the ivy- roomHave you ever found yourself in a famous restaurant, packed to the gunnels with shiny happy people, smiling and chatting, clinking glasses, twirling hair, eating unexciting food with inappropriate relish, and tapping toes to live elevator music? They’re in one corner – enjoying life, and you’re in the other, feeling bitter. It’s entirely possible that I don’t understand the gentle nuances of the band.  It’s believably probable that because I ordered the three course ‘restaurant week’ menu (180AED, so much cheaper than going a la carte), I wasn’t going to get a fair representation of the restaurant’s signature style. It’s widely known I that I am far too particular with my wine. And yet, I still feel like I shouldn’t be the odd man out, that the other diners appear to be swallowing a package that is quite simply, overrated.

Maybe it’s just not my style. The Ivy is decidedly Old English – banquette seating bordered with screens of tessellated translucent glass. It’s dark. There are no windows, except for those that are sheathed delicately from the interior view of ‘The Boulevard’ (which, for those who don’t know Dubai, is not actually a boulevard, but a shopping mall) by diamonds of more opaque stained glass. It’s all white linen and red roses, dim and covert, rich without looking too rich. Every accent around me is from off the continent. In London, The Ivy is an antique venue in the West End, history wrapped in celebrity. Here, it is new, made to look antique, and filled with Great Britain’s outcasts – the breed otherwise known as Colonial expats (and of course, the odd convict descendant, like me)

the ivy-cod


The chairs must have been stolen from the chambers of parliament – they’re comfortable, leather and designed to house old men with gout. The glass dividers remind me of my old local pub (The Retreat), where they were erected to form nooks for all degrees of secret shennanigans, or separate teams on trivia night. The food is from that species formerly known as “gastropub grub” (like the pop star Prince, this cuisine will probably float around nameless until everybody realises that although they hate the previous name, it’s the only one that fits.) The napkins are like my Nanna’s tea-towels, and want to see a Victoria sponge cooling next to them as they both sit happily on a formica table in Mansfield. The winelist is brief, but contains an offering I am happy to choose from. If there was a fire crackling and I was in another (sub 40ºC) country, spending less that $40 on a glass of dessert wine, I’d probably be happy.

But, I’m not.


the ivy-lemon meringue coupMy soup was fine – cold tomato and basil with soft mozzerella – not rocket science, but well delivered. His salmon was beautifully poached, but served with a sauce attempting to cross cultures with elegance but ending up as balanced as an Aussie bogan in Emirati national dress. The rump was good, although ordered medium-rare and yet served blue. The cod with leeks sounded lovely, but both bland and a little too odorous – one would imagine hard to achieve simultaniously, but there you go. The desserts – his, a bitter chocolate ganache, nothing wrong with it but hardly ground-breaking. My ‘lemon meringue coupe’, like the cod, had more bark than bite, and was two-thirds ill-matching vanilla icecream with a splash of (quite decent) lemon curd and a few shards of (delicate and tasty) meringue.

Wine is served in short-stemmed goblets also appearing like they have come straight out of a country pub. Large, but ill-shaped. When ordered by the glass, wine appears in an archaic fashion – not from the bottle, so you know you are getting what you asked for, but from a 1/4 carafe. I count myself fortunate that I know what an 125AED glass of Saint Veran is supposed to taste like, otherwise they could have splashed in a bit of Jacob’s Creek Chardonnay and I’d be none the wiser. I’ve mentioned above that I am overly fussy with wine. Most people would not be bothered with this, and even I would not, if I was paying $5 a glass at my local tavern. But at these prices I need a little more pomp.

the ivy-chocolate ganache

So – it sounds like I actually had a fairly good, of not great, feed, doesn’t it? So what left the sour taste in my mouth, especially when everybody else seems to be happy with the offering? It’s my old Dubai broken record – The label is shipped in, along with the entire concept. No great effort seems to have been made to make this a Dubai restaurant – it is simply another import. There are too many elements that get lost in the transplant. The decor comes off a little contrived and inappropriate in this climate and in its shiny mall-side position. There are no celebrities to gander at while eating, making the prices unforgivable. There are no famous theatres nearby to bring an air of anticipation and art to the scene. The food offering is reasonable, but all in all, I don’t think it’s enough to keep people returning, especially more discerning drinkers and diners.

