The Ivy, Manchester –
We ate, we drank, we conquered.
My musings on our experience dining at The Ivy Asia, Manchester.
*please note – our experience at The Ivy Asia was gifted to us, however I assure you this does not sway or affect my opinions in my review.
Welcome to The Ivy; Manchester’s most highly anticipated restaurant of 2018. A delay in its building works meant it opened at a later date than expected, opening its doors, and its arms, to the Mancunian public late November 2018.
Suavely placing itself in the heart of Spinningfields, The Ivy probably picked one of the more difficult places in Manchester to open, with long standing competitors like The Alchemist, Ibérica and 20 Stories right on its doorstep. But do we really think this had them quaking in their boots? No, I don’t really think so either…
Flamed Edamame Beans with Spicy Dip – and boy, was it spicy!
I’m a 2014 Spinningfields kinda girl myself – my local haunts included the Lawn Club, Long Bar, and in the summer I often frequented the Spinningfields Cinema Screenings on the lawns, remember those good ol’ deck chairs? Thems were the days!
So when Spinningfields started to have a bit of a make-over, least I could say is that I wasn’t best impressed. Some of my old favourites are still standing, Australasia and Oast House to name a couple. But over recent years, actually to be honest in more recent months, we’ve seen the format of Spinningfields shift into something that 2014 wouldn’t even recognise if it fell over it.
With closures from the likes of Artisan, and reincarnations from Manchester House, Spinningfields has been beckoning out for something new, something chic, and let’s be honest – something that will last.
Buttermilk Fried Chicken with Kimchi Mayonnaise.
I was’t convinced, I am not going to lie. I’m like you; I’ve seen that intertwining ivy going up for the last 10 months, and every time I’ve walked to and from my office (which is also, in Spinningfields) I’ve thought to myself “how long is this going to take?” and “is The Ivy really worth the hype?”. Short answer…
Yes it is.
Our drinks – Jon tried the Coalition Brewing Company’s “Zen Pale Ale” and I opted, as always, for a cocktail, a “Beijing Sling”.
I was wowed from the onset – suited and booted gents granted our entry, and we felt rather chic being admitted and gliding up to the second floor as people were being turned away at the door. Not taking pleasure in this no, but I did feel rather special hitting up Manchester’s latest contender.
Everyone was lovely from the entrance, to the front of house, to our waiter Kyle who really made the whole experience go from an 8 to a 9.5 for me! I always feel like a place just moves up a notch when they employ incredible waiting staff – and Kyle really did impress.
We walked in feeling slightly nervous, and perhaps even underdressed, but no one made us feel out of place. We were seated to the back of Ivy Asia, right near where all the action happens in the open kitchen. Perfect for people watching, I am such a nosey parker, made all the better for spotting Ryan Giggs and one of the Neville brothers, don’t ask me which one… This place really is the most hippest and most happening place in town! I’m surprised I didn’t see Mr. Big and Ms. Bradshaw at the back ordering a bourbon and a Cosmopolitan.
Our meal, well, sorry to sound like a broken record, was sensational from starters to desserts. We indulged somewhat, we went on a Tuesday night, which in our household counts for treat night! So we went all out. We started out with your staple Japanese entree, edamame beans with this deliciously set-your-mouth-on-fire sauce, perhaps if you’re not a fan of spice, opt for the option with matcha salt instead.
Then we were explained to that the menu worked more like a traditional Asian sharing style, than the classic British “starter, main, dessert” format. Sounded perfect to us, we’re big fans of sharing, you can usually find me and my fork sneaking around Jon’s dinner plate most days of the week. We opted for Buttermilk Fried Chicken, with the Kimchi Mayonnaise, accompanied by the Prawn and Chive Steamed Dumplings, with Shredded Nori and Miso Foam. I think the steamed dumplings were the winner from the small plates from me – such an unusual dish, with hints of Asian cuisine I’ve only been able to find on the shores of Hong Kong.
Our welcome champagne, to the left. And then to the right, our Duck Massaman Curry with Cashew Nuts.
Dishes tended to come over two at a time – so what followed was our Crispy Duck Bao Buns with Hoisin and Five Spice, alongside our order of Duck Massaman Curry with Cashew Nuts and Steamed Rice. Now I am not a bao bun connoisseur, truth be told I find them a little gimmicky and tailored to the European market. However, as they go, these are one of the nicest and truest to texture I have found in Manchester. The five spice just gives it that Asian kick you’re really hankering for, but the hoisin brings it right back down to earth with the gooey, stickiness that Brits know and love. The Massaman curry was a creamy-delicious bowl of heaven too; only thing I’d say was that they were quite light on the cashews, I think we only found two in the whole curry, but don’t let me fool you into thinking I am discouraging you to try this dish – as I am not, it was delightful.
Dessert – White Chocolate Sphere, with Passion Fruit, Meringue, Yuzu Foam and Caramel Sauce.
Dessert was well, the proverbial treat. Again, we went to town, due to it being treat night, and we ordered a dessert each! Unheard of in the Taylor-Glass household. I opted for, you guessed it, the most sickly sweet dessert on the menu: the White Chocolate Sphere, my inner fat girl was elated. There is nothing more satisfying than watching a dome of chocolate melt way due to it being bulldozed with caramel sauce; fact. The photograph above I am afraid is post-pour, but it just lets you see its inner workings in all its glory. Even though we did share, Jon ordered the Matcha Green Tea Creme Brûlée with Crushed Raspberries, which he said was just heavenly. It had that real thwack to the top of it, you know what I mean, that beautiful sugary coated topping that you just want to crack with the back of your spoon. But then the inside, oh the inside, this gloriously smooth and creamy brûlée that wasn’t too sweet as the matcha just reined it in somewhat. I think this dish won Jon over, and was his favourite of the whole meal.
Now I think besides the meal, the service and the decor, the thing I was most surprised about was the price. Okay, when you’re dining somewhere like The Ivy Asia, you know it’s not going to be a trip to your local, it’s going to cost you slightly more than your average meal out. However, baring in mind our experience was gifted to us, I took the time to price up based on everything we had, how much it would cost. For everything, from the champagne right down to our desserts, it came to £98.30 -wow. Now, I think that’s economically priced, baring it mind where you’re dining. It’s not somewhere you want to go every Friday night, unless perhaps you are indeed Ryan Giggs.
Overall verdict – 9.5/10
And I’ve booked the Brasserie for my birthday in February too.
Have you dined at The Ivy? Or The Ivy Asia?
What do you think of the ever evolving landscape of Spinningfields?
Let me know in the comments below.
& if I don’t see you before then, a very Merry Christmas to you all, and a happy new year x