Bernadette Jackson visits The Ivy Temple Row.
For more than a century, The Ivy has represented warm relaxed elegance for dining. Some twenty years ago, when I was commuting daily to London, it was named in hushed tones by colleagues: “We’re having a special dinner at The Ivy”. Now that treat is more easily available to diners in Birmingham, since the opening of the Temple Row restaurant in Spring 2018.
Set opposite St Phillip’s cathedral, The Ivy is as poised and sophisticated as you would expect. We were delighted to find this elegance to be accompanied by warmth and charm from the restaurant team. The interior is my fantasy of an orangery in a life where I can waft gently amongst the palms, with greenery, mirrors, pictures and an evocative botanical print on some of the furnishings. Indeed, the comfortable seating made me wish for a pot of tea and a novel, but we had some serious eating to do.
We asked for olives while we examined the menu (again – we’d been investigating our choices for some days beforehand). Those olives were princes of their realm, spectacularly perfect in bloom and taste. After some discussion about specials and recommendations, we settled on two fishy starters.
My dining companion chose smoked salmon and crab. The portion of salmon was unstinting, and covered a large plate. It was topped with a rich confection of crab in dill cream, and accompanied by rye bread. Perfectly balanced, it was both beautiful and delicate. I opted for yellowfin tuna carpaccio. This was full of zing and sunshine, and surrounded by a sauce made of apple, jalapeno and avocado. I’d swear there was a fiesta taking place on my tongue by the time I’d finished.
A brief pause allowed us to notice that the restaurant had filled up while we were enjoying our starters. There were celebratory parties, family dinners and the occasional table of two. There was a definite sense of occasion in the air, with laughter we’d failed to notice while enjoying our starters.
For my main, I chose a special from the menu: an aromatic duck curry. It was described to me as delicate rather than fiery, and it was exactly that. Full of lemongrass, lime and chili, it was smooth on the palate, and then left a whole ensemble of delicious aftertastes to savour. The curry was accompanied by coconut jasmine rice, and on the recommendation of our waiter, I added a side of sprouting broccoli and lemon oil.
For the second main, a legendary Ivy Shepherd’s Pie was a sound choice; thousands of satisfied Ivy diners can’t be wrong about this well-lauded favourite. Accompanied by a red wine sauce that wafted a tempting fragrance across the table, the pie pays homage to the cowherd too, being made of slow-braised lamb leg with beef. On top, there’s a mash made succulent with Wookey Hole Cheddar. As a finale, the waiter produced a bottle of Worcestershire sauce, a natural partner for this tasty treat. A side of peas, sugarsnaps and baby shoots worked beautifully with the Shepherd’s Pie. It would have been greedy to have wished to eat it all over again. So we didn’t. Much.
Dessert saw the chocolate bombe replaced by chocolate mousse. This was dark and dangerous, with a pretty topping of raspberries, leaves and crushed biscuit. I opted for the blood orange sorbet, a beautifully sharp palate cleanser which slipped down easily. As we finished our meal, we chatted to the team about their work during lockdown providing meals for the city’s paramedics. And, to be frank, we can think of no finer recipients for the grace, charm and deliciousness of The Ivy’s service.
It’s not often that a restaurant can be both buzzing with excitement and truly relaxing at the same time. But The Ivy delivers this and more. I don’t know if it’s the elegance of the surroundings, the happy atmosphere at a time when we are all more appreciative of life’s pleasures, or simply that the team have a firm grip on making this an experience to remember.
The Ivy Temple Row, 67-71 Temple Row, Birmingham, B2 5LS. Bookings can be made at theivybirmingham.com