I can’t believe that it’s been a year since I had lunch out with my mum. This is something we used to do regularly, but with me working four days a week in my new Comms Director role and only having one day free for client work (and life!), days out have just got pushed further and further back on the life list. Which is terrible and must change immediately. Fridays are such a great day to be able to take a bit of time out and catch up with friends and family before being hit by the demands of the weekend. Even if you have to take annual leave to enjoy that Friday!
If like me, you’re a parent, you will go into work on a Monday feeling more exhausted than you did at 5pm on a Friday. Kids, whatever their age demand huge amounts of time, sacrifice and energy. My weekends are round the clock drop off/pick up parent taxi-ing, endless washing and ironing, hopping from foot to foot on the touchline of a sports pitch to keep warm whilst cheering and clapping and of course there’s the shopping, housework, running around doing various tasks and then suddenly it’s Monday morning again and you’re knackered. If like me, you’re a single parent, then you’re doing all of the above on your own with one set of hands and that doesn’t leave much time for the fun stuff. Such is life. My son’s father lives in Dubai so the standard ‘alternate weekends and one day during the week’ arrangement isn’t our reality.
Fridays are a lighter day for me on the parent commitment front (my son being at school!) and on the work front they can be manageable, so I am making a promise to myself that once a month I will do something special on a Friday.
This month, it was visiting The Ivy on the Square in Edinburgh which opened a year ago but since I haven’t really been out for lunch in a year (around here anyway), it all feels quite new and exciting for me.
My favourite types of restaurants are ones where you could quite easily imagine yourself being for the three sittings of the day, breakfast, lunch and dinner, probably with several glasses of champagne, watching the world come and go, enjoying lovely food and company. I have a friend who did this, at Rick’s actually in Edinburgh. I love that. That ‘everything is perfect, why bother going anywhere at all’ type of bubble. I have not had that bubble for a long, long time. Definitely not in the past 15 years that I’ve been a parent! The last time I had ‘the bubble’ would have been in London. I lived in Chiswick for a few years, round the corner from the Island Record studios so my ‘bubble’ experiences were also shared by some very interesting types. Those were the days…
The Ivy on the Square is one of those restaurants. A place where you could sit very happily and watch morning turn into afternoon, afternoon into evening. It’s got that kind of timeless Parisian brasserie buzz about it. Art Deco themed with rich, vibrant, earthy hues of burnt orange and mustard, flashes of green and turquoise. The interiors are bright and airy yet warm and inviting, with cosy corners and a continual ebb and flow of locals, tourists, the lunchtime crowd, movers, shakers and money makers. I really could do that ‘laid-back all day dining’ thing. A glass of Champagne and an episode of the best entertainment around – people watching, with some delicious food.
Classic and refreshingly contemporary with a mix of leather banquettes and bar stools and all that gorgeous background brass and glass sparkle that adds to the relaxed glamour, Ivy on The Square feels fresh and uplifting (those stunning flower displays….) yet intimate, alluring and decadent.
The all-day dining menu is all-encompassing, serving modern day British classics from dawn until dusk – something for everyone whether you’re looking for something snacky or a full on three courser.
I’m not a three courses for lunch kind of girl. I don’t usually eat much at all during the day (night time oinker…), so Champagne is my first course, sent over very kindly by General Manager, Eric Garnier with two little dishes of spiced green olives and salted almonds.
There’s nothing like casting your eye over menu with a glass of Champagne in your hand, chatting, feeling relaxed, unhurried with that bubbly anticipation of what’s to come.
I knew I wanted fish; something light and fresh and mum was of the same mind. I chose the blackened cod fillet which is baked in a banana leaf and comes with citrus pickled fennel, grilled broccoli, chilli and yuzu mayonnaise. Mum went for the roast salmon fillet with tenderstem broccoli, smoked almonds and a herb sauce. We shared sides of tenderstem broccoli, lemon oil and sea salt and creamed spinach, toasted pine nuts and grated Parmesan.
The cod was done beautifully, a sticky, sweet topping with a silky texture underneath, a zesty and warming mix of flavours. The broccoli was maybe a touch on the hard side but that’s ok because it just feels healthier!
Mum’s salmon was done to absolute perfection, pink rather than well done which salmon so often is and changes the whole dynamic of the dish entirely. The creamed spinach, pine nuts and parmesan were a luxurious, heavenly, smooth, nutty mix and one that I would love to re-create at home as a side. Who needs carbs…
Mum likes a Margaret River wine so we had a glass of the Xanadu Exmoor Margaret River Chardonnay 2017; fresh, fruity and not too oaky – the perfect wine companion for lunch.
The service at Ivy on the Square is impeccable. So professional but completely natural and friendly. A tricky combination to pull off. Not that I was expecting the commonplace “So, are you guys ready to order?’ line… Everything was seamless. The staff breezing through the restaurant with calm efficiency, always with a smile, non-intrusive filling of glasses and people who look happy to be doing what they’re doing. It really does set the tone and makes a dining experience so much more relaxing when you feel that you’re genuinely being cared for and being taken care of. The Ivy on the Square have their service down to a tee. It’s exceptional.
We skipped the puds in favour of a dash over to the make up department in Jenners before school bus pick up o’ clock, but ordered a quick coffee which was accompanied by a little dish of the most delicious mini chocolate truffles with a liquid salted caramel centre. Almost legendary I would say. Don’t leave without trying them.
Mum and I clearly don’t go out often enough. Spending time with her is like therapy, not that I’ve ever had therapy (apart from an awful lot of the retail type…) but all the niggles of the week just disappeared. When you spend time with the people that matter, you realise that the little stuff doesn’t matter, so I’m going to be making sure that at least once a month, I’m doing something special with one of my treasured people.
Life is too short to not drink Champagne, enjoy nice food and savour the experience of a wonderful restaurant with a special person.
We’ll be back. Next month…
The brasserie restaurant and bar are open all day for breakfast, weekend brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, light snacks and dinner, Monday to Sunday
Monday to Saturday – 8am to 12.30am
Sunday & Bank Holidays – 9am to 12am
Set menu: 2 courses £16.50 | 3 courses £21, available Monday – Friday, 11.30am – 6.30pm
Afternoon tea available daily from 3pm to 5pm