MANY, many moons ago we went to The Ivy in London, that renowned haunt of celebrities and luvvies in the heart of theatreland.

It was a memorable night but the only thing I can recall about the food was that it was unremarkable nursery scran and I was jolly glad I wasn’t picking up the tab.

We remember seeing Tom Hanks and his son, Lulu, Sara Cox (you know, the DJ), Anthony Head in the days when they were still running that Gold Blend advert on the telly and a politician who was very famous then but clearly isn’t now because we’ve forgotten who he was.

All were tucking in to their shepherd’s pie and steak and chips desperately trying to look like they weren’t being looked at.

The place was at the very height of its celebrity hang-out status. The massed ranks of the pre-Diana death paparazzi in their full pomp would gather at the back door in the hope of getting a shot of that famous politician whose name we can’t now remember with Carol Vorderman or a Spice Girl on his arm.

Rather disappointingly, when we left through the same door, there wasn’t a mass of multiple flashes. Britain’s finest snappers just took one look at us and put down their cameras and resumed their conversations about the appalling rates paid by the tabloid press for their award-winning work.

Which I thought was a trifle unfair to be honest because a rather cheery man in a pub once swore on his mother’s grave that Sylvia was the Coronation Street actress Sally Lindsay and it was once said – in the days when I had more, and darker, hair - that a man on a galloping horse could have mistaken me for Alan Rickman in his Sheriff of Nottingham/Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves guise.

So the news that a branch of The Ivy was opening in York, along with a dozen others around the country, including Harrogate, was an opportunity to relive that memorable night.

The York branch has opened in a suitably prestigious spot, St Helen’s Square, opposite the Mansion House and what used to be Terry’s oak-panelled restaurant where, almost 38 years ago, a young graduate treated himself to a slap-up lunch after what turned out to successful job interview at the local paper. More memories.

The Ivy York is definitely where it’s at in the city right now. On the weekday evening we visited, and having booked a week ahead, we could only get a table for four at six and on the proviso that we didn’t occupy it beyond eight.

And inside the big city buzz was tangible. There was even a (sort of) celebrity in. Nick Brown, boss of the city’s department store Brown’s, was at the bar and being an old school friend he recognised me and hailed me loudly across the room. Ah, fame at last. The sleight at the hands of the London papparazi was instantly forgotten. Our friends, Stuart and Helen, were suitably impressed. I think.

Our waiter – tall, dark, handsome, possibly French – brought us a la carte menus and could barely hide his disgust at being asked for the early bird, two courses for £16.50 option. “Five minutes to order” was his gruff instruction as he handed out the A4 sheets.

We did as we were told and savoured our Aperol Spritz aperitifs (£8.25 a pop) and our surroundings which were very lovely indeed. Our window table overlooked the square and the bar and restaurant shares the art deco-themed loucheness of its London parent. It looks good and was comfortable too.

Our food was okay. Stuart and Helen snaffled the last two portions of a nutty, slightly dry mushroom risotto and Sylvia decided the £3.50 supplement for her acceptable but hardly historic steak wasn’t really worth it. The chips were good though.

My chicken breast with a tomato, pepper and breadcrumb crust sat atop a bed of spinach and polenta was best main served, the chicken being well flavoured and moist.

Stuart and I considered our modestly-proportioned chocolate mousse, garnished with raspberries and chocolate, to be as rich and smooth as mousse could possibly be. Helen and Sylvia opted for Wookey Hole Cheddar served with apple and celery but had to ask for some additional crackers.

Even though at the end of our meal we were moved on fairly swiftly and taking account of the rather sniffy attitude of our waiter, we were actually looked after rather well.

The bill was £153.56 which included a beefy bottle of Cotes du Rhone and an automatic 12.5 per cent service charge and we didn’t begrudge it even though automatic service charges are relatively rare in our part of the world.

Don’t go to The Ivy for the food. But the style and atmosphere make it worth the trip.

The Ivy

St Helen’s Square

York YO1 8QP

Tel: 01904 403888 Web:

Vegetarian and gluten and dairy-free options

Open: Mon-Sat 8am-11.30pm; Sun 9am-10.30pm


Food quality 7/10

Service 8/10

Surroundings 10/10

Value 7/10