The Ivy


IT’S the end of the meal and we’re still in The Ivy, which with its high ceiling, chintzy comfort and buzzy Glasgow atmosphere is, downstairs at least, a pretty comfortable place to be. Garry has just announced that the Glorious Twelfth Shepherd Pie was not bad though we both agree that flavour-wise the famous roasted grouse that were supposed to be in there were rather posted missing, old boy, the portion was neither a pie not substantial, and the two silver dishes of Juniper Berry and Brioche Sauce that accompanied it were frankly just silly. But it’s okay for £13.95, he insists.

Prompting me (who will be paying) to snort in derision in the style I hope of the late Earl of Grantham and argue it was actually £18.95. I put on my glasses so we can settle this argument like gentlemen and we both look at the menu to discover that, hoots mon, no, it is actually £21.95.

Cue a moment’s silence, while this sinks in. Laughable price, I say, laughing. But then a perfectly competent crab and apple salad with cucumber, watermelon, edamame and coriander to start will be a startling £11.95, while a drearily ordinary tempura prawn, also a starter, is £9.

Let's not forget this is simply a mega-chain restaurant currently pushing a Downton Abbey-esque theme into what seems like just about every corner of the British Isles. Have they really already opened about 30 of these on the road to Glasgow? And they even got one going in Harrogate before penetrating this far north? Tut, tut.

I certainly ate in the Edinburgh one a year or so ago and thought meh. I’ve eaten in this one now and still think meh, though I will say this: they’re pretty good at creating a broo-haha on social media.

We had to book to get a table on this Tuesday eve and right now, at 10pm, there’s a crush of Glasgow style-istas at the bar and the front door. Was it like this for Jamie’s Italian or Carluccio’s? I forget.

Anyway, service at the front door is not quite running as it should, we were slightly snootily greeted then, say, five minutes later one of the persons who had confirmed the booking and asked us to wait was blankly asking us anew if we had a booking. With no obvious recognition of the conversation moments earlier. Hello?

However, let's not be hard on the staff. These mega-restaurant chains are rarely known for the warm way they treat staff and one of the last conversations we will have tonight will involve asking our waitress, who is chirpy, cheery and good, how much she and her colleagues get of the 12.5% tip that’s been automatically slapped on the bill. And it is slapped on every bill.

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I see nothing obvious on the website, hastily looking through it on my phone. She’s not completely sure, but since shameful corporate tip-stealing has been widespread in Britain then it's very hard anywhere nowadays to be completely sure that all of the tips are going to your server. We should be told.

After all this, I suspect you’ll think I hate The Ivy. But you know what? I don’t. The food’s okay, nothing better, the service is patchy but it’s new, the prices are, well, what people will clearly pay. But they’ve done a good job of fitting this place out. It so convincingly looks like it has been a restaurant forever that we can’t work out what it was before. A bank, a tie-shop?

Simply walking up Glasgow’s Buchanan Street and seeing an imposing restaurant entrance that looks like it’s been there since the 1920s where there certainly wasn’t one before is a strange and not unpleasant experience. To push the heavy door and find behind it, maybe not Lady Edith and Aunt Rosamund, but a very passable rendition of the style, comfort and buzz of the roaring twenties is an achievement in itself.

A spokesperson for The Ivy Collection said: "The service charge is shared with all staff excluding management."

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The Ivy

Buchanan Street


0141 378 1200

Menu: Chintzy chain brasserie food. Shepherd’s pie, fish and chips, steaks, duck, salads etc. 3/5

Service: Not brilliant at the front door but our waitress was chirpy, cheery and good. Ask the staff if they get all of that 12.5% automatic service charge before paying it. 4/5

Atmosphere: Good job of creating all the style and buzz of a 1920s restaurant from virtually nothing in the heart of the city – its best attribute. 5/5

Price: We paid a frankly laughable £21.95 for a mediocre roast grouse pie, starters and dessert prices are heavily weighted. Pricey. 2/5

Food: It’s chain restaurant food albeit upmarket and while everything was competent and inoffensive you don’t come here for the food. 5/10