I am a great fan of The Ivy and have been looking forward to the opening of its sister restaurant on Marylebone Lane. Nestled behind the trendy high street, Marylebone Lane has itself had a makeover and with the road works finally complete, it is another lovely pocket to visit in the area.
The former Union Cafe has been beautifully transformed into an elegant and inviting room. The brass covered bar plays the centre stage and is the focal point of the room. There are shades of its older sister with dark wood panelling and walls adorned with art and mirrors but it has a more casual feel. The linen dressed tables, spacious leather covered chairs and silverware give the ‘cafe’ a smart edge. I especially liked the mosaic floors and the pendant lighting that bathes diners in a warm glow.
I started off the evening with a glass of champagne which at £8.95 is a refreshingly reasonable price for a London restaurant. My husband had the Negroni tasting set with three different renditions of this classic cocktail – they were all delicious and well worth trying. We nibbled on spiced olives and moreish truffle arancini as we decided what to order.
On a return visit, the talented barman Andrius mixed a bone dry martini, an excellent Negroni and created a bespoke cocktail for my friend. You can also eat at the bar too and indulge in a spot of people watching.
The all-day dining menu offers something for everyone; from a snack to the more substantial. The Ivy’s classics are dotted on the menu including the ever popular prawn cocktail, shepherd’s pie and fish cake. In recognition of contemporary tastes there are lighter dishes, salads and various fish options.
I started with a generous portion of crunchy prawns with wasabi mayonnaise (I would have preferred a bit more wasabi for a fiery kick). My husband had the white onion soup that was creamy without being overly rich. The smoked salmon and crab and dill cream served with crisp toast is a good choice for a starter or snack.
The tables are quite close together but this gave me an opportunity to chat to our neighbours who were tucking into a rather splendid looking prawn cocktail. Their plump fish cake also looked appetising.
I enjoyed a well-executed lemon sole with beurre noisette. My husband dived into the comforting depths of a well seasoned shepherd’s pie and my son heartily approved of the fish and chips. The chips are chunky and stand to attention like soldiers in a metal pot. There is a good range of side dishes to accompany your meal.
I was tempted to try the chocolate bombe that has been the darling of social media but decided to show some uncharacteristic restraint. However when I saw a waiter pour hot salted caramel over a gilded chocolate sphere that melted to display a core of honeycomb and ice cream, I vowed to order it on my next visit. My son enjoyed the pannacotta that had just the right amount of wobble.
One thing stands out for me – the warm and friendly service from the reservations team to the waiting staff. Unlike The Ivy where you can sometimes be made to feel grateful to get a table, The Ivy Cafe wants to be a neighbourhood restaurant. The charming and hands-on general manager, Fabian Magnusson said they keep tables for walk-ins and said that the team are really enjoying being in Marylebone and getting to know the residents.
The breakfast menu looks inviting and I will definitely go back to have a leisurely brunch on a weekend. They also offer elevenses and afternoon tea.
I recommend The Ivy Cafe as a perfect place to refuel when visiting Marylebone’s fashion and epicurean shops. The friendly vibe, warm service and food make this a great place to meet friends or to have a relaxing meal with the family. It is bound to become a magnet for locals and I look forward to my return visit.
The Ivy Cafe Marylebone
96 Marylebone Lane,
London W1U 2QA
020 3301 0400 www.theivycafemarylebone.com
Nuzy Sayani is Catwalkschoolgates’ restaurant reviewer. Nuzy lives in Marylebone with her husband and eight year old son. She is a technology lawyer and loves the theatre, cinema, is an avid reader and likes nothing more than trying out restaurants. Nuzy will be sharing her dining experiences with us and would love to hear from you with your recommendations.