The Ivy Café: Gluten Free Dining With an Air of Nostalgia

When I was growing up, special occasions were celebrated at The Ivy in Covent Garden. Tucked away behind the theatre which still houses the world’s longest running play The Mousetrap, this art deco celebrity hot spot is known for its classic British fare and dimly lit rooms. What I quickly learnt however, was that The Ivy, in all its glory, is not necessarily the most affordable restaurant in London. So when the team behind the original restaurant opened up a group of all-day dining cafe style eateries around the city, I was indescribably excited.

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The menu at this modern chain is reminiscent of that at The Ivy, featuring some of the original restaurant’s classic dishes including the Ivy Hamburger and the Chicken Milanese. However, upon first glance, anyone gluten free would feel overwhelmed by the bread-heavy options. We decided to make a trip there and test it out on a cold Sunday evening, only to be left with a multitude of options. To my pleasure, I discovered the kitchen was willing to adapt a number of dishes to make them gluten free friendly.

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On the back of this news, I opted to start my meal with the Wild Mushrooms in a cream sauce with grated truffle and Gran Moravia. The dish calls for toasted brioche, which the team happily replaced with gluten free toast. A proper winter warmer, this dish paved the way perfectly for my main course – The Ivy Cafe Shepherd’s Pie.

While this might sound unadventurous to some, the Ivy Cafe Shepherd’s Pie is so much more than what it lets on. This rich and creamy pie is comfort food at its finest, containing not only the usual fragrant lamb, but beef shoulder too which deepens the flavour of the stock. The perfectly piped mashed potato crown is best when doused with lashes of gluten free beef gravy that comes automatically served on the side in a personal pot. To brighten up the dish, I selected some perfectly cooked spring greens, which come tossed in a light butter sauce.

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I was somewhat worried that my choices would leave me stuffed to the brim but delighted in my realisation that there was still room left for dessert. The dessert course is where gluten free diners clean up because a whopping ten out of twelve desserts are allergy friendly. Making a decision between the Flourless Cappuccino cake and the Lemon Meringue Baked Alaska was proving tough, until I spotted the decadent Chocolate Bombe on the menu. When brought to the table, a salted caramel sauce is poured on top of the bombe until it splits open, revealing a perfect scoop of vanilla ice cream and honeycomb pieces. Ending such a delicious meal on an any less indulgent note would not have felt right, and is what I recommend any of you reading this do when you visit. Get ready to feel spoilt and comfortable – two things which still remain a novelty for gluten free diners across the globe.

The Ivy Cafe has various locations across London. We ate at the Richmond Branch, the menu for which can be found here.

(Tables bookable via the restaurant website or Opentable)

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