The Ivy, London
|Current owner(s)||Richard Caring|
|Head chef||Gary Lee|
|Dress code||Smart casual|
|Street address||West Street|
The Ivy is a restaurant which is popular with celebrities, people from the arts and media and theatregoers. It is situated in West Street, near Cambridge Circus in London, opposite the Ambassadors and St Martin's theatres.
The original restaurant was opened by Abel Giandolini in 1917 as an unlicensed Italian cafe in a building on the same site. Legend has it that the name itself originated from a chance remark by the actress Alice Delysia, who overheard Giandolini apologise to a customer for the inconvenience caused by building works. When he said that it was because of his intention to create a restaurant of the highest class, she interjected "Don't worry – we will always come and see you. 'We will cling together like the ivy'", a line from the then-popular song, 1902's "Just Like the Ivy I'll Cling to You", written by AJ Mills and Harry Castling. The restaurant expanded into the current premises in 1929 run by Giandolini, with his longstanding Maitre d' Mario Gallati as host.
In part due to its proximity to the West End theatres, exclusivity and late closing time (it is still open until close to midnight), the restaurant quickly became a theatrical institution, with Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, Marlene Dietrich, John Gielgud, Lilian Braithwaite, Terence Rattigan, Binkie Beaumont and Noël Coward being habitués, having their regular 2-seater tables along the walls. According to the actor Donald Sinden in his Sky Arts television documentary series Great West End Theatres, The Ivy became so famous as a theatrical-celebrities haunt that in the 1943 revue Sweet and Low which ran for almost six years at the neighbouring Ambassadors Theatre, there was a satirical sketch included, updated regularly, entitled Poison Ivy, where the show's star Hermione Gingold "would exchange wicked and salacious celebrity gossip".
In 1950 Giandolini sold The Ivy to Bernard Walsh and the restaurant became part of his Wheeler's group of fish restaurants. Subsequent owners were Lady Grade and the Forte Foundation. It then closed in 1989 and Jeremy King and Chris Corbin, who owned Le Caprice, bought it. The restaurant was totally renovated to a design by American architect MJ Long incorporating specially-commissioned artworks by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, Sir Peter Blake, Sir Howard Hodgkin, Bridget Riley, Allen Jones, Joe Tilson, Patrick Caulfield, Michael Craig-Martin and Tom Phillips. Fernando Peire was appointed Senior Maître d'. The restaurant opened in June 1990 and became a sensation. Peire left The Ivy in December 1998, three months after the restaurant was sold to Belgo PLC as part of Caprice Holdings Ltd.; Corbin and King departed two years later and went on to establish their own Rex Restaurants (now Corbin & King).
The restaurant seats 100 guests and there is also a private dining room on the first floor of the restaurant, seating up to 60 guests. Mobile phones and cameras are forbidden anywhere in the restaurant or adjoining club and there is a dress code: "Gentlemen are not required to wear ties. Shorts, singlets and micro-skirts are not acceptable forms of attire at The Ivy".
In 2005 the entrepreneur Richard Caring bought The Ivy and the Caprice Holdings group, which also owns Le Caprice, which is located behind the Ritz in the St James's area of London, the fish restaurant J. Sheekey, located near Leicester Square, Scotts in Mount Street and 34 in Grosvenor Square. In 2007 Fernando Peire returned to The Ivy in 2007 and was appointed Director of The Ivy and The Club at The Ivy. Gary Lee, who had previously been in charge of Private Functions at The Ivy, returned as Head Chef and was appointed Executive Chef in 2008. Executive Chef Director of Caprice Holdings restaurants (now Caprice Group) is Tim Hughes.
The Club at The Ivy
In September 2008, The Club at The Ivy, a private members' club with a hidden entrance via an adjacent flower-shop, was opened on the three floors above the restaurant, with membership (drawn primarily from creative industries and the arts) "as hard to get as a table at The Ivy itself" according to the author A. A. Gill.
It boasts a Piano Lounge; a dining room ("The Drawing Room"), open for breakfast, lunch and supper; a wood-panelled library "of books that reflect many of our members’ interests in art, literature, film, theatre, architecture and design"; a film screening-room and entertainment space known as the Loft; a further private dining-room seating up to 14 people and a cigar-terrace.
- Matthew Fort (4 November 2010). "The Ivy: dine with the stars". The Guardian.
- Matthew Fort. "The Ivy: dine with the stars". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 December 2014.
- Great West End Theatres episode 5. St Martins Theatre
- Morley, Sheridan (1986). The Great Stage Stars. London: Angus & Robertson. ISBN 0816014019.
- "DRESS CODE". The-ivy.co.uk. Retrieved 9 December 2014.
- A A Gill. "The Ivy: The Restaurant and its Recipes". Hodder.co.uk. Retrieved 9 December 2014.
- "The Ivy". Londoneats.com. Retrieved 9 December 2014.
- "The Club at the Ivy". The-ivyclub.co.uk. Retrieved 9 December 2014.
- "Talk of the town: The Ivy Club's entrance is so white that it feels as if you're walking into a huge iPod". The Independent. Retrieved 9 December 2014.
- "The Club at the Ivy London – Private Club Interiors – Martin Brudnizki". Mbds.com. Retrieved 9 December 2014.
- "The Restaurant Inspector". Five. Retrieved 9 December 2014.