The Ivy, a restaurant popular with celebrities, theatregoers, and lovers of the arts. When the iconic chain opened its doors to Edinburgh back in September 2017, I went along for the opening day. 4 years later, a return visit was long overdue, so I went back to see how their vegan menu had evolved.
Before I start, I’m going to give you a little heads-up, this is not going to be a glowing review. Far from it. Unfortunately for The Ivy, I went to eat (not make friends with their menu team).
What I will do is cushion what I’m about to say with this one positive note, their team were very friendly and willing to help. And, as always, everything was very pretty.
On arrival, you are given the kind of first-class service you’d expect from a premium restaurant. You’re greeted at the front desk, and you’re escorted to your table.
Vegan starters at The Ivy
- Avocado & Tomato Cocktail – Red pepper, lettuce and pomegranate dressed with a spicy harissa sauce
- Tossed Asian Salad – Warm salad of beansprouts, pak choi, watermelon, broccoli, cashew nuts, sesame and coriander with hoisin sauce
From a vegan standpoint, it pretty much goes South for The Ivy’s menu as soon as you dive in. I was told I couldn’t fire into the zucchini fritters, because they add a yoghurt dip. Sad face. This leaves us with only two vegan-friendly starter options (listed above). Both of them are, essentially, salads. I opted for the Tossed Asian Salad. The Ivy’s only saving grace at this point is that it was truly delicious and highly recommended.
Vegan mains at The Ivy Edinburgh
- Roasted artichoke salad – Baby gem lettuce with Belgian endive, avocado sesame houmous, couscous and a lemon herb sauce
- Keralan sweet potato curry – Choy sum, broccoli, coriander and coconut with steamed jasmine rice
- Tossed Asian salad – Warm salad of beansprouts, pak choi, watermelon, broccoli, cashew nuts, sesame and coriander with hoisin sauce
Ok, you’ve stopped stewing over the basic starter selection and had your vegan salad. With that in mind, what’s the one thing that you REALLY don’t want as a main? Salad!? Surely this should be obvious? Would you serve a carni two courses of steak? I’ve watched enough come dine with me to know that the answer is a solid, “No”.
But it’s not obvious. Well, not to The Ivy menu team apparently. There are 3 vegan mains on The Ivy’s menu, and guess what 2 of them are … yup, salad (sigh). I don’t mind a salad folks, I really don’t, but I don’t need 2 courses of the stuff! Who thought this was a sound idea?
The only non-salad option is a curry (4 out of 10 points for 2021 food creativity). It’s an odd choice, because when I was in India, the restaurants weren’t quick to offer me a salad with my hot curry. As with the starter, their only saving grace here is that the curry is delicious. Creamy sauce, crunch veg, served with a healthy portion of rice.
Vegan dessert at The Ivy
- Selection of fruit sorbets
- Fruit plate with coconut “yoghurt” and chia seeds
While the rest of our party tucked into theatrical chocolate bombs and hefty cheese boards, there was only two vegan desserts on The Ivy’s menu. Sorbet and fruit plate. Hey Chef, the 80’s called, they want their dessert menu back.
In all seriousness though, I was recently in a 4-star Highland hotel that offered 3 vegan dessert options, including a marmalade cheesecake with ice cream. In a time where you can pick up vegan chocolate as easily as you can salad, The Ivy really needs to do better. Sorbet!? Fruit? I’ve legit seen Air France run a better vegan dessert service. I’ll tell you for free, nobody is sitting watching their friends take out a chocolate bomb thinking, “I could just go some sorbet right now.”
To summarise …
In a sad plot twist, The Ivy’s vegan menu has actually taken a nosedive since I first visited back on its launch day in 2017. If you’re gasping on a salad, this is the place to go!
I can already hear the meat-loving chefs slamming down their rolling pins in disgust to exclaim, “I should be grateful that there’s a vegan option at all”. But no, no I shouldn’t, because it’s 2021 folks. And, if you haven’t mastered the art of making a vegetable taste good in this day and age, I’d argue you’re not much of a chef. I said it. I’m not sorry.
I have a friend who owns a steak chain in Sheffield. He recently asked me to take a look at his vegan menu, explaining that it was, “Just smart business. If there’s a group of 10 and there’s 1 vegan who hates the look of the menu, chances are, you just lost that 10”.
Is this the most negative review I’ve ever posted? 100%. I expected better from such a famous brand. Can someone at The Ivy please consult a vegan next time the vegan menu creation option comes around? Please!
Have you been to The Ivy yet? I’d love to hear your thoughts on their food, service and location. For more vegan in options in Edinburgh, check out my post Vegan and Vegetarian Eating in Edinburgh.