Trying to find a good Lunch in Covent Garden is ridiculously tricky. I’m like a kid in a sweet shop – WAY too much choice, and the perennial issue of discovering that today’s a pink mice sort of day when I’ve already opted for cola bottles or white jazzies?? It’s tricky.
We’d had a fabulous night in Trafalgar Square courtesy of Thistle Hotels (we’d seen Cuba Gooding Jr in Chicago – what a show!), and so when we got the chance to round off our mini break with a review of the Ivy Market Grill in Covent Garden last week, I jumped at the opportunity to give it a whirl. Obviously I was pretty sure it’d just be an expensive tourist trap, being right in the middle of Covent Garden, but come on. It’s The Ivy, right?
I’m not sure what I expected inside – but it wasn’t the calm, comfortable and entirely unpretentious wood, leather and glass collection that I found. The noise level was perfect for me; I hate a deafening restaurant, but I also hate to eat in almost silence, speaking to my table mates in whispers. Ugh. The Ivy Market Cross had the perfect warm ambience created simply by chatter – it was busy, but didn’t feel over-full. The staff bustled smartly, but never appeared stressed or rushed, and our waiter certainly had time for a smile and to share some advice over the wine choice (his advice was spot on, too, the Malbec was perfect).
We had a perfect table in the far corner, one of the circular leather benches which I coveted the minute I walked in. Settling into our seats, I tuned in to the noise around me and glanced around the room. And realised I had been totally, utterly mistaken. Because whilst there was a family of Americans a few tables away, most of the people appeared to be Londoners – as in, people who knew where to Lunch in Covent Garden. The older gay couple next to us were hilariously mocking each other throughout their lunch – I’m betting they’ve been married for years.
As I pretended to study the menu, I continued to
be nosey politely observe our neighbours. On the other side an older aunt had met her city nephew for lunch, and was busy admiring photos of her new great-niece. Further across the room a larger table of women were obviously having a regularly lunch get-together (much squealing and air-kissing accompanied each arrival and departure). A table across the way was fascinatingly filled with a young business-woman pitching a potential mentor/angel investor. I’d have invested, the app sounded great. I could see an elderly couple who were piled around with bags – I predicted a rare treat of a city trip, but they greeted their waitress by name and were obviously regulars. There were suits at the bar, enjoying a solitary lunch break.
In short, yes, this was a great place for people watching – and it was immediately apparent that I was utterly wrong (Sssshhh.). This wasn’t a tourist spot at all – this is where the Londoners come for a nice lunch. I hadn’t eaten a bite, and it already felt like my new favourite lunch spot.
And then the food arrived.
Over on the right of the picture you can see I had delicious buffalo mozzarella with asparagus. But front and centre is the duck liver parfait. Oh my it was so good.
The seasonal menu changes regularly, so there’s always something new to try.
I had Asian sea bass for my main, which was so good – lightly crisp, and the salad had the perfect crisp juiciness. The ‘asian sauce’ was amazing; hot, sweet, sour and sharp. Delicious. And I couldn’t resist adding those green beans in (where did this thing for green beans suddenly come from?). Mr LittleStuff opted for a steak, which he said was tender and juicy, cooked perfectly but was sad that it was a little bland on the tastebuds.
And that, right there, is a lemon meringue tart. He saw it on its way to another diner as we sat down at our table, and Mr LittleStuff promised himself that he would. So he did.
He might have closed his yes with every sharp, sweet, perfect bite.
You don’t quite get the whole impact from the bird’s eye view do you?
He wasn’t even sure how to start tackling the tower of soft meringue – it was one of those desserts it’s almost a crime to break into. But you somehow find it in your greedy self to do so…
Me, I just had the creme brûlée. *sighs happily*
I know, it’s a bit ordinary. But you have to go a long way to beat a creme brûlée – and this one was so so good. Crackingly crispy top which gets stuck in your teeth, over a softly thick, vanillery and creamily smooth custard. Heavenly.
Eventually we had to leave – apparently trains don’t wait while you have another coffee. But we so didn’t want to. Despite being a busy lunch time, our meal was unhurried and fun – we chatted and took our time, feeling under no pressure to move or release our table. We’ve also taken note of the pre & post-theatre menu as we’re always on the hunt for great places to eat after a show; £21 for three courses (which currently includes the creme brûlée, people), and they take bookings right through to 11.30pm.
There’s no children’s menu, and I didn’t see a highchair or a child the whole time we were there. This isn’t a family lunch kind of place. This is where to escape to when you’re in town shopping with a friend, or have done what we did, and escaped for a perfect kids-free weekend away.
We’ve been recommending it to foodie friends since we’ve been home – and now I’m recommending The Ivy Market Grill in Covent Garden to you. Go there. It’s rather marvellous.