Founded in 1917, the centenary year of The Ivy, one of London’s best-known institutions, already looks to be an exciting one. From Laurence Olivier and Noel Coward being seated at the best tables to Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall being snapped leaving, The Ivy has a history of being a firm favourite in the city, lauded for its discreet approach to glamour and ability to bump one’s social status up a notch or two overnight. This February saw the opening of the latest venue, The Ivy Soho Brasserie, and the pressure was on to live up to the legacy.
The interiors, much like the area, have a touch of the 1960s about them, taking all the best parts – rich orange leather banquettes, an onyx bar, colourful and abstract art – from the era, and tastefully leaving the worst parts back where they belong (no art nouveau psychedelia here). With art inspired by William Blake, one of Soho’s most iconic dwellers, the concept was thought up by Martin Brudnizki Design Studio, whose work regular visitors to London might well recognise from 45 Jermyn Street, Scarfes Bar and Annabel’s Smoking Terrace, as well as the 2015 update and rejuvenation of The Ivy hotels. MBDS’s signature retro touches are nostalgic of Soho’s golden age of creativity and culture, offering welcome refuge from one of its busiest streets.
Visiting on a cold February evening, I immediately felt enveloped by the warmth and jollity at number 26, Broadwick Street. The main restaurant and bar area can sit roughly 200 people, but there remains an impressive sense of space – tables are close enough to celebrity-spot but far enough apart to not be eavesdropped on. (Sadly for me, Jack Nicholson wasn’t there the night I was, but I’m sure he’d have agreed). In the evening, a live DJ and full house ensured the atmosphere was lively and enjoyable for both groups and intimate tables.
The cocktail menu reads like a poet’s interpretation of the classics – the Sparkling Negroni and Social Smoker are kept company by Hazlitt’s Haze (named after William Hazlitt, writer and social commentator) and the Romantic Era, a concoction inspired by William Blake. The Barrel-Aged Old Fashioned is simple but – as ever – effective, and one is arguably not enough.