One-Manchester went down to the brand new and much talked about Ivy Spinningfields to review the drinks and dining experience.
Among speculation that The Ivy ‘just isn’t Manc enough’, we say… well, why not? At its heart, our city is cool, nonchalant and always at least 5 steps ahead of the game. But the magic of Manchester lies in its ability to cast aside judgement. Warm and welcoming, this is a city that can host the seduction of Spinningfields only a stone’s throw away from the curiosities of the Northern Quarter, and thereby strike the perfect balance between overt decadence and casual indifference.
Enter The Ivy. Glittering in opulence and dripping in glamour, The Ivy Spinningfields is the largest restaurant to open in the whole of the UK in 2018. With 535 covers, Manchester’s most extravagant arrival is set across four beautifully decked floors, including a ground floor brasserie, a first floor private dining room, a second floor Asian bar and restaurant, and a top floor roof garden, complete with cosy open fire pits and panoramic views. Strip back all the sparkle of the building, and in our experience at least, you’re left with about 500 (mostly) Mancunian guests enjoying each other’s company and a team of friendly, attentive and down to earth staff.
Despite a flourishing food and drink scene, Manchester’s competitive hospitality industry has seen a few recent closures; namely Artisan in Spinningfields and the MAD collections from around the Northern Quarter (although staff from the latter have seen a lot of work-support from neighbouring businesses). The Ivy, however, is nothing if not bold, and this shows not only in its architectural tone, but in its placement right in the heart of the Spinningfields Pavillion. With ‘The Alchemist’ and ‘20 Stories’ just next door, The Ivy seems not only to have accepted a challenge of sorts, but to have succeeded in heightening the Spinningfields tenor.
Walking feels a little like gliding in this place. With an extravagant entrance and friendly front-of-house hosts, we were welcomed warmly and guided to our seats in The Ivy Brasserie. For a cold, rainy Monday evening, the Brasserie had a soft buzz about it. To our left, a young attractive couple were just finishing their meal, and to our right, a pair of old friends had just began to tuck into their first course. Which brings us to our own dining experience.
A knowledgeable and well-rehearsed attendant talked us through The Ivy Spinningfields menu, stopping to recommend certain dishes. Peckish, we picked at some ‘Truffle Arancini’ while we browsed the menu. A silver dish filled with delicious balls of sticky risotto, the arancini wasn’t overly dense but perfectly moreish. We’d easily polished them off before we’d even decided what to eat for the evening.
We finally settled on our choices. To start, we opted for the ‘Tempura Prawns with Salt and Pepper Squid’ and the ‘Smoked Salmon and Crab’. While the prawns were light and the squid was not overly chewy, both were crunchy and seasoned well. The salmon, however, was more of a showstopping dish. Served on a wavy glass plate, thin wafers of fresh, oak-smoked salmon arrived, topped with a large dab of flavoursome crab and dill cream, and served with dark rye bread.
Tempura Prawns with Salt and Pepper Squid… £8.75 : 4/5 – while the batter was perfect and the squid was delicious, we’re all about a fat prawn, and these could have been a bit juicier.
Smoked Salmon… £11.75 : 5/5 – it might be hard to go wrong with smoked salmon, but these 3 long strips were sizeable and full of smoky flavour, while the crab and dill cream proved very tasty with the rye.
For our mains, we’d chosen The Ivy Spinningfields ‘Grilled Sea Bass Fillet’. This was served with smoked aubergine, tomato pesto and a tomato, olive, shallot and coriander dressing. With a crispy skin and bright, meaty flesh; this was a good choice. Contrary to other reviews, we didn’t find this dressing to be too chunky or clumsy, but instead rather delicate and refined. We’re only human, so we also opted for a side of ‘Thick Cut Chips’; suffice to say we polished these right off.
Our other mains choice was the ‘Monkfish and Prawn Curry’, a Keralan curry with jasmine rice, coconut ‘yoghurt’, coriander and sweet potato crisps. While the curry sauce was rich, creamy and warming with a medium spice (perfect for that rainy winter’s evening), the monkfish and prawns were reasonably meaty. We also had a healthy side of ‘Sprouting Broccoli’, served with lemon oil and sea salt.
To accompany the main courses, our waiter recommended the Riesling, a crisp, sweet 2016 white from Mosel, Germany. Light and palatable, nobody will be surprised to hear this went down very easily over the course of our evening at The Ivy Spinningfields.
Sea Bass… £22.95 : 5/5 – full marks for the meaty texture and faultless fish. Also, 5/5 for a lemon in a fancy squeezy sachet (our guest is easily pleased at fancy small things).
Monkfish Curry… £17.50 : 4/5 – hearty and aromatic, we had to drop a point as this dish wasn’t served as temperature hot as we’d usually prefer.
For desert, we went for the theatrical ‘Chocolate Bombe’. This is a hollow, melting chocolate bomb with a vanilla ice cream and honeycomb centre, served with a hot salted caramel sauce. Whilst beguiling to watch, and perfect for the gram, we admit we were glad we’d only ordered one of these to share… as we’d filled on all of our savoury courses, and this dish was quite sweet.
Chocolate Bombe…£8.50 : 4.5/5 – the desert brought about divided opinion. For the sweet-tooths among us, this dish is a winner. If you consider yourself sweet enough already, pull up a spoon and dig into someone else’s portion for a quick sweet fix.
While the Ivy Brasserie menu features the same dishes as all of its sister cities, there’s also all-day dining from breakfast through to dinner, with breakfast options including a variety of eggs dishes, such as ‘Eggs Royale’, with smoked salmon, two poached hen’s eggs and toasted English muffins, served with hollandaise sauce and watercress, and ‘Eggs, Avocado and Sesame’, with chopped avocado served alongside roast plum tomatoes, poached hen’s eggs on toasted granary with sesame dressing. There are also light options, such as ‘Caramelised Ruby Grapefruit’ and ‘Kippers’, served whole with parsley butter.
Upstairs awaits the Ivy Asia, a glistening bar and restaurant, serving Asian-inspired cocktails alongside dishes such as ‘Wagyu Beef with Truffle Sauce’ and ‘Salmon Fillet Teriyaki’. With a mesmerising floor of glowing emerald green semi-precious stone, the golden mirror bar shimmers and contrasts against the soft, luxurious Asian fabrics which are scattered about the furnishings. Meanwhile, on the very top floor of The Ivy Spinningfields, the Ivy Roof Garden features a fully retractable enclosure and an abundance of foliage, fabrics and fire-pits.
Exploring The Ivy Spinningfields was an expedition of colour and captivation; every floor was alive with vibrance, boasting level after level of beauty and splendour. Well-known by now for its eclecticism and ‘be here to be seen’ status, people have been flocking to The Ivy on West Street (London) for decades. Celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2017, The Ivy prides itself on its suitability for any occasion.
So Manchester, are we faced with style over substance? Not in our opinion. If we were to be brutally fair, we’re talking about a reasonably priced and pleasant menu – with a slightly boosted price point to account for all of those special Ivy embellishments which add to your dining experience.
Are we worried about The Ivy Spinningfields? Not in the slightest. Would we visit again? We’re already booked.