The Ivy Bath Brasserie, 39 Milsom Street, Bath BA1 1DS. Tel: 01225 307100; theivybathbrasserie
Have you noticed how a cascading swathe of garden roses, honeysuckle, coronillas and moss has draped itself abundantly over The Ivy Bath Brasserie’s restaurant’s entrance in Milsom Street? Is it in honour of a royal visit? An A-list wedding? A statement of enduring summer? No, silly, it’s a first birthday party and Ivy is the birthday girl. And what better birthday treat than to celebrate with an alliance with perfume and scented candle brand Jo Malone who have just launched their new Honeysuckle & Davana collection.
Jo Malone claims there is alchemy in davana, an aromatic herb from southern India, the delicate fragrance of which adapts around each person in their cologne. Does The Ivy herself have this alchemy? And, to mix foliage metaphors, are there any hidden thorns? Like intrepid journalists we fought our way through the florals to investigate, in order to put pay to all the question marks.
Heads bowed (metaphorically), we passed beneath the rose arch. The atmosphere slows and subdues within the darkened hallway where the waiting welcomers dwell, a sombre in-between pocket that allowed us to breathe deeply in expectation of the next step. Once inside, we discovered an onslaught of glistening gold, mirrored reflections, geometric floor tiles, pastel blue paintwork, button-tufted leather-style banquettes, glistening bottles and glasses and a reverberating thrum of conversation. A cacophony of framed vintage and decorative colourful artwork had stolen every available flat vertical surface, like veritable artistic divas, from the broad expanses of wall to the deep inset window frames. We saw swinging Hollywood in the scale and fabric of this place, but there was also edgy statement, plush wit, an easy style.Had we taken the first step to alchemy? Not quite. This came moments later with the arrival of two honeysuckle daiquiris, a cocktail in clear homage to Jo Malone’s new collection. (Cast your eyes top right, uncork the rum keg in the cellar and try it out for yourself at home.) The three Hs – honeysuckle plus honey plus Havana Club three-year old rum certainly did the trick.
The design of the all-day menu flows like clambering foliage (now a recurrent theme). Banish any idea of a prohibitively expensive offering à la London Ivy with its rarified celebrity clientele. Here it comes brasserie style and anyone’s welcome. It majors on fish, from grilled whole lobster to blackened cod fillet, but there’s some hearty red meat options and delectable sounding chicken dishes plus a separate vegetarian menu. Choose, for example, from a white onion soup starter with truffle mascarpone, truffled orzo pasta with girolle mushrooms or warm Asian salad with watermelon, to mains of slow-cooked lamb shoulder, chicken milanese, sirloin steak, an Ivy hamburger or vegan sweet potato Keralan curry.
My starter of tuna carpaccio with yellowfin tuna was served with a ponzu (a Japanese citrus-based sauce) dressing, scattered daubs of avocado purée, toasted sesame and coriander shoots. The zesty sauce infused the tuna, softening its texture delicately for avid consumption. The duck liver parfait with caramelised hazelnuts, truffle and tamarind glaze with pear and ginger compote was served with toasted brioche. ‘Sensational’ was the verdict, although there was a danger (I did warn) of not leaving enough space for the next course.
The main courses brought Asian bass with mash and roasted butternut squash with grains served with thick cut sweet potato chips. The latter – with buckwheat, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds and pomegranate – was moist, grainy, fresh and butternut sweet. It certainly put me firmly in the five-a-day and seeds and nuts for maximum health category, which I feel sure more than compensated for the rum imbibed earlier. The bass was smooth and clean, framed luxuriously with lemon-infused tenderstem broccoli and a piquant brown sauce.
Dessert choices were an apple tart fine, with vanilla ice cream and Calvados flambé for those who like to make a spectacle of themselves and a grand finale fruit, cheese and nut board for those who do not.
We did find alchemy under the roses. The roses are only there and the honeysuckle daiquiri is only available until 14 October, but we suspect the experience will not be dimmed by their departure.
FOR ONE SERVING:
• 60ml Havana Club three-year old rum
• 4 tablespoons runny honey
• 30ml fresh lemon juice
• 30ml fresh orange juice
Shake and fine strain the ingredients and pour into a Martini glass or coupe.
Garnish with a mint leaf and white and yellow edible flowers.