Muddy Reviews: The Ivy Montpellier Brasserie
Are lashings of glamour a non-negotiable on your dine-out wishlist? Then step this way madam ... The Ivy Montpellier Brasserie in Cheltenham is one of the swankiest destinations in town. Muddy popped in to see whether this grandee of grub lives up to it fame.
Since flinging open its fancy doors three years ago, The Ivy has become Cheltenham code for next-level nosh. One of 30 eateries under the famous Ivy brand, it has a well-earned rep for dishing up stand-out, modern British cuisine (the legendary Shepherd’s Pie is feted by both Tracy Emin and Chrissy Teigen) with lashings of Ivy ambience. Located slap bang in the middle of the wonderfully mooch-worthy Montpellier district with its trendy bars, cafes and boutiques, and previously a ballroom, a bank and even a pump room, this place has the wow-factor in magnums.
So far so Ivy you might think … But Muddy hadn’t visited since Co-vid slide-tackled us all into a lockdown, so with it now fully reopen we decided to pop back and see what the experience was like.
Things have changed, as you’d expect, but they’re swift and even rather fun (if that’s possible). Outside spots are marked on the pavement to keep guests apart but it doesn’t feel weird as the maitre de swoops over to whisk you inside as you arrive.
First up is a fancy thermal scanner which takes a selfie of you on the screen (good hair, check, HD eyebrows, check) and records your temperature (the kids will LOVE playing who’s hottest!) before you get waved in.
Every member of staff is vigorously temp checked too, so once inside, the absence of PPE was a relief in the newly muzzled world we’re having to navigate, it felt like we were in a safe bubble. Infact, you could almost forget there was a bug out there for an hour or two, the only reminder being little bottles of elegant hand sanitiser on each table to spritz on at will.
But goodness, this place is pretty. WIth a striking dome modelled on the exact dimensions of Rome’s Parthenon, walls frescoed with horses in a nod to the town’s racing heritage, luscious palmed fronds dotted around and a glitzy, curvaceous bar in the middle, this place is Instagram catnip.
We couldn’t decide what to lust after first – the decadent oak parquet, curvy art deco lamps or deep, retro leather booths. There are now perspex screens up between each one, and less tables than before, but with the clever placing of frondy plants you hardly even register they’re there.
Even in a pandemic it felt stylish and sexy. But for every ounce of ocean-liner glamour, there’s an equal measure of breeziness. No awkward muffled whispers to your dining partner here or that ‘fine-dining’ paralysis when you pick up the wrong knife for the bread (always me).
Instead the room echoes with chatter and a happy clinking of gin glasses. And it seems to attract everyone from special occasion-ers to family groups, girlfriend get-togethers and a sprinkling of business lunchers making it a fab place for people watching whilst you tuck into your petit fours.
SCOFF & QUAFF
The Ivy has its own pro-mixologist on hand and they do the most amazing Blood Orange Margaritas (swoon) and Salted Caramel Espresso Martinis here if you’re a cocktail lover, but this time we went non-alcoholic coolers as we were driving – the Peach and Elderflower Iced Tea really hitting the spot on a warm day.
For food, I ordered the Crab and Apple Salad (£11.95). I must say, from the name I was not expecting a mousse-affair, but teamed up with the freshly baked and still warm bread Salted Sourdough Bread (£4) it was utterly delicious, peppered with pieces of cucumber, watermelon, edamame and coriander and a really chunky portion.
My accomplice went for the Tempura Prawns with Salt and Pepper Squid (£9.50). I’m always mindful not to expect too much with seafood being in landlocked Glos but they were incredible – fresh, fluffy and extremely moorish.
For mains we couldn’t not order one of the most requested dishes at The Ivy – the famous Shepherd’s Pie (£12.95) – not being a red meat eater myself Mr M took the heavy mantle. Rich and comforting it’s a cross between shepherd’s pie and a cottage pie, using a beef and lamb mix. Sitting in a gorgeous puddle of red wine-infused sauce and topped with Wookey Hole Cheddar mashed potato, it was (I’m told) absolute heaven on a plate.
I ordered the Lobster Linguine (£29.95) which carries the price tag you’d expect of lobster, but seeped in a San Marzanino tomato and chilli sauce with parsley and spring onions it was the best I’ve ever had, with really generous chunks of lobster too, so no searching for minute shreds of shellfish here. It was glorious.
Being the weird times they are and babysitters being unbookable at the moment, we’d carted the kids along too (aged 11 and 13), but the team couldn’t have been nicer – we were one of three tables with kids on during our early evening visit actually so it’s super family friendly. There is a dedicated kids menu for littlies which features smaller versions of the adults menu.
The eldest however dutifully hoovered up a Minute Fillet of Beef Steak (£15.95) from the main menu saying it was the best he’d ever had (high teenager praise) and the youngest had Fish and Chips – cod in batter with thick cut chips.
The fish was delightfully fluffy and we all raided the chips they were so good, but needless to say the mashed peas were banished to the side of the plate, but then they’re a veg that always divides.
Desserts at The Ivy always come with a frisson of excitement – I mean, how do you even begin to choose from 10 showstoppers? It was a tough choice but Mr M’s was arm twisted (obvs because I wanted some) into getting the legendary Chocolate Bombe (£8.95).
It came with a hot salted caramel sauce that the waiter pours with the bobbing flourish of a BAFTA-winning actor onto the ice-cream and honeycomb shell, making it melt and the whole table ‘oo-ed’ like it was the 5th November. It was beyond delicious, and weirdly not even too heavy, and we agreed, one of the best desserts we’ve ever had.
I went for the lighter Frozen Berries (£7.25), mixed berries with a delicate yoghurt sorbet. Once again a warm white chocolate sauce is poured on top by a waiter (it’s a thing here) defrosting them before your eyes. Desserts here really have more drama than a Netflix box series – but when they’re this good, why not.
The kids tucked into a Strawberry Ice Cream Sundae (£8.25) which came with meringue, shortbread and a warm strawberry sauce, which was as good as it sounds.
OUT AND ABOUT
Cheltenham is a retail paradise, head for John Lewis on the main drag or pop into the fab new Anthropologie for a fix of interiors, or Montpellier itself which is packed with gorgeous boutiques to browse. If you want to work off your Chocolate Bombe properly then head to the pretty Pittville Park and Pump Room in the centre, or Cheltenham’s 1000-year-old Sudeley Castle with its gorgeous grounds. For a fantastic farm visit, book nearby Cotswold Farm Park – owned by celeb farmer Adam Henson.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: If you want wow-factor with your triple cooked chips. Romantic soirees, meeting friends and foodies who love stand-out cuisine. Vegans and vegetarians – there’s an entirely separate (and mouthwatering) menu dedicated just to you, and interiors lovers generally, as it’s a feast for the eyes here. Oh, and any Covid-nervous diners, it’s one of the places really ‘getting it right’ when it comes to the whole experience.
Not for: It’s family friendly, but perhaps not so good for families with very young kids, note that any meltdowns will be amplified by 100 in the soaring rotunda, and there’s no outside space to frolic in.
The damage: Exceptionally good value, in fact we expected it to be higher being The Ivy, but it’s really quite average for stand-out dining in Glos. A full four course meal for two comes to around £120, add a bottle of Italian Pinot Grigio (£29) and you’re looking at around £150. A family of four can go all in for just under £200.
Head here to book your table now.
The Ivy Montpelllier Brasserie, Rotunda Terrace, Montpellier Walk, Cheltenham GL50 1SH