Spring has sprung at The Ivy but does the Leeds restaurant live up to the hype?

Leeds is home to countless restaurants, each contributing something unique to the Leeds foodie scene, however, when it comes to reputation, few can compare to The Ivy Brasserie. Bringing all the sophistication and glamour of their iconic century-old restaurant in London to numerous locations across the UK, The Ivy Collection promises extensive menus of British classics and casual dining with a luxurious uplift. Having quite recently dined at a similar establishment, targeting a similar demographic, I was keen to discover whether The Ivy Victoria Quarter lived up to its reputation or would be another ‘fur coat, no knickers’ experience.

I made a reservation for the evening of Thursday 31st March – a day during which we experienced snow, sleet, rain, wind and glorious sunshine all within a matter of hours. Freezing cold and slightly dishevelled, My husband and I arrived shortly before 6 pm to be greeted by a handful of colourfully attired staff members in the foyer. We were quickly led to a window table on the ground floor and asked if we required our coats to be taken. Once comfortable, we took a moment to appreciate our surroundings. With its glittering bar, gallery walls of modern art and opulent art deco accents, there was no mistaking that this venue was part of The Ivy Collection.

We requested still water for our table and quickly ordered a cocktail each. For myself, the Sparkling Peartini and for my husband, the Candy Floss Fizz. These arrived promptly and we were both pleased with our choices. The Sparkling Peartini was delightfully zesty with subtle floral undertones – certainly one I would order again as it wasn’t overly sweet. My husband’s Candy Floss Fizz, on the other hand, was a bit too sweet for my liking but he thoroughly enjoyed it and was particularly impressed with the generous cloud of candy floss it was garnished with.

When it comes to food, I usually peruse menus online and decide what to order before arriving at a restaurant. As the menu for The Ivy Victora Quarter is rather extensive, I thought it best to choose based on what I fancied on the day. Still, this took a great deal of deliberation. Eager to try a signature dish like their Shepherd’s Pie but also keen to taste new dishes and those that had been given a seasonal twist, decisions were not made easily. Once they were, we had very little time to wait before our starters arrived.

My husband opted for the Duck Liver Parfait whilst I chose the Roasted Scallops that had been recommended to me by countless others before our visit. I love a seafood starter but have been left disappointed by many that have been overcooked, undercooked or simply poor quality. I had high expectations for the Scallops at The Ivy and they really did live up to them.

Perfectly cooked so you could cut through them like butter with just the right amount of seasoning to enhance their natural sweetness, they were truly delicious. The freshness of the accompanying pea puree and the crispy potato rosti contributed to making this my favourite seafood starter to date. Neither of us could fault the Duck Liver Parfait either. Served with thick slices of toasted brioche, generously sprinkled with caramelised hazelnuts and paired with a warming pear and ginger compote, it was a pleasure to eat.

For our main courses, my husband, being the ardent carnivore that he is, ordered the Rib-Eye steak with Peppercorn Sauce and requested it to be cooked medium. I, uncharacteristically, chose The Ivy Rabbit and Languoustine Pie. I say uncharacteristically not just because I never order the pie when eating out, but also because I had never tried rabbit before. My husband was somewhat taken aback at my decision to eat a bunny so close to Easter but I would not be deterred.

Much to his delight, my husband’s steak almost filled his plate and had seemingly been chargrilled to perfection. Upon cutting into it, however, it was more on the well-done side than the medium as he had requested. Thankfully, it was so moist and tender that it barely mattered. In all honesty, he wouldn’t have noticed had I not pointed it out and, as he so fervently declared, it was his steak and not mine.

My pie also arrived appearing considerably larger than I had expected it to be. A golden disk of flaky pasty floated upon a silky smooth tarragon sauce, within which were tender chunks of rabbit, langoustines and sweet Parisenne carrots. Although the pastry lid was as light as a feather, the richness of the sauce made it quite a heavy dish and I soon regretted the side order of Parmesan and Truffle chips. Although the chips themselves were deliciously moreish and the perfect accompaniment to Mr Wilson-Barrett’s steak, my dish paired better with our lighter side – the Tenderstem Brocolli.

With barely enough room left within our bodies to accommodate inhaled air, we plodded on and ordered our second round of cocktails and our desserts. This time, I went for The Ivy version of the Salted Caramel Espresso Martini and my husband chose a second pink creation, the Raspberry Mousse. Both of our cocktails were equally as enjoyable as our first had been and we merrily sipped away until our third and final course.

Mr Wilson-Barrett wanted to finish off our meal with something a little naughty so he chose the rather indulgent sounding Chocolate Bombe. I ordered a seasonal new addition to The Ivy’s dessert menu – Black Bee Honey and White Chocolate Cheesecake. I was entirely convinced that I would leave the restaurant with the Roasted Scallop starter being my favourite dish of the evening. Fresh, beautifully cooked and immaculately presented, it would be a difficult one to beat. However, when our desserts arrived, it became apparent that they would be the stars of the show!

Our waiter theatrically poured hot Salted Caramel sauce over my husband’s deceptively simple-looking chocolate bombe. It melted quite seductively to reveal a vanilla ice cream and honeycomb core. Deliciously indulgent!

My cheesecake dessert was as pretty as a picture with edible flowers and a miniature white chocolate Bee. You’ll find a cheesecake on almost every restaurant’s dessert menu and they vary considerably in flavour, texture and quality of ingredients. This was one of the prettiest desserts I’ve been presented with and it was just as pleasing on the palate as it was on the eye. Instead of being sickly sweet, the cheesecake itself had a slightly savoury taste and the base, which didn’t disintegrate into dust when cut into, was super buttery. I tend to steer clear of honey-based dishes as they can often taste slightly artificial. This one, however, delivered the perfect combination of flavours – slight saltiness from the cheesecake, a little tartness from the accompanying mango sorbet and natural sweetness from the Black Bee Honey.

The quality of the honey used in this dish certainly elevated this cheesecake from being a great cheesecake to an utterly delicious one. Black Bee Honey is a Wiltshire based company that supports and celebrates British bees and their keepers. Named after the native British Honeybee which, up until recently was on the verge of extinction, all their honey is unblended and unpasteurized. Entirely different to many you will find on supermarket shelves.

With a reputation for luxury, I had expected the prices at The Ivy to be significantly higher than they actually are. Granted, there are a few dishes that are at the costly end of the scale but you get what you pay for. Prices for main courses actually start at £14.50 (Shepherd’s Pie) which I think is very reasonable when taking into consideration the quality of the food and the exceptional service.

All in all, The Ivy Victora Quarter lived up to my expectations and in some respects, surpassed them. Far more relaxed than I had envisaged yet formal enough to make the experience that little bit special, it is certainly somewhere I would like to visit again; particularly for brunch or afternoon tea with friends.

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