Or maybe it’s just me, and my taste… Time will tell.


The Ivy
Reservations: ph +971 4 319 8767
Address: The Boulevard, Ground Level, Jumeirah Emirates Towers.


The Ivy-salmon

15 thoughts on “It’s all a matter of taste – The Ivy”

  1. Were you there on Saturday night? If so, wondering if you also faced a 1.5hr wait between courses? Reasonable food but incredibly poor service. (And decor that, bizarrely, reminded me of Nelsons. Sure that can't be what they were aiming for….)

  2. Sadly I agree. I wanted to like The Ivy but it's a very inferior chip off the old block and if you are stuck in the outer area you actually feel like you are dining in the mall. I like good 'gastro-pub' food but it has to be excellent…and it wasn't. The wine list is good and the service absolutely brilliant…but sadly that's not enough reason to return.

  3. As ever a good enough review of mediocrity to ensure my fils will be spent in a "pub". If I want good chips/frites I will stick with AED20 worth at Belgian Beer CafeKeep up the good work, always a joy to read your excellently composed pieces.

  4. Enjoyed reading your description of the place in true The Hedonista fashion.I've never been to the original Ivy and not sure if I ever would. But dined at the Dubai one when my in-laws and I were staying at Emirates Towers this past Feb. We had a fab meal – all the courses were excellent (sadly, my photos are held hostage in Switzerland somewhere) and like Sally, we had brilliant service – better than anywhere in Dubai to date.But would I go back again? If I had guests staying at Emirates Towers, maybe. Unless I'm in the mood for steak (I often am) then it's Rib Room, hands down.

  5. Great review! I guess the next time I visit and have limited time (and budget) I'll give this a miss too. So, does between 'yo and ho' mean hello and goodbye? Very funny!Cheers,Anne

  6. Excellent review. I can imagine just what it was like, having decided to give up eating out after realising a disappointing dinner at the Rivington had cost two of us what it takes to buy everything for a lavish dinner party for six. And I didn't like the Rib Room, BTW. They're all so generic…But I rather suspect the clientele The Ivy is aiming at isn't really made up of people who actually care very much about what they're eating a much as being seen to be able to afford to eat it. Maybe that's unfair…Traiteur at the Part Hyatt might tempt me out again. But I'll be a cautious temptee.

  7. This review makes me really sad because it highlights the biggest problem I have with Dubai restaurants…CONSISTENCY. I was there, just 2 months ago, and had a lovely experience. Service was fab, every course was delicious, I was pleasantly surprised after having an underwhelming experience at the Ivy a year before. I wish Dubai restaurants would get it together and not lose opportunities such as this one!

  8. I must admit I dined there for the promo in week 1 (Thursday night) but our group of four all opted for a la carte as the dishes were far more tempting than the prix fixe. Food was excellent as was service like it was when I first reviewed – great atmosphere too with the jazz. Like with Voi and Pai Thai, they should use the promo to serve signature dishes and encourage repeat business which the Ivy desperately needs. True – location is a key issue and the interior design's not particularly popular. Personally I am a fan though of Caprice's service culture(both Ivy and the Riv) and their zero up-selling. Consistency sadly is an ongoing issue here.

  9. So true! I have heard good reviews from you, Nausheen as above, and also Ginger and Scotch. But the fact that the others are less than enamoured with the place is concerning, and if they're only getting it right 50% of the time? Well, we all know that is not enough. I did not mention service above, and it's interesting that many comments have mentioned how good it is. Again, like with my wine, I am a stickler for good service. In some ways it was good – food service was fairly swift and unobtrusive. Drink service however was lax, not just regarding the silly carafe presentation, but also slow. Water glasses were never refilled and wine had to be asked for twice. We sat with empty wine glasses for a long time at one point, and had to call over the waiter who was staring off into that airy space above diners faces in mock efficiency so he could not see our raised eyebrows. They also brought us the wrong dessert wine the first time around. Therefore wasting a 150AED glass of wine – if they actually chucked it, that is…

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