Visually, the Ivy Asia by St Paul's is stunning and the food and drinks are just as good looking. But sadly, not all the dishes taste quite as good as they look.
Visually, The Ivy Asia at St Paul’s is a masterpiece. Illuminated coloured floors bring in the Instagrammers but it’s doesn’t begin and end there. As you make your way up to the main bar and dining room, you’re greeted by an overwhelmingly glamorous Asian jungle-like space.
Plants sprout up all over the place including a large cherry blossom while the bar sits under its very own pagoda. From this otherworldly place, you look right out onto St Paul’s Cathedral, lit up at night.
It’s a great spectacle which you can’t help but get caught up in. And this design has got to be the reason why the clientele is so surprisingly young for the Square Mile. It is quickly becoming a must-see destination.
And it’s easy to come in and just grab a few of their bespoke Asian-inspired cocktails after work. Sit up at the bar, gawking at all the artwork and installations hidden within the restaurant all the while marvelling at the bartenders working their magic.
One will be chiselling the giant ice block, another will grab a smoking gun to fill a glass cloche covering their cocktail and others will be preparing all manners of syrups and infusions.
These drinks are top quality. No cheap spirits will be found on the premises. And no drinks will be overwhelmingly sweet and unpalatable. Each has been given a whole lot of love and attention, made for a more sophisticated diner. And all the theatrics around the drinks just lift them to another level.
The food on the other hand, can get a little lost amongst all the spectacle. The sashimi and sushi did look great, but we opted for more of their special dishes that are harder to find around the Square Mile.
We were properly won over by the crispy tofu bao buns. With boa being so very hot right now, they had to do this justice. And their miso mayo yuba dipping sauce is what made it a worthy addition to one of our favourite baos in the City.
The black cod with miso is another standout. The flesh falls apart with ease and melts in your mouth. Sweet, savoury and with a touch of miso – little needs to be done to make this fish taste good.
And, each dish you try will come out like a work of art. Smoke billows around tables, sauces are dribbled onto plates at the table and large leaves serve as canopies for meat and fish. But all this flurry and fanfare seems to be given a little too much attention at times. Flavour should always come first but that isn’t always the case.
The laksa, for instance, is made to be more fine dining friendly but by doing so loses a lot of what make this dish so special. We love a good laksa, but this interpretation surprisingly lacked a lot of delicious soupy broth that laksa is known for. This let the dish down. Flavours were bland and moderated for more British pallets. We wanted spice and a huge bowl of broth to slurp up.
The same disappointed came in the form of a massive chocolate mousse. The portion was extraordinary. It came covered in chocolate dirt and a huge homemade biscuit stuck in the middle. It was placed in a bowl, on top of a platter which had a large roll or parchment. A lot was going on in terms of presentation, however the mousse itself was a bit one dimensional. We would have preferred a much smaller but far richer chocolate mousse.
But they did redeem themselves a little with the passion fruit and white chocolate sphere. Here, they poured hot caramel all over the chocolate ball, melting it at the table. It was a good blend of both sweet and sour flavours which was all too easy to polish off. They do most things really well here (especially the fine dining quality of service) but do be wary of
what you order. All that glitters is not always gold.