coffee

Inside The Ivy

Brighton has a decision to make: is the recent – and somewhat surprising – arrival of London’s prestigious Ivy restaurant a welcome addition to The Lanes? Footfall so far would suggest so. The guest list to the launch party read like a who’s who of Brightonian somebodies; the colourful walls within Ship Street’s grade II listed former Post Office drew an impressive crowd during The Ivy Brighton’s first week of business.

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And who wouldn’t want a slice of that fancy pie? I rocked up to claim mine at a blogger breakfast coordinated by Fugu PR: the perfect hosts. There’s been a hiatus in my WordPress activity of late but if I hadn’t dusted off my blogging hat for this particular invite, my head would have needed a thorough examination.

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Historically, before it began spreading its reach, The Ivy stood proud as the epitome of societal and celebrity glamour, and this latest link in the chain spared no expense in following suit; hints of glamour spill out from the entrance to the normality of the pavement below. Signature fonts and foliage welcome you as stone steps ascend towards the attentive maître d’ who guides you into the opulent interiors.

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Let’s pause and talk about these coveted interiors for a moment. Credit where credit is due: it’s spectacular – a fresh explosion of colour-pops that manages to hit the sweet spot between impactful and excessive. This is interior styling worthy of a sharp intake of breath when you first lay eyes on its splendidly tropical-chic walls.

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The already expansive main dining room is further opened up by floor-to-ceiling mirrors, flanked by an eclectic mix of art. From the gold geometric chandeliers to the centrepiece bar and generous greenery, the space is the definition of luxe and surely boasts the most Instagrammable décor in Brighton. It’s also the hottest location for a ‘toilet selfie’, if that kind of thing floats your boat, since the opulent gold ladies’ facilities – and I’m assuming the men’s too – are nothing short of regal.

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So, the visuals certainly warrant the hype, but does the food match up? Short answer: not entirely, based on my first taste. The service is slick – crisp uniforms, not a spoon out of place, not a single need unanswered – but what’s being served up lacks impact and fails to wow me. I believe any dish centred around poached eggs is a good benchmark by which to judge a kitchen, so I opt for the Eggs Royale. While perfectly poached and featuring all the proper accompaniments, it has none of the culinary flair with which I had expected The Ivy to make its debut on Brighton’s flourishing food scene. I can mark The Ivy high on is its refreshing Beet It Juice; a careful blend of beetroot, carrot, apple, ginger and lemon that’s not overly sweet.

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I descend back to the street with the following verdict floating around my head: The Ivy charms everywhere but on the plate. I’d love to see loose leaf Bird & Blend tea in my pot instead of the restaurant’s own-brand bags, or beans from nearby roasters in my coffee cup, but it seems this chain has a little way to go in supporting local produce. In other words, there’s room for improvement – and I believe a restaurant with this level of notorious excellence has the potential to deliver.

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Ever the champion of independent businesses, I’ve observed the fit-out of The Ivy with hesitation, concerned about what its presence in The Lanes would do for the rent prices that indies already find so testing. On that front, time will tell. It also remains to be seen how long the warm reception of this prestigious name will continue. Brighton will decide if The Ivy is friend or foe, and whether its price tag is justified by gastronomic prowess; in the meantime there’s a handsome cocktail on the menu for every day of the week, to be enjoyed in surroundings so stylish they’re destined for the big screen.

 

 

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Habitat Restaurant & Bar

Food review of Habitat Restaurant & Bar, Brisbane, Australia (first published on brisbane.concreteplayground.com.au)

If the definition of its name is anything to go by, you would expect Habitat to present itself as an environment in which you can feel naturally at home; a welcoming locale, day or night. Happily, this West End restaurant and bar successfully lives up to that expectation, providing a trendy yet unpretentious setting for post-work drinks, as well as a life-saving breakfast menu full of inventive hangover cures, should they be required the morning after. With a lunch and dinner menu equally as strong – featuring locally sourced, organic produce and ample portion sizes – Habitat proves itself to be as versatile as it is conveniently placed.

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Ask the staff for the best brunch recommendation and you’re sure to be advised that nothing beats the Vegemite and cheddar loaf, served with smoked bacon, free range poached eggs, rocket and macerated tomatoes ($13.50).  Sadly for pescetarians, it’s not possible to substitute the smoked leg ham for smoked salmon on an order of eggs benedict, but you can get a vitamin-rich alternative to meat by requesting a serving of beautifully ripe avocado instead.  Not a lover of the mighty poached egg?  Fear not: the menu creatively deviates away from the more predictable breakfast offerings with flavoursome dishes such as twice baked pumpkin and honey soufflé garnished with rocket, parmesan and feta ($14.00), or the aromatic white bean cassoulet served with ciabatta and lemon caper crème fraîche ($14.50).

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There’s an air of rugged masculinity to the spacious interior; throughout its visually balanced design it combines sleek, industrial-chic with rustic textures and moody grey tones.  A long, narrow mezzanine level separates diners from the main bar area, and gets you a little closer to the street espresso bar (which, incidentally, serves a thoroughly decent latté, complete with the customary froth-art).  It’s this confident design amalgamation, teamed with laid-back beats and a solid selection of craft beers and signature cocktails, which creates the buzz and draws the evening crowds. It’s worth noting, however, that whilst this laid-back local continues to gain popularity with Westies and visitors alike, aim to arrive by 10pm to avoid the disappointment of missing last orders from the bar.

Rating: 7/10

Style: Modern Australian

Ideal dish: Twice baked pumpkin and honey soufflé

Price Range: 3/5

Outdoor Seating: Yes

Good For Groups: Yes

Delivery: No

Wheelchair Access: Yes

Takes Reservations: Yes