.
*Thanks to AW for correcting us when we called it the Town Hall
Get On With It
Anyway, so The Ivy Brasserie in Montpellier has been beautifully designed and furnished. It has echoes of the original London restaurant, especially in putting the bar centre stage. The reputation of the original West Street restaurant really stemmed from its Theatreland location, which led to popularity with acting and media types. In Cheltenham, Montpellier has a rep for being home to moneyed, if not necessarily creative, Cheltonians: The punters certainly looked rather sleek when we visited. A lot of diners mention how small many of the tables for two are. There is not always enough room for wine glasses and side plates etc – clearly they’ve packed the tables in.
The Ivy Brasserie Menu
The Ivy Brasserie is a pretty hard-working operation. Service goes from Breakfast (8am onwards, 9am Sundays (Full English is (£13.50)). A la carte from 11.30am midweek. There’s a set menu 11.30am to 6.30 midweek too. There’s also a weekend brunch menu 11 ’til 4. Afternoon Tea (£17.95) is from 3 to 5 daily. There’s Private Dining too, for up to 24, in The Papworth Room.
If you get a decent table, prices are par for the location and surroundings. ‘The Ivy’ name adds a few quid to the bill. That said, you can rack things up on side orders, supplements and the 12.5% service charge (see below). The menu is a masterpiece in terms of markup and extracting cash from customers. This, after all is what restaurants are basically for – alongside providing food, entertainment and, ideally, a little glamour.
Prices at The Ivy Brasserie
Take, for example, the main menu. If you decide on the traditional mug-punter order of a Sirloin Steak, that’s £23.50. Add a Bearnaise sauce (£2.75) and a guilt-assuaging order of Green Beans (£2.75) and your service charge will bring things up to the £32+ mark. So, it’s worth a good look through the menu and maybe going off piste a little in terms of your order. This isn’t, by the way, a criticism of The Ivy Brasserie, more a matter of professional admiration. I mean, the midweek three course dinner menu at the 2 Michelin Star Champignon Sauvage costs a similar amount to your steak main. And yet The Ivy is filling, several times a day, 200+ seats. That’s a colossal impact on dining spend in a smallish town such as Cheltenham. Interesting, no?
I was also told that tips don’t go as tips to the staff. Your 12.5% goes towards their wage bill. Assuming that’s true, we think this is a bit shabby. If you care about that, and you should, why not decline the 12.5% tip and give cash?
Wines from £5 a glass.
In usual Critical Cheltenham style, we’ll review and score once things have settled down a bit. Initial impressions are of a beautiful ‘wow’ setting with stylish decor and a lot of staff. Service hasn’t been spot on. Mistakes are understandable in a new restaurants, although staff did have six weeks of training. There’s the table size issue.
You’ll find a little more on the background to The Ivy and its move to Cheltenham in our blog entry here.