The Ivy Collection launched the Ivy Castle View in Guildford last week in the newly refurbished Tunsgate Quarter overlooking Guildford Castle, bringing a whole new level of dining to Guildford and about time too.
The discreet entrance is on the corner by the stairs facing the castle, where you are warmly greeted by a smart receptionist and shown up the two fights of stairs to the main restaurant. There you are attended by three equally smart receptionists who greet you by name and make sure that a fourth takes your coat.
You are then escorted to your table with warm panache and introduced to your waiter, who immediately offers a drink and hors d’oeuvres. We swiftly tucked into a soft farm bread with a gorgeous crust, that would have made a Parisian happy, and olives, which were juicy and subtly flavoursome. In fact if you like olives, it is worth coming here for those alone, I kid you not.
Our table in the far corner next to the balcony should be noted as one of the best spots, from there you can see the castle as the sun sets and observe the whole of the brasserie, from dining to bar. The banquettes are plush and comfortable, very much like the ones they used to have in Sardis in New York, a favourite haunt of movie stars, think of Al Pacino sitting back with his arms spread wide on the splendid leather, holding court with famous friends.
The entire setting adds to this feeling of pampered luxury, the art deco, the ceiling lights and multi coloured floor tiles, with every inch of wall surface covered in art ranging from classic racing posters, to old monochromes of historical Guildford, interspersed with modern art from across the decades. The horseshoe bar to the left of the entrance is the ideal stage to network or socialise and the dining area is a superbly balanced fusion of space and comfort, with large booths and round cafe tables ingeniously placed to enhance the atmosphere.
The Ivy Collection has big plans, opening these little “Ivy’s” all over England and they will succeed where others have failed because they put enormous thought and experience into every little detail. Nothing is left to chance and the secret to their business is to put the customer experience first. They know that when you go out for brunch, lunch, afternoon tea or dinner, what you really want is a wonderful time, to enjoy a seamless luxury experience from the moment you walk in the door.
The decor is sumptuous, nowhere outside of Paris will you find better style and glamour. The staff are immaculate and courteous, carefully chosen for their care and attentiveness. Silver service can be taught, but passion and warmth need to be chosen when you hire, it’s pretty innate, and they know what to look for. The Ivy London has been going for over a 100 years, they celebrated their centenary last year, you can’t beat that kind of experience. The manager here is adept at making sure you have a seamless experience and leave with happy memories.
The location is ideal with the balcony overlooking the castle, and will become so sought after in summer that you’ll probably have to book months ahead (damn them). A relaxed, informal brasserie that serves great food, superb wines and welcomes you as long lost friends is a sure fire winner, dear God (religious manifestation of your choice), I can hear the “Cheers” refrain in my head as I write this.
In case you wanted to know about the food, which matched the surroundings in terms of quality, we had the crab and salmon and smoked salmon to start (delightful, light with many mixed flavours). Next followed by the lobster (soft and bathed in garlic butter, divine) and salmon and smoked haddock fish cake (soft and lovely), and finished wth the frozen berries, yoghurt sorbet and warm white chocolate (superb, refreshing and invigorating). Our friends had the classic prawn cocktail with avocado and the Atlantic sea scallops as starter and the aromatic duck curry and the market special of the day, which was fillet of beef Rossini, foie gras, and spinach in a delightful rich sauce. The two side dishes we shared were absolutely superb, tender stem broccoli, lemon oil and sea salt as well as the creamed spinach, toasted pine nuts and Gran Moravia. The chocolate bomb that the ladies shared for dessert was a visual marvel, a dome of chocolate melted by hot caramel, poured before your eyes, revealing a gooey ice cream interior.
We had the classic Champagne cocktail to start, which got the evening going pretty sharpish, Ivy Champagne (Montoy), Remy Martin VSOP, Grand Marnier, and Angostura bitters. We took the manager’s recommendation on the red wine and very glad we did, a Tilia Cabernet Sauvignon - Merlot 2017 which was smooth, velvety with chocolate and vanilla, well balanced, and very good indeed. The ladies stuck with the house Champagne.
The Ivy Castle View Guildford has elevated the restaurant business in Guildford to new heights. This will hopefully mean that more great restaurants will be encouraged to open up here in Guildford which always been somewhat behind, compared to areas such as Oxford or Winchester that boast many renowned chefs with Michelin stars. Yes, Guildford has some great Thai restaurants and the Blue Sardinia and a couple of decent gastro pubs, but it deserves far more.
The Ivy Castle View will rapidly be adopted as the canteen for every local business and the number one place for special occasions. Every penny you spend here is invested in quality: staff, managers, chef, location, decor and experience. It is excellent in every way and will bring a new era of fine dining, cuisine and brasserie lifestyle to Guildford. We could all do with more little informal luxury in our lives and the Ivy brings it in spades, chocolate covered ones in caramel sauce.
Last but not least, they have a first floor private dining room with its own balcony which will clearly become “the” place in Guildford to host a delightful family event or celebratory business meeting, or simply a great get together with friends.
To see the menu, drinks or book a table: