The Ivy Asia Leeds opened earlier this month with a spectacular star-studded launch party. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend that evening so I missed out on the awe-inspiring entertainment, theatrical food displays and opportunities to chat with Leeds United players, Emmerdale stars and reality television favourites. Much to my delight, I was invited over to The Ivy Asia Leeds last week, to see what the much-anticipated addition to Leeds’ diverse dining scene has to offer.
Mr Wilson-Barrett was once again my plus-one and we arrived for our booking on Wednesday afternoon. We were greeted in the impressive foyer by the charming front-of-house staff who took our coats to the cloakroom and engaged in friendly chit-chat whilst we waited to be taken to our table. We had only moments to wait before we were led up the winding staircase to what is perhaps, the most beautiful dining venue we have stepped into for some time.
The Ivy brand is synonymous with stylish elegance and this new Leeds venue is everything you would expect from The Ivy but with a glorious Asian twist. Of course, the first thing noticed was the striking flooring. The backlit, green gemstone flooring is utterly mesmerising and a feature you will find at most, if not all, of The Ivy Asia’s restaurants. The now iconic flooring is beautifully complemented with striking wallpapers, murals, colourful soft furnishings, a dazzling bar and a magnificent central blossom tree providing the ultimate selfie backdrop.
After spending a couple of moments marvelling at the palatial decor, our focus was then directed towards plush emerald green dining booths with immaculately laid-out tables and glittering finishing touches. As is the case with the sister restaurant, The Ivy, the attention to detail here is incredible. You really need to spend a significant amount of time appreciating your surroundings to gain an idea of just how much thought and effort has gone into ensuring that every corner of this breathtaking restaurant contributes a stylish element.
In this digital age, much focus is put into making everything “Instagrammable” and The Ivia Asia is undoubtedly an influencer’s dream. I still feel awkward taking photos of my food, despite it being for business purposes rather than to impress followers on my personal social media accounts. I feel even more conspicuous taking selfies but this is a venue where I should imagine such activity is expected. I was worried, however, that this may be a case of style over substance. Would the food be as impressive as the decor? I had my doubts…
It took us a while to choose our drinks as all their unique cocktails sounded rather wonderful but my husband eventually chose the K-Pop Passion. Similar to the Pornstar Martini in both presentation and composition but with added Kumquat liqueur and served in a theatrical fashion – it’s set alight by the server when it arrives at the table. I ordered the Pineapple Sour which comprises Chivas 12-year-old whisky, matcha, lemon, pineapple and a smoked coconut perfume. Both drinks were very enjoyable and they certainly packed a punch. They really didn’t scrimp on the amount of booze they added and the Asian-inspired flavour twists were definitely noticeable.
Our ever-so-lovely server, named James, talked us through the concept and explained the menu to us. I cannot applaud this young man enough for the exceptional service he provided. Courteous, attentive and professional without being uncomfortably formal, he made our experience all the more enjoyable. He also provided us with cutlery when we requested it too. We are yet to master the technique of eating with chopsticks and our last public attempt resulted in me catapulting a Gyoza at my husband’s face. A somewhat satisfying but slightly embarrassing misdemeanour.
The food menu isn’t quite as extensive as that of The Ivy next door and the concept is entirely different. All the dishes here are designed to be shared so you choose a selection of small, large and side dishes to share at your table and they arrive as and when they are ready. I was eager to try the sushi and some of their seafood small plates but as I was sharing with Mr Wilson-Barrett, these would have to be tried at a later date. Unless it’s battered, deep fried and served with a portion of chips, my husband will not consume anything remotely fishy.
Both avid carnivores, we opted for a selection of meat-based dishes to share in addition to sides of Kimchi fried rice and Steamed Brocolli with sesame. Mr Wilson-Barrett’s chosen small plate was Char Sui Pork Belly and his large dish of choice was Smoking Barbeque Lamb Rump. I opted for the Gochujang Glazed Fried Chicken and the Salt & Pepper Fillet with Lime.
The pork belly and the chicken arrived first. There were three generously sized chunks of the Char Sui Pork Belly and each was crispy on the outside and melt-in-the-mouth tender in the middle. Pork belly is one of my husband’s favourite cuts of meat so I serve it often at home. Now he has eaten The Ivy Asia’s version, I have no doubt that my culinary skills are going to be under scrutiny the next time I cook it for him. We both thoroughly enjoyed it but out of the two dishes, I preferred my chosen chicken dish.
