The Ivy on the Square

The Ivy on the Square

Very jolly at The Ivy

Mixing the old and the new has worked for The Ivy on the Square, the restaurant brand’s new outlet in Edinburgh, writes Peter Ranscombe.

On paper, The Ivy on the Square shouldn’t work. The restaurant sits below a modern office block with a branch of discount retailer TK Maxx as a neighbour and one of Edinburgh’s busiest Sainsbury’s Locals sitting opposite. Yet it does.

The Ivy Collection – the company that has now rolled out 20 restaurants and cafés throughout the UK – has managed to bring a touch of the magic from the original Ivy in London’s theatreland into a glass-walled development on the corner of St Andrew Square and South St David Street in the Scottish capital.

Inside, the new restaurant has the same Parisian-inspired mix of geometric Art Deco shapes and lines and Art Nouveau patterns and flourishes as the original eatery, even down to the two panels of leaded glass at the door. There’s a Paolozzi-esque feel to the primary colours in the artwork on the walls – from test tubes to lightbulbs – which feels appropriate given that the Leith-based father of Pop Art was one of the designers commissioned to create works for The Ivy when it reopened in 1990.

FoodWhile the setting works, it’s the food that earns the newcomer its place among central Edinburgh’s eateries. A starter of crispy duck salad had an aromatic freshness from beansprouts, coriander and ginger and a heat from five-spice dressing, finely chopped red chilis and toasted cashews, balanced by colourful and juicy watermelon.

General manager Eric Garnier was rightly proud of the 12oz rib-eye steak served on the bone and highlighted its Scottish credentials. The steak was indeed excellent, although I’d like to see more made of its provenance on the menu; simply labelling beef as “Scottish” without mentioning the breed, the supplier and the location these days is a missed opportunity, particularly when it comes to helping the thousands of visitors to Edinburgh to fall in love with our local produce and ask for it at home.

A classic baked apple tart fine with vanilla ice cream was skilfully served at the table with flambé Calvados, adding a touch of theatre during the busy lunch service. If anything, the atmosphere sounded even more exciting upstairs on the first floor, with its views of Jenners department store across the road or out onto St Andrew Square.

Garnier recommended a deliciously-juicy bottle of Tabula’s Damana 5 Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero in Spain to accompany the steak and my companion’s hake and chorizo stew. Other eye-catching wines on the list included the A20 Albarino from Bodegas Castro Martin, Paul Jaboulet Aine’s Mule Blanche Crozes-Hermitage Blanc and a Chardonnay from Creation Winery in South Africa.

And so, to the bill. The Ivy on the Square charges very similar prices to its “Market Grill” outlet in Covent Garden, which appears to be the template for the chain. Those prices put it on a par with similar eateries in the middle of Edinburgh – like Hadrian’s Brasserie at the Balmoral hotel or the Galvin Brasserie de Luxe at the opposite end of Princes Street in the Waldorf Astoria Caledonian.

Find out more about The Ivy on the Square at