Located in the heart of Manchester, Spinningfields, the restaurant occupies an impressive space within the new development, The Pavilion, surrounded by greenery yet situated in the centre of the city.
The Ivy finally brought its tried-and-tested formula to Manchester in November, albeit with a unique Asian twist. But, can the iconic institution cut it when stepping outside their traditional fine-dining comfort zone? We sent Jordan Fletcher on a trip across the Pennines to find out.
I’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t especially excited of the news that Manchester was getting their very own Ivy. In the past 18 months, we’ve seen them open in Harrogate, York and eventually Leeds, so why should I care? What I didn’t consider was the fact that this being Manchester, they were going to do things a little differently.
First of all, the purpose built venue itself is enormous. With no less than 535 covers set across four floors, it was the largest restaurant to open anywhere in the UK in 2018. With a ground floor brasserie, first floor private dining area, second floor Asian restaurant and a roof top garden, you’re certainly spoilt for choice.
A fire on the roof garden in early January has put this floor off-limits for the time being, however, it will apparently be back in business in time for spring. Having dined in the brasserie in the York restaurant, we decided to give The Ivy Asia a try, and for the most part, it was impressive.
The interior design is breath-taking, and truly takes opulence to dizzying new heights. The walls are covered in beautifully painted murals depicting Japanese wildlife, whilst the illuminated green floor is made using imported semi-precious stone. In short, it’s what Instagram and date nights are made for.
Taking a prime seat opposite the lively bar, where a DJ was spinning classic funk and disco, we checked out the menu as we waited on our cocktails. Inspired by Senior Head Chef Steve Scoullar’s travels across Tokyo, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, the food offering is varied with plenty to tempt you in.
As our drinks arrived, it was soon apparent that The Ivy has nailed their Asian influenced cocktail list. The Hibiki High Ball (a favourite in Japan) was refreshingly light, mixing whiskey with chamomile soda and plum bitters. The Smoked Plum Negroni was even better, and a worthy alternative to a classic Negroni with its plum sake and bitters.
We chose starters from the tempura and bao buns section of the menu, and what a treat they were. The Crispy Squid was light with the right amount of crunch, and came with a mouth-watering Asian tartare sauce. Another dish from the Tempura section – Buttermilk Fried Chicken with Kimchi Mayonnaise – was another big hit.
But it was the Crispy Duck Bao Buns which really won me over here. Served with a creamy hoi sin and five spice sauce, the combination of the rich duck and fluffy bao buns was pretty darn close to perfection.
As we waited on our mains, we did a spot of people watching as we enjoyed a glass of the show-stopping Vista Flores Malbec from Argentina, which is dark, rich and simply made to go with red meat.
The first main to arrive was the Duck Massaman Curry with Cashew Nuts, which is similar to a dish previously available at The Ivy St Helens in York. This version was even better, and packed with punch and complex flavour that will leave you wanting to steal the recipe.
The only real disappointment of the night was the Wagyu Beef with Truffle Sauce, which left me wishing I’d gone for the Sirloin instead. Not only was the portion tiny considering the price, but it lacked the taste usually associated with Wagyu beef and was inferior to far cheaper cuts I’ve had elsewhere.
Thankfully, desserts are something The Ivy has always impressed me with, and their new creations offer plenty to shout about. The White Chocolate Sphere is a new take on their classic Chocolate Bombe, and is served with passion fruit, meringue and yuzu foam and drizzled with hot caramel sauce. Absolutely to die-for, and the best pudding I’ve had in some time.
Across the table, the Tonka Bean Panna Cotta was equally well-received. Not a dish I would have chosen myself, I was surprised how good the shaved pineapple, chilli and lime worked here. This really was the real deal, and unlike anything else I’ve tried.
So, whilst The Ivy Asia wasn’t without the odd blip, when it got things right, it really did soar. A welcome addition to Manchester’s growing jet-set dining scene, this place is going to be the hot destination throughout 2019. We can’t wait to come back in the spring.
The Ivy Asia
The Pavilion I Byrom Street Manchester I M3 3HG
Tel: 0161 503 3222