If you’ve had Korean fried chicken before, you’ll know that the presence of a glaze should not eliminate the crispness of the chicken’s coating. This was beautifully done so the chicken maintained that all-important crispness and the glaze complemented it rather than overpowered it. A beautiful small pate packed with flavour.
We probably finished our small plates in record time as neither of us had eaten that day. Thankfully, our large dishes and sides arrived soon after. The Smoked Barbecue Lamb Rump was served under a glass dome, which our server removed at the table to release a cloud of aromatic smoke.
Served pink as we requested and accompanied by strips of the most delicious Miso aubergine, this dish was by far my favourite of the day. I am ashamed to say that I have never eaten aubergine outside of a moussaka. It isn’t a vegetable I would intentionally order but after trying this, it’s going become a regular feature in our evening meals.
Of course, the lamb itself was succulent, beautifully seasoned and cooked to pink perfection but the Miso aubergine elevated it to a whole new level of deliciousness. I am yet to stop talking about it to family members.
My large plate, the Salt & Pepper Fillet was also rather beautiful. Although, I had requested it to be cooked medium and it was definitely leaning more towards being well done when it arrived. This didn’t impact its tenderness though and it was still a delight to eat. The salt & pepper seasoning and the lime were served on the side so I could add as much or as little as I preferred. As the meat was already flavoursome, I really didn’t need to add much at all.
As regards the side dishes, I think we chose them well. The Kimchi fried rice was bursting with authentic flavour and gave each dish an extra element of heat. Initially, Mr Wilson-Barrett deemed it to be far too spicy for his liking but the more he ate, the more his palette accepted the intense heat level.
He ended up polishing off the lot whereas I only got a meagre spoonful. I was, however, more than happy with my plate of steamed broccoli. Cooked al dente and smothered in a delicately flavoured sesame dressing, it paired perfectly with the Salt & Pepper Fillet.
Once we had devoured our savoury dishes, it was time to order second drinks and peruse the dessert menu. This time, Mr Wilson-Barrett went for a JD Honey with Coke and I chose a cocktail recommended by the charming James. The Lavandula Martini is an aromatic blend mix of Haku Japanese vodka, cherry blossom vermouth, lavender, lychee and lime sauce. I’m not usually a big fan of floral flavours but this was lovely and the lychee really shone through. It was as pretty as a picture too with its lavender sprig garnish.
As usual, choosing desserts felt like an insurmountable task. Each and every option sounded simply divine and we could quite happily have ordered them all. Eventually, we made our decisions, ordering the Green Lantern dessert for me and the Samurai for my husband.
All the dishes served to us thus far had been beautifully presented, unsurprising for a restaurant brand that puts so much effort into making things visually appealing. My dessert, however, was a real showstopper!
Presented upon a pretty tray and served in an illuminated glass, it was really quite lovely. It tasted pretty amazing too! The creamy white chocolate and yuzu cheesecake was seriously indulgent and it was topped with raspberry and white chocolate pearls. The pearls were predominantly coated puffed rice balls but there was certainly a scattering of popping candy there also. The mango sauce which was served on the side was suitably fruity but on the tart side to balance out the sweetness of the main event.
A most enjoyable treat that I regrettably couldn’t finish as rapidly reached my limit after a couple of mouthfuls. Mr Wilson-Barrett’s dessert was a chocoholic’s dream! A huge bowl of dark chocolate mousse with vanilla ice cream, chocolate brownie crumb and chocolate pearls, it was a luxuriously rich and endorphin-releasing winner.
Dining at The Ivy Asia, for me, was an experience rather than just a meal. Whilst the food was superb, the ambience and service made it all the more special. My husband and I will probably return, although, as you can imagine this isn’t the most budget-friendly restaurant.
This is somewhere we would visit for a birthday or for our anniversary, preferably with Mr Wilson-Barrett footing the bill. If you have a special celebration coming up and are looking for the perfect place to have a memorable meal, do consider booking The Ivy Asia.
This review was written and published following an invitation to dine at The Ivy Asia. An invitation does not guarantee coverage on our publication or any other publications owned by Roaring Media Ltd – we only publish reviews following positive experiences, whether we have been invited to dine or made a personal reservation. The brands we work with have no editorial control over our content