There are Ivys popping up left, right and centre, it’s hard to keep up. One of the latest ones to land is at Tower Bridge.
I love the brand and worry that it’s being watered down but after visiting its new outcrop, I’m pleased to report that it’s still keeping true to its spirit – spot on martinis and well done classic cuisine – it’s just bigger and busier. No longer just confined to the West End theatre crowd but welcoming in the masses.
The day we hit the impressively large Tower Bride location, three weeks after its opening, it was busy with a queue outside the door.
Youngsters from the area were outside scooting about on BMX bikes doing wheelies in a bid to cause a little annoyance from the bouncers. The servers, dressed in eye-catching red dresses, seemed to be working at max capacity to cope with the influx.
Luckily we hit the clock just right and there was one table left on the outside terrace. While the seats were reset, we hit the marble-topped bar for a pre-dinner cocktail.
The Ivy at Tower Bridge boasts a drinks menu designed specifically for the venue. We both plumped for a Beefeater martini, which is described as being a ‘nod to the Tower of London guards’ with a blend of Beefeater gin, rhubarb, lemon juice and cranberry bitters. The finished concoctions were a dazzling shade of pink. Each glass was decked out with a little ribbon garnish.
As with all of Richard Caring’s venues, the eye for detail at the new outpost is impressive. Along with bows on your drinks there are swathes of lipstick-red leather, flamboyant wallpaper, art deco flicks of gold and black and leafy palms setting the mood.
After a brief wait, giving us enough time to polish off our cocktails, we were politely shown to our table.
The views at the Tower Bridge Ivy are definite selling point. The infamous bridge looms seemingly within arm’s reach while the silhouette of the City skyscrapers make for a fitting backdrop.
We were both pretty ravenous and got some smoked almonds and giant buttery olives to start. One of my favourite Ivy renditions, a mildly dirty olive martini, was also placed on the order book.
Being close to the water on the banks of the River Thames, it seemed fitting to sail down the seafood route.
To start we shared a portion of the sea scallops and for main I opted for a whole lobster. My friend meanwhile went for the duck curry after our waiter recommended it over the cod.
The outside area had a great buzz, the Ivy’s Tower Bridge location really couldn’t be any better.
We never got around to checking out the upstairs area, but our waitress told us that it has amazing floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the city beyond. There is also a light and airy conservatory.
Despite it being busy, service was fairly efficient and the meal arrived in good time. A bowl of four daintily-seared scallops went in a flash, with cuts of the white flesh dunked in green splurges of pea puree.
On to the mains and I have to say, it went down as my favourite serving of lobster to date. I’ve had it prepared in all kinds of ways, from smoked on a BBQ in Cornwall to grilled fresh from a boat in the British Virgin Islands.
But the Ivy’s £34 dish was cooked to perfection with the white-pink meat salted perfectly and juicy to taste. The portion was generous and the shell had been slightly cracked so I didn’t need to do too much manoeuvring myself.
Even my friend Fin commented on how good it was. Usually lobster can be overly charred, tough or measly in size. But this was plump, tender and large.
Fin’s aromatic curry was good, almost like a duck version of a chicken korma – not the spice bath he was expecting – and there was a generous sprinkling of cashews. But I could see slight ‘meal envy’ and I kindly shovelled a few bits of lobster claw his way, much to his delight.
As night time descended the city lights came alive. There was also a bit of a chill in the air so I wrapped up in a blanket conveniently placed on the back of my chair.
While we were more than sufficiently full we couldn’t resist dipping into the dessert menu.
Fin was lured by the baked apple tart with vanilla ice cream and Calvados flambé while I went for the lighter option of frozen berries with a sweet whites chocolate sauce.
The waiter also recommended we try the special spins on Espresso Martinis – one with salted caramel and another made with rum instead of vodka.
Maybe we’d gone a bridge too far. We sat there in near-silence as a sugar coma took hold.
Come 10pm the outdoor terrace was shutting for the evening and we decided to call it a night.
We’d been at the Ivy for almost three hours.
But as they say, time flies when you’re having fun.
The madness had died down a little inside and we took a walk back over the bridge, my mind still feasting on memories of the best lobster I’ve ever had.
The Ivy Tower Bridge is located at One Tower Bridge, Tower Bridge Road, London, SE1 2AA
To book at table call 0203 146 7722 or visit theivytowerbridge.com