Dinner at The Ivy on the Square
A few weeks back, I was lucky enough to grab a table at the hottest ticket in town: The Ivy on the Square, the latest and most glitzy addition to the cluster of restaurants popping up around St Andrew Square at the moment.
As you'll see from the disclaimer at the bottom of this post, I had already visited The Ivy on the Square a number of times, but hadn't yet had the opportunity to enjoy a meal there. However, earlier this year, we went to The Ivy Covent Garden for Lewis' birthday and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, so my expectations were high.
I'm sure you'll have seen many photos of The Ivy on the Square's interior by now, but in case you haven't: think comfortable opulence. Plush fabrics, a rich colour palette and just enough sparkle to make it feel special, without it feeling like a place you absolutely must don your Sunday best for. Although we did dress up (of course!).
We were escorted to a table in the central area of the upper floor, with views down Rose Street and out on to St Andrew Square too: the restaurant is almost entirely glass-fronted, so the light and the views are quite special. It does mean things can get a little chilly and sometimes a little noisy, but the views are worth it, and the staff will always look after you - the service here really is just lovely, so attentive, warm and helpful - nothing is too much trouble.
But anyway, down to business, and what you came here for: the food.
I started my meal with the wild mushrooms on toasted brioche, which was just so delicious. I often struggle with starter options, and I must admit I did find it tricky to choose here too, as there were so many dishes that sounded promising. Thankfully, we'd been so excited for our trip here that we'd perused the menu several times before we arrived, so I had quite a clear shortlist in mind. But anyway, I digress. A heap of mixed, sauteed mushrooms, scattered with truffle and served in a beautifully-seasoned creamy sauce (minus the Gran Moravio - not for me, thanks) on what can only be described as a slab of brioche. I could eat that dish daily; it was just so, so tasty!
For the main event, again I was torn between a few options, but after having already had the roast half chicken in the Covent Garden restaurant, I opted instead for the line-caught swordfish, with a side of thick-cut chips (of course). I wouldn't usually order fish for my main course, but I'm very glad I did; the swordfish was an enormous portion, beautifully cooked despite being so thick. It was served with a Provencale sauce and black olives, which was beautiful, but sadly only the tiniest hint of chimichurri - I would have loved there to have been a more generous serving of the chimichurri as I think this was the only thing the dish was missing. The swordfish was served with fregola (tiny spheres of pasta), which I didn't really notice - to be entirely honest I don't think it added anything to the dish, and the chips were so, so delicious that I didn't really care about the pasta. That's another point - whatever you're ordering at The Ivy on the Square, you absolutely must order a side of thick-cut chips with it. Even if it already comes with chips. They're just that good.
And pudding - arguably my favourite time of any dinner, anywhere. And, you've guessed it, I was torn between options yet again. Did I go for the melting chocolate bombe or the flourless cappuccino cake? Well, dear reader, I went for neither. I chose (on the very strong recommendation of my boss!) for the Scottish burnt cream, which, as a rule, is not something I'd ever order in a restaurant. Why order custard when you could have chocolate? But, as it turns out, it was exactly the right choice. A very generous portion of vanilla set custard, with a crispy burnt sugar coating that was so satisfying to smash through, and quite a substantial slab of crumbly shortbread, for the dipping. It was rich (almost too rich), big (almost too big) and utterly, utterly delicious (no such thing as too delicious). I would say I could have eaten two of them, but there's no way anyone on earth could get through two of them - this is a very adult-sized portion and it is very, very rich indeed. It was, in fact, quite possibly the most satisfying way to end a meal.
Except that I actually ended the meal with an espresso martini, which, at The Ivy on the Square, comes with a selection of three non-alcoholic syrups to pour into your martini and switch up the flavour. I had the option of amaretto, hot cross bun and creme brulee (which, let's be honest, was never going to be my choice given that I'd just eaten the world's largest dish of creme brulee...), and selected amaretto, duly tipping a third of the bottle into my glass as recommended. It's not something I'd done before, but it really changed the flavour of my cocktail, giving it a warmth and a sweetness that was very, very welcome. Clearly I was not entirely sugared-out by dessert...
So, in summary: WHAT A MEAL. The Ivy on the Square, for me, fills a gap in Edinburgh for a restaurant that offers delicious, high-end dining without the accompanying price tag. Yes, some dishes are pricy (but what do you expect if you're ordering a whole lobster?!), but overall, the whole menu is very well-priced. It's a cosy environment that still feels special, with a buzzy atmosphere that makes it a great place to people-watch. The service here is very good too, especially if you're lucky enough to be looked after by the charming GM, Eric.
If you're looking for somewhere to really, properly enjoy a delicious dinner this winter, I highly recommend getting in quick and booking a table at The Ivy on the Square - and I highly recommend ordering that burnt cream for dessert....
Disclaimer alert: I helped to launch The Ivy on the Square, and was lucky enough to have this meal covered on a complimentary basis, but all opinions are honest and strictly my own.