The perfect place for a Pre-Proms dinner
We’ve all heard the saying ‘’If music be the food of love, play on’’, and as an evening at the Proms has become one of our annual summer ‘’must-dos’’ over the years, we booked Prom 42 which promised a three-course musical feast of Arvo Part, Grieg and Sibelius.
For us, the pre-Prom dinner is as important a part of the ritual as the music, and as The Ivy Kensington Brasserie, a comfortable 20-minute promenade away from the Royal Albert Hall, has gone all out for this year’s festival, it was the obvious choice.
Easy to spot opposite High St Kensington tube station, the restaurant’s façade has been beautifully adorned with a floral installation and bunting specially created by Josh Bristow, a London-based artist and illustrator, taking inspiration from the Proms, Kensington and London’s iconic landmarks.
Inside, it’s clear The Ivy Kensington Brasserie is a chip off the block of the more famous Covent Garden Ivy, with its wood-panelling, snazzy wall decoration and Art Deco touches. It looks and feels just like a proper brasserie should, offering all day dining in an unstuffy but sophisticated atmosphere. The dress is code is smart casual, but it’s really more casual than smart, and you’ll find relaxed-looking family groups, loved-up couples and ladies-who-lunch all happily sitting side by side.
Food-wise, the brasserie has put together a simple but appealing pre-Proms set menu which hits all the right notes – including the pound notes, it really is great value at £25 for two courses, £29 for three (plus 12.5% service).
The prelude is a special Proms cocktail, the Classic Lady (gin, elderflower, prosecco, lemon juice), a thirst-quenching, spritzer-like delight, understandably a popular choice in the recent heatwave, or the Strawberry Symphony (vodka, strawberry, strawberry liqueur, lemon juice). The price of the set menu includes one of the cocktails but you can of course go for an encore or two, as you wish.
The overture is a choice of white onion soup; pork, apple and peppercorn terrine and potted salmon. The latter was an uncomplicated but flavoursome work served with plentiful toast.
The second course of our evening programme , Grieg’s Piano Concerto, is a bit of a crowd-pleaser, so too was the set menu’s second movement, with wild mushrooms and duck on brioche topped with a fried duck egg getting a round of applause.
For a few extra pounds, there’s steak, garlic butter and thick chips; roast hake is another option, and from our Vegetarian, the chargrilled halloumi with Padron peppers and toasted fregola received the deepest bow.
In contrast to many restaurants, there were plenty of staff orchestrating matters and all were polite and friendly. And efficient: it can be stressy when you know you have to be in your Proms seat by 7.30 and you wonder if time-wise you can fit in that third course and a coffee, but here you can – and maybe you should.
The set menu’s finale was a strawberry panna cotta, its vanilla creaminess refreshingly cut through by some deliciously tart strawberries. Other options, again simple but enticing, were vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce or mature cheese.
Another simple but important element that The Ivy Kensington Brasserie gets right and which other restaurants often get wrong, is the seating and, the height of the banquettes – here they actually match the height of the table! That may sound a bit of a minor key but those of us who’ve spent more than one evening eating off a table at chest level will appreciate it.
Something else to appreciate, and which would more than justify a visit, is the Brasserie’s leafy garden terrace, hidden away behind the restaurant and entered from Kensington Church Walk.
The terrace offers the full menu and as the restaurant opens 7.30 Monday to Thursday, 8.00 Friday and Saturday, 9.00 Sundays and Bank Holidays, breakfast there on a sunny morning would be delightful. Due to the unpredictable nature of the British summer, however, tables on the terrace cannot be booked ahead.
The Last Night of the Proms is Saturday 8 September but if you want to try out the Proms set menu, the last night it’s available is the day before.
There is, of course, the A La Carte menu for those who want more choice, including breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea, light bites, dinner and weekend brunch, there’s something for every occasion. Give The Ivy Kensington Brasserie a try at any time, whether going to an autumn concert at the Royal Albert Hall or doing some Christmas shopping, and I’m sure you’ll give it a standing ovation.
The Ivy Kensington Brasserie
96 Kensington High St,
Kensington, London W8 4SG
tel : 020 3301 0500