The Ivy Café’s newest family member in charming Marylebone Lane doesn’t push any gastronomic boats out, but then it doesn’t need to. It’s elegant and comfortable and does a wicked Negoni Tasting Set.
Weekend brunch in Marylebone is a notoriously staid affair. There’s rarely anything more controversial than somewhere serving eggs benedict using smoked bacon instead of ham. The responsibility for offering the smidgingly more lively breaky options such as Turkish Eggs (poached eggs in yoghurt and chilli oil) falls solely on the shoulders of The Providores. And for their presence on the High Street, I thank the goddesses often.
The Ivy was never going to contest the brunch time status quo in this part of London. It’s not trying to be edgy or cool or pretend it belongs in Shoreditch or Bermondsey. It’s old school with old favourites, but it does them well. The vibe is refined but relaxed, with lovely linen napery and silver teapots. Service, while sometimes a little erratic, is usually moderated by a cordial maitre de who invariably smooths ruffled wealthy feathers and softens the inadvertent pointy ends of some of the less experienced wait staff.
The food is reliable. The croque madam is a great brunch choice, with slowly stewed sweet caramelised onions slathered over good sourdough before being adorned with a perfectly fried sunny-side-up. Nothing remarkable, but perfectly delicious. Tea is offered in beautiful silverware and water is kept topped up. A safe choice for brunch if you find yourself in the genteel streets of Marylebone.
Where The Ivy excels is in the sneaky, cheeky pre-dinner aperitif. And in particular the Negroni Tasting Set. Excellent value at £9 for three short shots. There’s a light, fruity ‘Dolin’ bittersweet strawberry vermouth, a delicate herbal taster made with Ivy gin and a punchy ‘Boulevardier’ with ‘Bulleit’ bourbon. If you’re not a negroni lover when arriving, you might be when leaving – you have three goes at making up your mind.
The Ivy Cafe
96 Marylebone Lane,
London W1U 2QA.
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