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Muddy reviews: The Ivy Montpellier

With lashings of Great Gatsby glamour, all-day dining and the coolest cocktail menu in town - The Ivy Montpellier has a reputation that precedes it. Muddy slides into one of its shiny, leathery booths to see what all the fuss is about.

Are ocean-liner glamour and feeling like royalty on your inner wishlist when you dine out? Why not! Then step this way madam. The Ivy Montpellier Brasserie is one of the swankiest restaurants in Cheltenham, but does this gourmet grandee live up to it accolades? Read on to find out …

THE LOWDOWN

Since blazing a trail from London to the Regency town four years ago, The Ivy Montpellier has become Cheltenham code for next-level nosh. One of 30 eateries under the famous Ivy brand, it has a well-earned reputation for dishing up stand-out, modern British cuisine (the legendary Shepherd’s Pie is adored by both Tracy Emin and Chrissy Teigen) with lashings of Ivy ambience.

Located in the heart of the wonderfully mooch-worthy Montpellier district with its trendy bars, cafes and boutiques, and previously having been a ballroom, a bank and even a pump room, this place has the wow-factor in magnums before you’ve even made it to the lobster linguine.

So far so Ivy, you might think … but I hadn’t visited the restaurant since the summer of 2020 when we were all briefly released from lockdown, so I was keen to see what had changed after a year as normality begins to resume again.

Walking in feels like stepping into some kind of film set – I’m not kidding. It’s quite a thrill. Fronded palms fan you down a corridor with fabulous ceremony into the most theatrical of dining rooms – it’s hard not to gasp at the enormous Rotunda dome above you (or the stunning, glamour-puss bar).

Every detail here from the leather booths to the curvaceous lamps yells style. One change I did clock was the plastic screens that are now dotted around, separating each ‘booth’, as well as less tables to observe social distancing rules, but the whole place is so light, and glam you barely notice.

Before you enter they are still taking things reassuringly seriously too, a fancy thermal scanner still takes a selfie of you (good hair, check) and records your temperature (we enjoyed playing who’s the hottest – wink wink) before you get waved in.

As standard you get a bottle of really nice smelling lemongrass hand sanitiser on each table to spritz on at will.

THE VIBE

If you’re after one of the most spectacular dining rooms in, well, I’d even pit the whole of the UK here – this is it. With a striking dome modelled on Rome’s famous Parthenon, walls frescoed with horses in a nod to the town’s racing heritage, and that bar, this place is Instagram catnip.

It’s an absolutely orgasmically opulent setting. From the decadent oak parquet and curvy art deco lamps to the deep, retro leather booths. 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.

Open 9am to 11pm, seven days a week, the mantra here is ‘relaxed, all-day dining’ and despite the unapologetic glamour of the place it pulls it off really well. A high proportion of girly get-togethers were in progress on the midweek day I visited, but also a hugely diverse set of diners from young couples to business meetings going on. Don’t be fooled by its ultra posh exterior – it is one of the most welcoming restaurants I’ve visited.

SCOFF & QUAFF

The Ivy has its own pro-mixologist on hand and they do the most amazing Blood Orange Margaritas and Salted Caramel Espresso Martinis. But new for 2021 is the Summer of Love menu – celebrating ‘getting together, feeling the love, tasting the freedom.’ Amen to that! It’s a nice touch for many people coming out of their year long hibernations like us. The new SOL menu features a range of fun-loving and quite fabulous cocktails inspired by the Sixties.

With names like Itchycoo Park (vodka, mint and ginger) and Woodstock Old Fashioned (Bourbon and Spiced Maple Syrup) you’ll be very tempted, but we opted for a ‘Lazin on a Sunny Afternoon‘ – made with Roku gin, Lillet Rose, Pink Grapefruit Juice and Prosecco and which was incredibly drinkable (erm, and strong).

I also had to try The Candyman (£9) – see below, Vodka, Chambord Raspberry Liqueur, Pineapple Juice and the piece de resistance – an actual Candy Floss cloud that melts into the glass as you sip. I mean.

Is it a cocktail or is it just dinner? Muddy Editor Sophie ponders The Candyman.

Tempting as it was to just eat and drink our bodyweight in cocktails, food awaited. The menu is really large at The Ivy but don’t let that put you off, it means there’s something for every mood. We went for some new additions to the Summer menu, starting with the Roasted Scallops (£11.95), drizzled with the most delicious pea foam and grated truffle.

We also tried a bowl of Truffle Arancini (£5.95) which were great value and very filling.

For main, I chose the Peruvian Chicken (£15.95) which is glazed with a zesty mix of (not too hot) spices and comes with an avocado salad, a really nice summery dish that didn’t feel too heavy. Unless of course you can’t help but pair it with the Zucchini Fritti (below £5.95), which of course I couldn’t – a huge serving of shredded crispy courgettes that you could hardly tell weren’t the real chip deal.

My Muddy plus one – Mr T – went for the Keralan Monkfish and Prawn Curry (£17.95) which he said was one of the best he’d had, with gorgeous, fragrant coconut and coriander flavours going on.

The dessert menu is equally waist-challenging, with nine irresistible-sounding ‘afters’. We went for the classic Chocolate Bombe (£8.95) which got audible gasps as the waiter poured hot sauce over it and we open-mouthed as it melted open. I mean, if it was a film star it would be George Clooney or Tom Hiddleston – it was literally sex on a plate. It turned into a morass of gooey chocolate, honeycomb pieces and hot salted caramel sauce and was gone in about 30 seconds.

In a vain attempt to balance out the Bombe I opted for the Frozen Berries ((£7.25) which again get masterfully drizzled from on high by the waiter with white chocolate sauce, and it was absolutely delicious.

The Bartenders ‘special’ after dinner Baileys cocktail – highly recommended!

WHAT ELSE?

If you’ve got a special occasion to break the streamers out for you can book out the huge Private Dining Room, just off the main room. With a Captain’s-style table for 20, red leather chairs, fabric wall panels, antique mirrors, art deco lighting, luscious dark oak parquet and Instagrammable artwork inspired by Cheltenham’s racing heritage it’s one sophisticated party room.

OUT AND ABOUT

Cheltenham is a shopper’s paradise and Montpellier itself which is packed with two charming, long streets, full of gorgeous boutiques to browse. The ever fabulous new Anthropologie store on the Promenade is my go-to for a fix of sexy interiors and fashion, or head to John Lewis for all your staples. If you want to work off your Chocolate Bombe properly then head to the pretty Pittville Park and Pump Room in the centre, or take an arty wander around the Wilson Art Gallery, or, go further afield to Cheltenham’s 1000-year-old Sudeley Castle with its gorgeous grounds.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: If you want a wow-factor backdrop with your triple cooked chips. Romantic soirees, meeting the girls 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, it’s a feast for the eyes here.

Not for: It is family friendly, but perhaps not so good for very young kids, the staff are super polite and probably wouldn’t bat an eyelid, but note that any meltdowns will be amplified by 100 decibels in the soaring rotunda, (and there’s no outside space for restless legs).

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 £110, add a bottle of Italian Pinot Grigio (£29) and you’re looking at around £140. 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
01242 894200

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