Ivy League – The Ivy Brighton and The Ivy Chelsea Garden
Going to the newly-opened Ivy in the Lanes this week in Brighton was a last-minute decision prompted by the fact that the Hubster and I had no children for the evening. So we grabbed the bull by the proverbial horns and made a play for Brighton and its city lights. And I’m so glad we did. Not only were we lucky to get a table at The Ivy, but it ended up being a funny and happy night full of good food and cheer and with no lovable but moody pre-teens present to spoil it.
I’ve always been a big fan of the original and iconic Ivy in London’s Covent Garden. Frequenting it as I did as a young PR exec in the late nineties and early noughties. In fact, it was like a third office space for my then boss as we schmoozed journalists there on a Friday lunchtime. Those were the days! Oh how things have changed in 2018 with the Ivy brand scaling up and spreading its own kind of glamorous ‘brasserie’ chic across London and beyond, with mixed results.
I loved The Ivy Tower Bridge – see my review of it here but had a really disappointing experience at The Ivy Chelsea Garden on the King’s Road with a good friend of mine back in the spring. It wasn’t the food that was called into question here (it was excellent) but the general standards of service and attitude from staff who were mostly young and inexperienced. The Ivy brand’s reputation for excellent standards of service was let down BIG TIME by staff at the Ivy Chelsea Garden.
Is it ever acceptable for male (or female) waiting staff to mercilessly FLIRT with their clientele? NO, not in a ‘fine dining’ establishment. But this is what happened at The Ivy Chelsea Garden. The young, easy-on-the-eye waiter who was responsible for our area of the restaurant, had the kind of overtly flirtatious attitude that was part ‘Love Island’, part cheesy Rom Com and it was the most unprofessional thing in the world to witness. The first few sentences he uttered as he saw us to our table meant we were flattered and the mood was light but this kind of relentless over familiarity throughout a meal takes away from any dining experience. What we witnessed next was like some hackneyed prandial speed dating show as he ‘worked’ the room and spoke to every other female diner in this way. It was more than a little distracting and dare I say it, almost embarrassing? I think it’s all about CONTEXT here. Buying coffee in a hip Shoreditch hangout and a flirtatious ‘hello’ is the norm. Eating at a buzzy casual Italian with girlfriends and being subjected to innocent flirting by the waiters is practically de rigeur! But in a place where you expect something a little more formal, then…? Which begs the question. Are the Ivy’s new openings actually fine dining?
I feel a little bad saying all the above, I mean I’ve nothing against love’s young dreamboat. Of course places like this are going to employ attractive staff, it’s the way the world works these days. But surely there needs to be a code of conduct set in place to keep that respected Ivy service upheld? Also it’s nice to see staff of ALL ages working in a place and not just young, good looking whipper snappers with vacant looks on their faces. At the end of our meal, my friend’s husband came to our table to say hello quickly only to be rudely spoken to and asked to leave by another member of staff. It was bizarre to say the least, as a different member of staff had pointed him to our table in the first place. The restaurant has a two person only policy at our particular seating area, which is fine, but the way they spoke to him was atrocious and unsurprisingly he left to wait elsewhere. This really dampened the time we had there and when we mentioned it to the two young women at reception as we left, they literally just shrugged their shoulders – vacantly. Disappointing.
The Ivy Chelsea Garden could learn A LOT however from The Ivy Brighton. This was an altogether DIFFERENT and lovely experience. The staff were friendly, welcoming and professional and there was a real mix of all ages among them, so you felt you were in good hands. This is what you are paying for when you go to The Ivy. The decor, food, lighting and ambience are so ON POINT in many of the new Ivy restaurants, why on earth would you spoil it with substandard staffing?
I won’t go into long details about the food at the Ivy in the Lanes, Brighton. Needless to say it was ALL delicious and the decor was really something else. It’s housed in the old post office which has the architectural stature to host such a beautiful restaurant. Just take a look at the pics below. All in all, it’s a sexy, chic and enchanting place to have dinner.
Let me know what you think about the trend in the UK at the moment for over-familiarity of staff in restaurants – just drop your comments below. I’d love to hear from you! Thanks for reading friends. Over and out. xxx