Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Ivy: an experiment in recession psychology

In these dark financial times there's a whiff of revolution in the air. Not a beard wearing, cigar smoking, army surplus whiff of revolution. A more considered, more hand wringing sort of feeling. A new conservatism? A new puritanism? Nothing that severe. More a sense of propriety. Yes, that's it, a sense of things being a touch more, proper. People thinking about having not such a flashy car, people considering how they consume, trying to offload some of that vulgar bling baggage we've been carting about for the last few years. Feeling good about recycling, about composting, about cycling to work, about getting rid of piles of crap on ebay.

By way of testing this theory we went to the Ivy for brunch on Sunday. That home of vulgar celebrity with paparrazo haunted entrance and Micheal Winner's baritone forever reverberating around the place like some dark ancient Lovecraftian Old One. 

Nope, no sense of it here. No sense of a new anything. The menu which has been described to me as comforting British cuisine with French brasserie classics is actually boring, unimaginative and the cooking barely competent. I mean it's not bad, it's credible, at least, just really, really dull. Canteen does this way better, with a much nicer vibe and at a quarter of the price, with a St John inspired austerity.

The staff at the Ivy are pretty much what you'd expect. Nice. Slightly disinterested. Again, bit dull. The clientele? Slightly desperate, neck craning buffoons? Russian oligarchs and their obese children stuffing lobster and french fries into disinterested maws, eyes searching for the vaguest glint of celebrity to justify, well, justify everything? Maybe. Normal people eating overpriced mediocre food? Probably. 

We were very excited to see Jonathan Rhys Myers, the "sexy" Henry VIII from the TV show The Tudors looking very dapper in a creme coloured suit. That seemed to make the whole place relax a bit when he turned up and the apple crumble and custard dessert was something I enjoyed a lot more, so thanks Hugo Boss advert man. You saved my brunch/lunch fusion if not my faith in a new world order.

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