For a month or so now it seems that all anyone has spoken about in Cheltenham is The Ivy Montpelier Brasserie and with good reason too. The interior, which you would have probably already drooled over if you have been following The Ivy's progress is ultra impressive and the menus that serve food from 8am to a refreshing 11.30pm in the week and 12.30am on a Saturday make this a fitting place to kick off our reviews for 2018.
After a slow journey in fog we arrived in time for our table but sadly not in time for our planned drink at the splendid circular bar that occupies the middle of the main restaurant. We were pleasantly greeted on entering, offloaded our jackets to the cloakroom and were shown to a small table for two on the inner circle. The way the restaurant is designed means there is no bad tables and it doesn't actually matter where you sit.
Being the hottest place in town, it was unsurprisingly full and buzzing with a inviting vibe. The interior most definitely helps as the beautiful domed ceiling and the horse and jockey covered walls are great conversation topics.
Starters arrived after a couple of glasses of fizz. Atlantic Sea Scallops, Truffle risoni, shaved Parmesan, black truffle and sweet potato crisps was one of the most splendid dishes I have tasted for a long time while the wonderfully fresh Crispy Duck Salad, with five spice dressing, toasted cashews, watermelon, beansprouts, coriander and ginger was packed with many flavours.
Just feet away from us the barman was creating some awesome looking cocktails on his circular stage as our main courses arrived. Mustard and herb crust shoulder of lamb and The Ivy Burger, the latter ordered more out of curiosity as we both wanted to know what a "Potato Bun" tasted like. To me it was just like a brioche bun yet perhaps a little fluffier, to her it was the best bun she had ever had. The lamb was tender and sat on a hill of creamy mash. The rosemary sauce (known to many as gravy) appeared in its own miniature saucepan loaded with carrots and parsnips and a teaspoon for decanting which was a nice touch as well as being a hazard to anyone with an unsteady hand. From the first bite (I had two bites) you could tell the meat in the burger was quality. It was served medium (we were offered well done too but surely nobody opts for that?) with a side of fries, a Bloody Mary ketchup and a complimentary stack of salad that never got disturbed.
Did we need a pudding? Of course we didn't but ordered the Chocolate bombe. It was sweet, like magically sweet with a vanilla ice cream and honeycomb centre that soon caved in from heat of the lava-esque salted caramel sauce which is sure to become one of the most boomeranged Instagram videos in Cheltenham. We managed to clear the plate and then somehow devoured a salted caramel espresso martini straight after.
I loved the Ivy but my only slight worry is that people will forget that its a brasserie and will pick holes because of the logo above the door and the stamp on the plates. In reality it is the finest looking, and busiest restaurant in town serving decent food at extremely reasonable prices and offers a very good dining experience which is more than can be said for many of the places that have rested on their laurels for a few years. Of course it's early days and yes it's the zeitgeist, but one thing is for sure, The Ivy has given Cheltenham a kick up the backside it never knew it needed.
Atlantic sea scallops 11.95
Crispy duck salad 7.95
Slow-roasted lamb shoulder 16.95
The Ivy hamburger 14.25
Chocolate bombe 8.50