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The Ivy Marlow Garden: Restaurant review

PUBLISHED: 10:38 10 October 2017 | UPDATED: 10:38 10 October 2017

A spectacular spot for dining (Photo: Paul Winch-Furness)

A spectacular spot for dining (Photo: Paul Winch-Furness)

Paul Winch-Furness Photographer

The town beside the Thames continues to step up to its title of the region’s foodie capital with this latest addition to the ‘menu’

These days you need to be surprised in the region’s foodie magnet that is Marlow – shall we all ‘blame’ Tom Kerridge at the Hand & Flowers, or the enduring appeal of Michael Macdonald’s Vanilla Pod – and sometimes you find it in the strangest of circumstances.

The excitement this summer has been the arrival of The Ivy Marlow Garden in the High Street, hitting the spot between fine dining in the capital and the top end of brasserie-style menus. Ooh, more glamour, well we won’t say ‘No’ to that, will we?

And yet, all I could think of crossing the bridge to the pretty town beside the Thames was feet, a boy’s ugly feet at that. The new restaurant is based in what was once Clarks shoe shop and my memories were of queuing at this time of year to get the sulking son’s horrible feet measured there… with a prayer that they would still have in stock something bearable but acceptable for school in his size, for extra wide hooves with peculiarly long toes.

Just what you need in your head when arriving for a girlies’ lunch. He’s 28 now and thankfully responsible for his own footwear, but in any case all thoughts of clodhoppers disappeared as we entered the stunning premises. Was this really the same place – it’s spacious, stylish and seems to go on forever, Tardis-style. And that’s no trick of the design, the revamp has created space for around 160 diners, without feeling you’re sitting on laps.

What’s more it’s something of a stunner with an Arancia onyx bar, marble floor, leather banquettes, dining chairs and bar stools. You can eat in the bar area and there’s a pretty ‘oasis’ garden open in summer but first choice has to be the exceptional central conservatory area. If you book for a special occasion – very advisable – make a point of asking to be seated here and dig in if necessary, we’ve heard of people requesting this and finding it unavailable.

You’re greeted and guided to your spot by immaculately turned out waiting staff in the full black and white regalia – all part of the occasion. Even so, wherever you end up sitting it’s all about the food and drink, and on our visit The Ivy Marlow Garden certainly didn’t disappoint.

First recommendation – one of the fabulous gin concoctions from the cocktails list will help smooth the way as you decide what must be sadly missed out from a menu full of intrigue and temptations alongside ‘Ivy Collection’ takes on old favourites. And just so you know you’re in Marlow the cocktail list includes ‘Mary Shelley Cosmo’ and ‘Bisham’s Collins’ (the latter is a fruit mix including elderflower vodka and cider sparkle).

So on to the food – and if you’re pushing the boat out the sommelier really comes up with the goods in matching wines to chosen courses. For a first lunchtime-ish visit you might want to sample the set menu of £16.50 for two courses or £21 for three. They add a 12.5% ‘discretionary’ service charge and there’s a £3.50 supplement for the chargrilled minute steak mains, so you’re still talking £50 or so for two with drinks. Having said that, this was clearly a popular choice with diners when we visited; and with starters including a crab salad and a main option of sea bream with fennel, apple and watercress salad, chive and champagne velouté, it’s not skimping.

The a la carte will have you coming back for more. Blackened cod fillet baked in banana leaf with a miso glaze, spring onion, radish and herb salad and yuzu mayonnaise is a delicious feast of flavours.

While such ‘sparkly’ dishes catch the eye and lure the taste buds it’s hard to ignore some very good classics, including shepherd’s pie made from slow braised lamb shoulder with beef and Wookey Hole Cheddar potato mash. But, of course, here it’s not for any old passing sheep herders and is renamed Marlow Garden Shepherd’s Pie. A simple but rewarding choice is grilled fish of the day with your choice of sides, and we can vouch for the fact that it’s melt-in-the-mouth fresh. Three cheers for the picky person poking round the fish market. On a second visit we’d like to put the aromatic duck curry or slow roasted lamb shoulder to the test.

The desserts are highly desirable and best of all perhaps is the chocolate bombe with all the theatrics and anticipation as the hot sauce lands to turn it into an oozing lure for the nearest spoon. Choccie fans will also enjoy the flourless warm chocolate cake with milk mousse and coffee sauce.

Vegetarians will be just about fine – there are some options they might not have had previously – including on the set menu, and since we just mentioned ‘flourless’, there are plenty of gluten-free dishes, but we had the disconcerting issue of our otherwise excellent waitress having to pop to the kitchen to find out if starters such as prawn cocktail were ‘safe’. It wasn’t.

Even with that we thoroughly enjoyed dining here – it was certainly an occasion and worthy of the Ivy name.

66-68 High Street, Marlow, SL7 1AH; theivymarlowgarden.com; 01628 902 777

More…

The Botanist in Marlow: Restaurant review - Prepare for hidden treasures and that a gorgeous décor is somehow outshone by dishes arriving at the table, says Jan Raycroft

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