Did anyone ever tune in to Channel 5’s daytime telly fave The Restaurant Inspector?
It was presented by director of The Ivy, restaurateur Fernando Peire.
Back in 2012, he came to Edinburgh to try to reinvigorate Spanish eatery Iggs. The premise of the series went as follows. In the style of Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, Peire would visit a restaurant, simplify the menu and paint the place in a non-offensive neutral shade. Voila!
Amongst others, I was invited along for my five minutes of fame, to be filmed self-consciously eating dinner, before proclaiming that the makeover was marvellous.
In the case of Iggs, it closed down shortly afterwards. Same goes for the telly show.
Anyway, they certainly don’t apply the same formula to the chain of Ivy Grills and Brasseries.
Edinburgh’s new Ivy on the Square is unashamedly maximalist – in homage, one supposes, to the original 100-year-old celebrity haunt in London – with Art-Deco-esque prints all over the walls and banquettes heaped with velvety cushions.
Our visit was actually my second, since I’d been to the opening party.
I usually snub any restaurant launch invites, in an attempt to remain neutral, but I was seduced by the star-spotting potential. Edith Bowman WAS there, DJing, but, apart from that, there wasn’t even a sniff of a Grant Stott.
Still, nice canapés, and everyone’s a Clooney/Paltrow when I have my champagne goggles on.
Back here sober, and I get a proper look at the à la carte menu, which is huge – 22 mains if you don’t count the sarnies – with a luxurious cruise ship or five-star-hotel vibe.
Served on an ivy-leaf monogrammed plate, the starter of duck liver parfait (£6.95) was a goodie, with a butter-clad puck of meaty putty, and a topping of crumbled hazelnuts, black truffle shavings, and pear and ginger compote. This came with two fat triangles of toasted brioche, cutely swaddled into a cloth napkin on the side.
Our other starter of watercress-topped wild mushrooms (£7.95) was slightly lacking. There were few fungi slivers in loads of creamy sauce, so it resembled an empty outdoor lido in November, including a diving board of more toasted brioche.
They’d also been a bit tight with the sparse grating of Gran Moravia cheese and the truffle.
We’re not sure what was up with my dining partner’s main of game pie (£16.50). The plate was presented, then whisked away again with a panicked expression before we could get a good gander.
“Something missing”, apparently.
It took a while to return, but we had a pot of truffle (more truffle!) and Parmesan chips (£4.50) as life support.
And, after 147 seconds of saying I’d wait for us both to be served, I slowly began to absorb my blackened cod (£16.95), which was cooked on an unravelled bit of banana leaf, like gorilla’s gift wrap.
Unfortunately, as the fish was a bit of a misshapen and thick clod, it was unevenly cooked.
I did, however, enjoy its tarry topping of soy, miso, honey and Szechuan pepper, and the accompaniments – a smudge of toasted sesame and yuzu mayo, and pak choi that had been prettified with radish petals.
Once I was a third of the way through this, the pie reappeared, looking the same. Mysterious.
Anyway, my other half loved its interior of mushroom, pheasant, wild boar and venison, oak-leaf-hued crust and sides of smooth mash, carrot struts and a truffle (more truffle!) sauce.
The flourless cappuccino cake (£7.25) was about the only thing we ordered that wasn’t laced with truffle. Instead, the lovely waiter theatrically sloshed a jug of dreamy espresso sauce over the top. We also had the vanilla-dusted Scottish burnt cream (£6.50), aka crème brûlée – a huge portion (enough to magnolia wash an eatery on The Restaurant Inspector), with a snappy shortbread plank on top. I’d imagine that few get as far as pud, as the savouries are SO rich and buttery.
Still, any excuse to linger, since it’s such a good spot for people watching. And, for those who’re disappointed by the celebrity quota, may I suggest Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque goggles (yours for £160 a bottle).
6 St Andrew Square, Edinburgh
(0131-526 4777, www.theivyedinburgh.com)