My recent visit to The Ivy in Oxford, surrounded by the allure of their 1917 campaign, was nothing short of a culinary journey through history. The restaurant's commitment to preserving its rich legacy was evident from the moment we stepped through the door, its grandeur and elegant decor immediately transporting us back in time.
In 1917, at the heart of London's theatreland, Abel Giandellini envisioned a culinary haven that would cater to cultured palates. Thus, The Ivy was born. Over a century later, the venue pays tribute to its unique history with a special menu priced at £19.17 for two courses, inviting patrons to savour the flavours that have graced its tables for generations.
Seated in the corner, we had a panoramic view of the restaurant, providing a front-row seat to what felt like a well-choreographed production where every element seamlessly fell into place. Our delightful waitress, Lucy, added a personal touch to the experience. Her attentiveness and friendly demeanour made us feel really welcome, a testament to The Ivy's commitment to ensuring every visitor feels special.
Upon arrival I mentioned that, despite the option of the delicious sounding cocktail choices featured on the 1917 set menu, we were ‘Dry January-ing’, to which I expected a little disappointment, but it was met with absolutely no problem, and even enthusiasm to show off their extensive alternative menu, which was actually a highlight of the evening. The drinks menu offers an extensive selection of mocktails and alcohol alternatives. The distinction between fruity mocktails and replicated alcoholic drinks, (including things like alcohol-free spirits) catered to all preferences, adding a thoughtful touch to the evening. The only problem was deciding which to choose!
Now, onto the food…
To begin, we had Zucchini fritti with lemon, chilli, and mint yoghurt for the table – a light and refreshing start, serving as a delightful alternative to the usual bread. It whetted our appetite without any heavy, full feeling. I then started with the wild mushroom soup with plant-based mascarpone, sourdough bread croutons, and red amaranth: creamy, rich, and complemented by crunchy croutons, this soup had to be eaten in silence to give it the respect it deserved. It really hit the spot, setting the bar for what was to come. Across the table, my boyfriend Miles had the Velvety duck liver parfait with caramelized hazelnuts, cranberry chutney, and toasted brioche: A luxurious beginning – Miles doesn’t get to eat much meat at home, so this parfait was giving him the eyes from the moment he picked up the menu, and it did not disappoint.
To follow, I went for the pan-fried sea bream fillet with smoked aubergine purée, toasted almonds, and a tomato, olive, and shallot salsa, which was a flavour bomb in every bite. The combination of the deep smokey aubergine, the light and flakey fish, and the fresh zingy salsa was perfectly balanced, and each flavour complemented each other beautifully. On the side, I had truffle and parmesan chips. I can’t resist anything truffle even if it won’t go well with my dish, but these were insane – I couldn’t finish them so had to take them home as I knew I’d be thinking about them in bed… not like that. But also, yeah kind of like that.
Miles had The Ivy's original shepherd's pie with slow-braised lamb and beef, Cheddar mash, rosemary, and red wine sauce: A classic perfected over the years, showcasing the culinary mastery that defines The Ivy. The garden peas, broad beans, and baby shoots recommended by Lucy added a fresh and vibrant accompaniment, and a touch of green to a hearty main.
To finish, I had the crème brûlée with a caramelized sugar crust. A soft and velvety, not overly heavy dessert that provided the perfect conclusion to the meal. My boyfriend went for another classic, the sticky toffee pudding with salted caramel sauce, dates, clotted cream, and gold flakes. Such an indulgent finale that was sinful yet undeniably satisfying.
We were left to sit and chat with our full stomachs, and at no point felt we should hurry off and get out of their hair now that we were done. The Ivy in Oxford not only offers a gastronomic journey through time but also an impeccable dining experience where attention to detail, historic charm, and culinary excellence meet. From the enchanting ambience to the delicious dishes, every moment at The Ivy is a taste of history indeed.
Until 9 February, The Ivy invites guests to step back into the enchanting ambience of 1917. The limited-edition £19.17 two-course set menu unlocks a time capsule of flavours, showcasing classics that have stood the test of time.