Oxford’s High Street has had a few new additions in recent months, including The Ivy Oxford Brasserie. These additions have helped turn the street into a destination, in its own right, for all things food, drink, culture and style.
Starting in the South: you can hire a punt from Magdalen Bridge; stop off for tea at Oxford’s Grand Café (on the site of the very first tea house circa 1650); test the latest trendy products at Space NK; make a diversion via Jericho Coffee Traders or grab a cinnamon bun from Skogen Kitchen; try gelato at indie ice cream shop Swoon; enjoy a glass of wine and be entertained at Sandy’s Piano Bar; shop for homeware in the recently opened Anthropology store; before finally, settling in at the Ivy for cocktails and dinner.
Both Anthropology and the Ivy opening up here is a vote of confidence for this High Street.
The Ivy will be hoping to capitalise on the all-day Brasserie model, that’s already proved successful for Oxford’s best-known restaurateur, Jeremy Mogford, owner of The Old Bank hotel further down the High Street, a renovated bank which opened in 1999. The Ivy’s 18th-century building was similarly occupied by NatWest Bank before renovation.
The Ivy, through their distinctive approach to interior design (with origins in London at the now century-old star-frequented venue), teamed with a focus on cocktails, is trying to position itself to a younger and wider audience.
With the large Westgate shopping centre now a successful self-contained selection of shops and restaurants just down the road, it’s all the more impressive, and important, that a stylish (more on this shortly!) and quality restaurant offering can complete this High Street; making it as worthy as any other to attract visitors and locals alike.
The Ivy’s interiors were developed in consultation with Martin Brudnizki Design Studio; a designer with interiors characterised by Art Deco influences, often glamorous and a feast for the eyes. You’ll find layers of design styles, clashing luxe fabrics and impressive scene-stealing bars.
The design studio has redesigned the Ivy restaurants in London, along with other swoon-worthy visit-for-the-interiors-only restaurants. Annabel’s in London is a great example (check out the pink bar on their Instagram)!
Oxford’s Ivy is no different.
It truly was difficult to know where to look when we were first seated. Potted plants ran the length of the room behind where I sat on an equally long leather bench. Lots of framed artwork is hung over the Oxford botanical garden inspired plant patterned walls, and of course, the bar takes center stage with glassware hanging and spirits displayed as part of the design.
The cocktails were impressive; I was torn between the Candy Floss fizz (Prosecco, lanique rose petal liquor, lychee, ginger and rum) and the Negroni Spagliato (classic negroni with Prosecco in place of gin).
I settled on the Negroni by recommendation from our waiter, and it was the perfect Aperitif. My friend ordered The Ivy Sling (based on the Singaporean classic but using Plymouth gin), which she enjoyed all the more after missing out on the original Raffles version on a recent trip.
The cocktails are worth the visit alone…
… and I look forward to returning when social distancing is relaxed, to sip cocktails at the beautiful bar.
Starters were very good and filling. Mine was a warm crispy duck salad with cashews, watermelon, beansprouts, coriander and ginger; my friend’s a classic starter of smoked salmon served with dark rye bread.
The all-day menu had all the classics you would expect; steak starting at £15.95, Burger and chips, as well as a number of tasty-sounding fish dishes; Monkfish and Prawn curry, fillet of salmon, Blackened cod fillet and the special of grilled fillet of sea bass. I chose the lobster linguine, and my guest, the Keralan Monkfish and prawn curry.
Other than the rice being slightly undercooked, the curry was tasty and had a great balance between the coconut and spice. My linguine was how I like it, al dente, and the lobster delicious; but the simple sauce of tomato, chilli, parsley and spring onion didn’t make the whole dish outstanding, as it ought to have been for the £29.50 price tag.
Desert was the highlight.
A classic and perfect Crème brûlée (£6.95), and an indulgent strawberry ice cream Sunday (£8.25).
We also asked to see the vegetarian menu, and were impressed and tempted by a few of the dishes. The Pea and asparagus risotto with goats cheese sounded delicious. With a large menu and the market specials changing fortnightly, there are plenty of options to satisfy any crowd and a range of budgets.
The dining experience at The Ivy is unlike any other in Oxford. The cocktails are first class and inventive, the location is in good company on Oxford’s High Street, the brasserie’s tableware and silverware add a touch of luxury and the food offering has a variety of options to suit a range of budgets and tastes.
Distancing measures at the time of our visit:
Temperatures were being taken and the restaurant was mostly full. Diners were sat mostly 2m apart, other than when their backs were to other diners. No face masks were worn by the staff, but I understood temperatures were taken at the start of their shifts.
We dined as guests of The Ivy Oxford Brasserie, all views remain our own