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The Fresser

Ivy League - rolling out an icon

Mr Fresser and I celebrated 12 years since we wed with a jazz evening at The Ivy Cafe in St Johns Wood

    Mr Fresser tells me that the moment he knew I was the gal for him was when I scoffed all the chips on our first date. 

    We'd gone to the Duke of York pub in St John's Wood for a drink. That drink turned into a dinner of fish cakes and chips. Never the type of girl to hide my love of food, I ate unabashedly. Maybe I was a bit different from the salad-munching females he ordinarily dated. 

    Two years later we wed — at Home House in Portman Square. There were more chips — we chose fish and chips as our wedding dinner. Posh ones of course, with huge bowls of salads for our guests to pass around the table. Happy days. 

    Twelve years, two children, many grey hairs and more than a few wrinkles between us, we're stlil enjoying fried potatoes. Just not so often now that the weight is a bit harder to shift. 

    We try to go back to the Wood to celebrate as that was where it all began. By chance, The Ivy Cafe in St John's Wood invited us to a jazz evening. The first one they have held. We're also Ivy fans, so that was our date sorted. 

    It took a while to get into the cafe, a queue of elderly Jewish diners were moving slowly. For a jazz evening, it all seemed terribly quiet. Just the conversation of the very St John's Wood crowd. Tables made up of a mixture of family gatherings, couples and a large table of twenty-something year old boys, who brought the average age down considerably.   

    A piano sat empty, but the promised tinkling began when pianist, Grant Sav returned from a break. Not jazz, but music to dine by — a mixture of contemporary tunes to hum along to. 

    Like its parent, the original Ivy restaurant, the Ivy Cafe is oozes glamour. From the front bar to the rear dining room it just feels special. A clever spin-off. 

    The a la carte menu has several Ivy classics like the fish cake. With several arrivals at the same time as us, we had time to read the menu several times before two glasses of champagne were delivered to our table, averting a hangry moment. 

    The worry with a spin-off, especially of a restaurant as iconic as The Ivy, is whether it can live up to the rep. It will never be the same, but the food at The Ivy Cafe is excellent. Tuna carpaccio with ponzu dressing was mouthwateringly zingy with tiny cubes of watermelon, pieces of tomato and salty miso mayo blobs smoothing out the edges. I'd forced Mr F to pick a differerent starter so I could share more with you. After a short tussle, he took one for the team, choosing buffalo mozzarella with asparagus, edamame beans and pesto. Another winning combo. 

    He got to pick his own main course. Chargrilled haloumi with Padrón peppers, a smooth red pepper sauce, toasted fregola, San Marzanino tomatoes, olives and a chilli and mint sauce. He held back from licking the plate. My roasted salmon with asparagus (making an unseasonally early appearance this year) and a watercress sauce was simply but perfectly executed. (Sensible enough to allow a side order of thick cut chips, which I'm not eating with such abandon these days. They were delicious.)

    Our charming waiter suggested two puddings for the theatre. Mr Fresser chose one of those — a chocolate dome, which melts when hot salted caramel sauce is poured over it. Chocolate, vanilla ice cream, honeycomb and salted caramel...what's not to like? Another plate-licking moment. 

    I went for an old favourite — frozen berries with hot, white chocolate sauce. Still a winner. 

    Piano man had packed up his piano — who knew you could pack a piano into a bag(?!) — by the time we left, but he had brightened our evening and made a regular dinner out that bit more special.  The folk at The Ivy have got the whole service thing, bang on. Smooth as silk and worthy of the West End, without the parking problems. And the chips were great. May we be eating chips together in another 12 years. 

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