Another week, another restaurant opening in Manchester
They seem to have been building The Ivy Manchester for an eternity. It’s right next door to my office in Spinningfields and the building was already complete when I started working there in April. The fit out has taken months and as its gone on my anticipation has intensified. So, when bookings opened I bagged us a table for opening night (27th November) in the Roof Garden.
If you haven’t seen it, the building is a breath of fresh air amongst the glass high-rises in Manchester’s business district. The exterior is clad in wood, trailing ivy and other shrubbery and it’s huge. (Our waitress informed us it’s the biggest restaurant to open in Europe this year!).
The Ivy Manchester is the latest in a long line of restaurant and bar openings in Manchester of late, including Mana, Manahatta and Banyan which have all opened in the past 6 weeks (the latter two just a stones throw from The Ivy’s door).
There’s space for 535 diners spread across 4 floors, each of which has its own style. The ground floor and fourth floor roof garden (which can be used year round thanks to the retractable roof) serve the same extensive brasserie menu. The second floor is reserved for private dining whilst the third floor is dedicated to Asian food. The style of each floor is rather different though.
Opulent interiors at The Ivy Manchester
There’s a reason that the fit out has taken so many months. Nothing has been overlooked and the designers certainly have an eye for detail. I even heard that the first fit out of the toilets were completely ripped out when the management weren’t happy with them! Each floor is a vibrant, eye-popping swirl of colour. It could be called over the top, garish even, but it is certainly refreshingly different to other recent openings.
I’m not even going to comment on the craziness of the ladies bathrooms, as I can’t even put them into words. All I’ll say is they’re well worth a visit!
Whilst the ground floor brasserie feels spacious and light (it is still full of patterns though), the third floor Asian restaurant has a glowing jade floor and golden ceiling. The private dining rooms on the second floor have aspects of a 70s/80s classic dining room, mixed with modern prints and sculptures. I can’t decide if I like it all, or whether it’s reminiscent of a designer puking everywhere!
The most muted floor is the rooftop. It has (fake) ivy on the walls and roaring fires inset to the walls. Certainly more subdued. But the DJ makes sure you’re not too relaxed, by playing pumping beats throughout the evening. Our table commented that the fast paced tunes made us feel rushed. The sound levels seemed to keep changing too, but that could have been first night glitches.
The menu is extensive. Overwhelming even. We all flitted and changed our choices a few times before our lovely waitress Mel came to take our order. In part, I think that’s due to the variety available. There’s everything from traditional British (such as fish and chips and shepherds pie), to Asian salads and curries and french steak tartare too.
The guys on our table both opted for the steak tartare to start followed by tuna loin salad. Us girls ordered a ‘market fresh salad’ and scallops with chorizo to start, with game pie (the days special) and monkfish curry for mains. (apologies for the quality of the food pics, the lighting in the roof garden was patchy)
The food was good quality and I was particularly impressed by the homemade game pie (great pastry). The guys commented that the steak tartare, whilst advertised as containing chilli, wasn’t spicy at all…only to spot another table being served a bottle of Tabasco with theirs (maybe ours was forgotten).
Overall though, it’s a menu of good quality food for a fair price (mains approx £12-30), with a selection that should cater to everybody.
The same goes for the drinks. Mainstream beer choices were lacking but there seemed to be something for everyone including ‘The Ivy’ larger, pale ales and ‘The Ivy’ champagne. As the designated driver I found the peach & elderflower iced tea and yuzu lemonade both great soft drink options. The salted caramel espresso martinis went down particularly well with our table!
We all commented that there seemed to be staff everywhere! There were two guys stood outside at the door, three staff members on the ground floor reception, staff on the stairs, staff on each floor reception and tons of waiting staff. I’m not sure whether that will continue as the opening season settles down, but it did result in pretty good service. Not over the top in your face service, but our waitress Mel ensured our water was constantly topped up and she folded napkins each time someone left the table. It’s little touches like that which make restaurants stand out from the average chains and make the whole experience a bit more pleasurable.
Chain is the key word there. ‘The Ivy’ might conjure up images of luxury and fine dining, but I don’t see it falling into the fine dining category. It certainly isn’t competing with The French or Mana (both of which I’d class as fine dining), but more so with mid-market chains. It’s probably a good alternative to places like the Alchemist and Grill on the Alley, which is reflected in the menu and pricing.
We even had room left for desserts and found there was a good choice, though much less extensive that the mains menu. They were even good enough to tempt our table of savoury dish lovers. My ‘melting chocolate bombe’ with caramel sauce and honeycomb was extremely rich, but delicious. Though at £6.50-£9.95, the desserts were leaning a little on the expensive side.
Overall The Ivy Manchester is definitely a place I’ll visit again. Yes, the interiors are an assault on the senses (I’m still debating whether thats a good or bad thing!) but the variety of each floor and extensive food and drink options mean it’s a place you can visit time and time again without it feeling tired. It’s location is a big plus for me too, making it ideal for business lunches or after work drinks. I fear on Friday and Saturday evenings it will likely be a pretentious pre-drinking venue that i’ll steer well clear of. The effort put in to producing a top-notch venue certainly cannot go un-noticed and I think the concept will be well received in Manchester.
Likely to return: 10/10
Looking for great restaurants in Manchester? Here are some of my other local reviews:
As well as restaurants further afield: