Newly opened The Ivy Spinningfields is the largest restaurant to open in the UK in 2018 with 535 covers. The glitzy new arrival occupies four floors with a ground floor brasserie, first floor private dining room, a second floor Asian bar and restaurant, and a top floor roof garden.
The Ivy brasserie menu is the same as in other cities, with all-day dining from breakfast through to dinner. Breakfast options include Eggs Benedict with pulled honey roast ham, and whole kipper with parsley butter, while weekend brunch offers the likes of oak smoked salmon and rye bread or steak tartare.
An all-day menu includes chicken Milanese with truffle cream sauce, or the famous The Ivy shepherd’s pie – slow-braised lamb shoulder with beef and Wookey Hole Cheddar potato mash.
What sets this Ivy apart from its siblings, however, is The Ivy Asia – a new concept for the Manchester branch. We went to see what the city’s diners can expect from the new arrival.
The Ivy Asia restaurant and bar, which occupies the entire second floor, is a striking space. The floor is illuminated with a show-stopping green, semi-precious stone floor, set against a striking antique gold mirrored bar, gold-gilt ceiling and luxurious Asian fabrics.
The chef at The Ivy’s original restaurant in London’s Covent Garden has held a passion for Asian cuisine for some time, adding a small selection of pan-Asian dishes to The Ivy’s à la carte menu in 2015.
The Ivy Asia Manchester menu, unique to the city, is inspired by chef Steve Scoullar’s travels across the continent including Vietnam, Cambodia and Tokyo, and spans raw and cured dishes, dumplings and buns and Robata grilled meat, fish and vegetables.
We start with two cocktails (both £9.50) from a list full of twists on the classics, from a spritz with lychee liqueur to fragrant concoctions including lemon verbena infused gin, coconut rum or lemongrass syrup.
A Beijing Sling is floral and elegant with vodka and plum sake, with flavours of jasmine, vanilla, lime, apple juice and plum bitters. Green Tea Sours is served in a ceramic sake bottle, and consists of Matcha green tea syrup double shaken with vodka, crème de cacao, lime and fluffy egg white.
Cutlery is golden and gleaming, and the table is pretty with jewelled napkin rings. When it comes to food, our server recommends ordering a selection of dishes to share.
A raw salad (£7.95) arrives first, packed with fresh leaves, enoki mushrooms and crunchy daikon, dressed with fragrant coriander, sesame, avocado and miso dressing. We keep it on the table throughout the meal to dive into whenever we want a bit of crunch.
Tuna sashimi crisps (£7.25) are topped with creamy avocado and heady truffle mayo. Buttermilk fried chicken (£8.95) is perfectly golden, with a spicy kimchi mayonnaise to dip. Crispy duck is stuffed into soft, pillowy bao buns (£8.50) with a hoisin and five spice sauce.
Mains start from £10.50 but prices can escalate quickly when it comes to the more luxurious ingredients.
Robata grilled black cod (£29.50), a signature dish, is rich and buttery, wrapped in a banana leaf and dressed with a savoury miso sauce. It’s delicious.
Japanese wagyu beef is the real deal: full of flavour, beautifully marbled and meltingly tender. It comes with an eye-watering price tag (£50), as proper wagyu does, but it really is a treat.
The steak, enriched further with a touch of truffle in case you need more decadence, is eyes-closed, conversation-killing, sigh-inducing stuff. We forget all about the salad we insisted on keeping on the table.
We want the steak to be the last dish we eat. Until we see the dessert menu, of course.
Puddings include traditional Japanese mochi balls stuffed with vanilla, green matcha tea and black sesame ice creams (£5.50). Red Dragon dessert (£8.50) – which the chefs have spent considerable time perfecting, according to our server – is rich with dark chocolate, salted caramel and honeycomb.
A wine list includes plenty of choice by the glass (starting from £6), but we particularly enjoy a Cabernet Sauvignon from Chinese producer Chateau Changyu Moser XV (£9).
There’s also a range of Japanese whiskies, including a delicious Nikka Coffey grain whiskey (£16), slightly sweet with notes of cinnamon, orange, mango, papaya and coconut.
It’s an impressive start for the new venture, and while it would be very easy to rack up a huge bill, it’s also possible to eat more modestly.
But that would mean missing out on that wagyu. And that would take enormous willpower. I suppose I’d better start saving up.