As we emerge blinking into the sunlight after the long months of lockdown, it’s worth thinking about ways to treat yourself and reconnect with those closest to you.
And if, for one reason or another, you have never ventured into The Ivy Montpellier Brasserie in Cheltenham, now is the time.
The restaurant in Rotunda Terrace, Montpellier Walk, is holding its Summer of Love and is the perfect place to enjoy the finer side of life – excellent food, expertly-mixed cocktails, attentive staff and all beneath that famous dome.
It could be seeing your partner outside the house, or meeting friends or family in 3D after months of text messages or video calls – whatever the reason, this is an ideal place to go ‘out out’ with fellow human beings.
My wife and I dropped our young children at a friends’ house and headed for our debut visit to The Ivy and tumbled back in time to when we had no kids, there was no lockdown, and we went to nice places as a couple.
We soon found ourselves sipping the 1960s-themed cocktails, reminiscing about our dating years from 10 years ago, and looking ahead to returning with our girls in a (hopefully) post-Covid future.
Here’s what we thought.
A warm greeting and a quick temperature test (you stare at a screen that tells you your temperature), saw us escorted through to the central part of the restaurant under the rotunda.
The former bank has a light, airy and relaxed feel with the restaurant busy but with a real sense of space.
It was a lovely feeling to see people – couples of all ages, groups of friends, and families – chatting away. Strategically placed plants kept tables apart from other tables, with seating arranged back-to-back and clear lines and areas where the professional staff could move around and serve customers.
Our meal choices
As this was for a review, both my wife and I went for the kind of dish we wouldn’t go for.
Whereas my wife would often choose a curry or vegetarian dish, I can be a bit route-one with chicken or burgers for meals out.
I opted for the monkfish and prawn curry (£17.95), described as a Keralan curry with jasmine rice, shaved coconut, coriander and sweet potato crisps.
It had a terrific blend of flavours, with a creamy texture that perfectly blended the ingredients.
Normally me and my wife share dishes (at least allowing a couple of taste tests), but this was all mine.
Luckily, any sense of selfishness on my part was matched by my wife, who kept her choice very much to herself as well – and despite looking on with temptation, I didn’t really want to have to give her any of mine to get a taste of her meal.
She chose the chicken Milanese (£16.95), a brioche-crumbed chicken breast with a fried egg, Parmesan and truffle cream sauce. As a side, she didn’t go for the waiter-suggested chips (she hasn’t had chips since Prince William and Kate got married in 2011) and went for the creamed spinach, pangrattato, toasted pine nuts and grated Parmesan.
She said if she was forced to find a fault in it, she wouldn’t be able to.
Although we had been tempted by a starter, we opted for the dessert choice – mainly because I had an eye on the Chocolate Bombe… which pretty much leapt right up my List of All-Time Favourite Desserts to take the top spot.
A huge chocolate shell filled with vanilla ice-cream, a honeycombe centre, with some mini chocolate balls that fizz in your mouth, topped with a hot salted caramel sauce. Sublime and divine.
My wife went for the Apple Tart Fine, a baked apple tart with vanilla ice cream and Calvado flambe. Again, this was very much a case of us keeping to our own so there was no sharing. She said she loved her choice and it looked incredible.
I’m not normally one for cocktails, but I am a fan of alcohol, and the five Summer of Love cocktails were more tempting to me than what I usually see on a cocktail menu.
I went for the Woodstock Old Fashioned (£10.95) which is described as Peace, Love and a sublime Old Fashioned with Makers’ Mark 46 Bourbon and spiced maple syrup.
Smooth, with a kick, and it went, gently, straight to my head.
My wife did one of her favourite ‘tests’ and asked me to guess which one she would want – and, luckily, I guessed right: Lazin’ On A Sunny Afternoon (£9.95) – Roku gin, Lillet Rose, pink grapefruit juice, Fever Tree soda water and Prosecco.
She said she would only have one as it was so strong. But it was also very nice, so she did have a second – making her legs go wobbly on the way out (neither of us have drank much during lockdown).
Overall, this was a joyous evening out, aided by the weather finally looking up, and the genuine delight in being out and in the capable, friendly and welcoming hands of the various members of staff.
Looking around at the other diners, we clearly weren’t alone in feeling relaxed, well-fed and watered, and relaxed like we used to be in 2019 and earlier.
Other dishes and drinks
Among the cocktails are the Catch The Wind (£9.95) with Roku Gin, Blue Curacao, lemon & Fever-Tree Mexican Time and Yuzu Soda; This Bird Has Flown (£10.95), incorporating Haku Japanese Vodka shaken with mint, lemon and sugar and topped with chilled Prosecco, and Itchycoo Park (£10.50), a refreshing cocktail with Haku Vodka shaken with cucumber, mint and Ginger Liqueur served in a coupe glass with a splash of Fever-Tree Ginger Ale.
Summer dishes included the roasted scallops (£11.95), with crispy potato rösti, pea puree, parmesan sauce and grated truffle as a starter, temping Lobster Linguine (£29.95) as a main and the Strawberry Ice Cream Sundae (£8.25) as dessert, featuring vanilla ice cream with meringue, shortbread and a warm strawberry sauce.
The Ivy opened in 2017, taking over the former Lloyds TSB building. You can book and find out more about its menu here.