FROM a whisky trolley to oversized bottles of wine, The Ivy on the Square, which opens in the Capital next month, will be full of Scottish influences and a few surprises, finds Rosalind Erskine.
The Ivy Collection’s first Scottish venue with the group, will be making St Andrew Square its Edinburgh home.
The location is no stranger to other London-based outlets, with Harvey Nichols and popular Bombay brasserie Dishoom both nearby. It represents a major boon for one of the best-known locations in the New Town and the Scottish dining scene in general.
General manager Eric Garnier says the Capital was always going to be the group’s first location north of the Border.
“We couldn’t really choose anywhere else. There are more than half a million people here and over 2000 restaurants. There’s already a vibrant restaurant scene and I wouldn’t be surprised if most customers who come through the door already know what to expect,” he said.
“They’ve travelled, they know what a good plate of food looks like, they know what good design is and understand good service. When you have all of this together and the bill is not crazy – that is what The Ivy Collection offers.
“There are many restaurants where people go for a meal and think it’s great, but the bill is unreasonable and they think, ‘I may be back next year.’ This is not what we want to achieve.”
St Andrew Square as a location was a key selling point to the group, mainly due to its central location but also because of the space available for the restaurant.
“St Andrew Square is the place to be, it’s where the New Town started 250 years ago and the first house was right across the square from us,” Eric added.
“My wife is from Scotland, so we have had fun coming back to see the city and getting to know the location. We have a great building with fantastic high ceilings, but we also have a first floor and a basement. It’s difficult to find that kind of space in the Old Town, and the location is easily accessible by bus, tram, car and train.”
With a menu including Scottish products such as Loch Fyne oak-smoked kippers, Campbells’ haggis, Shetland mussels and Isle of Mull cheddar, Eric is keen to use the abundance of local produce on the restaurant’s doorstep.
“Each and every Ivy Collection restaurant’s menu includes a number of dishes which represent its unique location and The Ivy on the Square will be no different,” adds Eric. “I’d say a third of our dishes will be exclusive to us and will use Scottish produce.
“We are looking at venison, scallops, lobster, game pies – we don’t do that anywhere else, but we will do that here because it’s delicious, readily available and is what we think people will want to eat.
“It’s a long way to London from here – there are a few things that will come up, such as uniforms and kitchen equipment, but not produce. We can buy our bread, veg, fruits and fish from all over Scotland. You’d be surprised, actually, at the number of things that travel from Scotland to London, such as strawberries, langoustines, salmon etc.”
Despite the A-list perception of the Ivy in Covent Garden, Eric says, “The restaurant is an ideal place for people of all ages, and we want our clientele to feel comfortable visiting for one course and one glass of wine, a long leisurely lunch or a romantic dinner. You can come to The Ivy on the Square for 45 minutes or for a couple of hours.”
There will also be a number of tables held back from booking, to ensure local diners and walk-ins are able to get a table – every lunch and every dinner.
“We don’t want people to think of us as the kind of restaurant you need to book weeks in advance,” Eric added.
In line with the London eateries, there will be magnums of wine available, while a new addition to the drinks selection will be a specially curated whisky trolley that can be brought to tables for diners to select a post-dinner dram.
The Ivy Collection is teaming up with whisky consultant and author Blair Bowman to ensure staff are trained and knowledgeable.
This approach, which adds something different to the dining experience, can also be found in other Ivy Collection restaurants including The Ivy City Garden in London, where a champagne tower can be ordered and assembled at the table.
“In London, you wouldn’t think things like this would work, but in the City we offer a champagne tower - to make champagne cocktails - at the table and they’re very popular,” Eric said.
“The same applies to the six-litre bottles of wine. We serve rose in the summer, the big bottles sit in a huge ice bucket. When you ask for a glass, the bottle is brought to the table and served to you. It makes the experience fun.
“My picture must be all over the world, struggling to serve wine from this huge bottle, but it is what people enjoy and it adds something a little different to the experience, something special to talk about.”
And for those looking to sample some of the Ivy Collection’s renowned cocktails, the selection available in Edinburgh will not disappoint.
“We are strong on cocktails and we sell a lot of them,” Eric says. “So about 50% of the regular cocktails will come to Edinburgh and the rest will come from our bar manager, who will create special cocktails for us using Scottish spirits such as gins and whiskies.”
Inside, the decor will reflect the city with a little of The Ivy Collection’s added glamour.
Eric said: “The Ivy on the Square will feel elegant, yet relaxed. The artwork, by Adam Ellis [who has been responsible for the art across all of The Ivy Collection’s restaurants], will be reflective of Edinburgh. We aren’t going to hang pictures of London, the aesthetic will be very much about Edinburgh and the city’s culture.”
A relaxed and fun atmosphere is certainly on the menu at the Ivy on the Square.
“We want to be the restaurant you think of for a fun meal with friends or family, whether it’s for breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea or dinner.”