I can't tell you how excited I was to finally pop my Ivy cherry. As a long-time admirer, I’ve been seriously jel seeing everyone from my work pals to celebs (hey, Kate Moss) tucking into their elegant, gorgeous dishes. But now it’s my time to take the plunge.
Having opened in 2019, The Ivy Cardiff is ideally placed in the centre of town, just a stroll from Cardiff Castle, Cardiff City Stadium and all the shops. We visited on a lively Thursday afternoon, where glam lunches, friendly catch-ups and family gatherings all came together under one roof. German tech-metal outfit Rammstein were also playing nearby, adding to the eclectic crowd. One of the aspects I love most is that although there are many Ivys dotted around the UK; each one respectfully tailored to local culture and historical attractions, from the menu right through to the furnishings. Here, a huge bronze Welsh dragon takes pride of place above the mirrored bar and opposite the grandest of staircases, which in itself is a thing of beauty. Elsewhere, botanical tropical prints and living plants provide a lovely contrast to the pops of pink, orange and gold, plus the shimmery Art Deco lighting gave us real Great Gatsby vibes. Boy, do they master the art of relaxed, stylish, all-day dining or what?
All in all, The Ivy Cardiff is an absolute stunner. It’s no wonder it's papped the world over. And I haven’t even started on the Barbie pink, marble-topped toilets yet...
As you can imagine, I was delighted so far. And that’s before I even browsed the menu. After a long journey, we needed a little pick-me-up, so started by ordering the salted caramel espresso martini (£11.50). A twist on the classic, this went down as smooth as you like and packed a proper caffeine punch. It’d be rude not to try the signature Ivy Royale (£12.95), because, when in Rome, right? Topped with a fuchsia petal, this dainty tipple was a bitter yet sour delight, featuring Plymouth Gin infused with hibiscus and rosewater, sloe juice, Cocchi Rosa Vermouth and Champagne. Very VIP.
The summer menu draws influence from modern British cuisine, plus popular plates from The Ivy’s own repertoire. The first restaurant opened in London’s theatreland back in 1917, so put it this way, they know what they’re doing. We kicked things off with asparagus with truffle hollandaise (£8.95) and roasted scallops (£13.95). The fact they have a menu dedicated to veggies made my heart sing, and the earthy starter did exactly as promised: plump, fresh spears dressed in a decadent, thick, mustardy and bloody marvellous sauce. The seafood was perfectly cooked, and my date lapped the combo of salty bites and sweet pea purée . The little potato rösti (aka posh tater tots) provided the right amount of crunch too.
I then opted for the chargrilled halloumi (£14.95), because have you ever found a veggie who doesn’t love squeaky, scorched slabs of cheese? I’m basically made of the stuff. It was on a bed of delicately spiced fregola, which, if you haven’t tried it before, you really need to as it’s delicious: the texture is almost bouncy. The fried onions and sweet sultanas were a great addition, plus I’m even willing to forgive the coriander, it was that good. It’s worth saying, we can’t fault the service too, as our waiter patiently explained each dish and cocktail, and as we were out in the evening, suggested my date order the hearty Ivy hamburger (£14.50). Charred in a brioche bun with horseradish ketchup and some of the longest chips you’ll ever see, this is your classic main meal, upgraded baby.
Filling our bellies is thirsty work, so next up came another round of excellent cocktails. The Bae Caerdydd (£9.50 - chosen as that’s where we were staying overnight) was a fruity, breezy and refreshing taste of the bay. Topped with edible pansies and mixed with vanilla vodka, Xante pear brandy and Chambord, this velvety concoction is a fitting tribute to Cardiff. We saw a fellow diner drink the tiki-inspired Manuia (£13.75) so my date went for the same. It proved to be a picture-perfect adaptation of the Aperol spritz, fused with Elemakule bitter and all sorts of funky spirits I’ve never heard of before. A boozy smack around the face, that’s for sure.
Dessert was a dish I’d eyeing up for some time on Insta, the indulgent Chocolate bombe (£8.95). Pudding lovers, if you’re after a theatrical, outrageous melting finale to your meal, this is your best bet. As we scooped up spoonfuls of crispy honeycomb, cloud-like ice cream with a hot salted caramel sauce, all I could hear between us were mutterings of absolute pleasure.
I simply didn’t want it to end.
The DesignMyNight Digest
There’s not a shadow of a doubt, The Ivy Cardiff is a jewel in the crown of the city’s dining scene. You just have to try and bag a table on a buzzy Saturday to know how popular the restaurant is. The beautiful interiors are worth a visit alone, but at its core, the restaurant's emphasis on unrivalled service paired with some of the best cocktails I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting makes this a truly memorable experience. Road trip to visit Manchester or London, anyone?
💰 The damage: £109 for two, excluding service
📍 The location: St David's, at the top of Caroline Street, in the heart of the city.
👌 Perfect for: Long overdue chats in surrounds that’ll make your friends wild with envy.
⭐ Need to know: Afternoon tea at The Ivy is hugely popular and worth a visit. Also, looks like they're building a terrace on the first floor.
The Ivy Cardiff can be found 69/70 St David's, CF10 1GA. Want more amazing restaurants? We've rounded up the best here. We don't send a Cardiff newsletter yet, but sign-up now and you'll be among the first to discover the hottest new openings in the city.