Review of 'The Ivy Kensington Brasserie'

One of my favourite restaurants (and my mothers favourite) is The Ivy near to Leicester Square. It has long had a reputation of where to be seen and where to see the great and the good but it is not this that has appealed to me but rather the quality of the food, the service and the ambience. An elegant interior with it's iconic stain glass windows - Somewhat cluttered yet feeling quite comforting and very welcoming. The staff never look down on you and treat you as if you are their sole customer and with the deepest respect. Always eager to please. In recent years they have opened additional Ivy restaurants so we were eager to see if this winning formula has been transferred to at least one of their new outposts, their brasserie in Kensington. Certainly it was much easier to get a reservation here than the original whose many-month-long waiting list is the stuff of legends.

The Ivy Kensington Brasserie is located on the busy high street opposite High Street Kensington tube station. It's floor to ceiling windows quite a departure from the stained glass of the original these do tend to be a bit more welcoming as you can see the activity within. From the street you are in a tiny reception area curtained off from the rest of the restaurant where the staff relieve you of any bags and coats you wish to be relieved of.

The interior is eclectic to say the least with a bar (with seating) on the far right of the large main room with the toilets and an entrance from a local office building at the rear. The art nouveau look of the original Ivy continues here with a muted palate, chequerboard flooring, suspended globe ceiling lights, and mirrored walls along with waiting staff smartly dressed complete with white pinnies. It is all a bit over the top, slightly quirky but amusing and comforting. Small tables seating four or two are scattered throughout rather than the booths found at the Ivy (traditionally - I am not sure they are still there after their recent refurbishment).


Our reservation was for 6 pm so we were able to chose from the “set menu” however a short look at this did not inspire so we decided instead to opt for the a la carte. The “All Day Menu” menu (from 11:30 am) is presented on a large single-sided A3 card and is absolutely stuffed with options: The left lists wines and other drinks, the central section has a selection of nibbles followed by “Starters”, “Fish & Seafood”, “Steaks”, “Vegetables” and “Sides” while the far right lists “Sandwiches” (11:30 am to 5 pm) and “Afternoon Menu” (3 pm to 5 pm). The prices are refreshingly reasonable much like (though you may not believe me) the original Ivy. This is not haute cuisine by any means, just well executed comfort food.

It did take a while to decide during which time we sipped at our house sparkling mineral water (£1.50 a bottle, and, it seems, bottomless) and one of my companions sought some assistance in choosing a sweeter wine. Normally she prefers a rosé but here she was persuaded to try a white: A “Sauvignon Blanc, Craggy Range, Te Muna, Martinborough, New Zealand” (£9.50 a glass - yeah, OK quite pricey but she really enjoyed it).

I started with the “Burrata di bufala” (Clementine with sourdough croutons, chilli, pine nuts and pesto; £9.95) - a very light cheese much like mozzarella - which was wonderfully light and very fresh served with a minimum of fuss on a plain grey plate.

Burrata di bufala

Another companion chose the “Apple and Stilton salad” (Soft Stilton cheese with apple, cranberries, Belgian endive and caramelised hazelnuts; £7.50) which was an enormous portion with extremely strong Stilton. She reports it was very good…

Apple and Stilton salad

One other tried the “Raw market salad” (Thinly shaved market vegetables with avocado houmous, Manuka honey and wholegrain mustard dressing; £7.75) which was beautifully presented and, reportedly, absolutely delicious.

Raw market salad

For my main after much debate I settled their signature “Kensington Brasserie shepherd’s pie” (Slow-braised lamb shoulder with beef and Wookey Hole Cheddar potato mash; £13.50) which was absolutely delicious if a bit simple in presentation. No huge tastes here but good comfort food prepared exceptionally.

Kensignton Brasserie shepherd's pie

The companion sitting opposite had the “Slow-roasted lamb shoulder” (Mustard and herb crust with creamed potato, glazed root vegetables, rosemary sauce; £18.95) which I had been eyeing up which she reported was perfectly cooked - falling apart under her fork. Another hearty dish.

Slow-roasted lamb shoulder

My other companion had the “Aromatic duck curry” (Fragrant coconut duck curry with lemongrass, lime, chilli, roasted cashews and steamed jasmine rice; £14.75) which she absolutely adored - Wonderful full-bodied flavours with deliciously succulent duck. It was another quite large portion…

Aromatic duck curry

The dessert menu was now brought to us (thankfully as none of the desserts listed under the “Afternoon Menu” on the original menu did not look terribly appealing) and it was with great delight that one of my companions, a long time lover of the Ivy, found her favourite, “Frozen berries” (Mixed berries with yoghurt sorbet and warm white chocolate sauce; £7.50). Though served in a slightly different way and with less chocolate sauce than she would have preferred, she enjoyed these nonetheless. As the chocolate is poured onto the dish the frozen fruit cause it to thicken somewhat making it quite a rich dish.

Frozen berries

For my dessert I opted to try the “Cherry ice cream sundae” (Vanilla ice cream with meringue, pistachio, shortbread and a warm cherry sauce; £7.95) which I have to say was the star of our chosen desserts. Absolutely delicious shortbread with a slightly tart cherry sauce and an amazing ice cream. Large meringue pieces in the bottom of the dish were a bit much but appreciated nonetheless.

Cherry ice cream sundae

My opposite companion opted for the “Lemon meringue Alaska” (Baked meringue with lemon ice cream, lemon curd sauce and baby basil; £7.50) which was beautifully presented looking somewhat like a “walnut whip” (without the chocolate covering) and very good indeed - Not sweet with a delicious texture from the browned meringue and a delicious sauce.

Lemon meringue Alaska

The service throughout our meal was exceptional. At the table when required and more than willing to spend the time explaining a menu option or helping in selection. This was all despite the fact the restaurant was reasonably busy. I will have to say that the toilet, though very nice, did smell a bit when I visited which was really the only disappointment during our visit.

While it is not the original Ivy it seems the brasserie keeps up the exceptional service, food quality and comfortable surroundings (though a bit noisy, as you might expect, when busy). It is not as expensive as you might think with the three courses (from a la carte, no less) for three of us, including drinks, coming out at just under £125 (including a discretionary 12.5% service charge) - A remarkable bargain for this type of food in London. The choice of dishes was quite diverse which meant choosing was a bit tricky trying to chose what might be the best of what was on offer but, to be honest, you could be blindfolded and stab randomly at the menu yet still enjoy whatever arrives.

I will be coming back, that is for sure. Perhaps for a lighter lunch or just a quiet dinner with my loved one…A great way to spend several hours over some top notch comfort food and service.

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2017-11-07

Cuisine: American/British

Address: 96 Kensington High Street London W8 4SG ENGLAND

Public Transport: TUBE High Street Kensington

Location: London (England) - Kensington



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Telephone: +44 (0) 20 3301 0500