The century of exceptional food and hospitality that turned a café into a London landmark
When owner Abel Giandolini and Maître d’Hôtel Mario Gallati joined forces in 1917, their modest café soon made friends and gained favour amongst the theatre community, and The Ivy was born. Subsequent redevelopments over the years have evolved the dining room as we know it today, a space closely resembling the grand restaurant created by the original duo back in their heyday.
The name came from an exchange between Giandolini and a regular. After he had apologised for his building works, explaining his desire to create one of London’s finest dining rooms, the actress Alice Delysia replied in the words of a popular song of the day: “Don’t worry, we will always come to see you, we will cling together like the ivy.” The name stuck. Mario Gallati, meanwhile, was to continue his success story: in 1947 he opened Le Caprice, and another legend was born.
The iconic restaurant enjoyed a refurbishment in 1990 by M J Long, which re-established its position as London’s favourite theatre restaurant. Twenty-five years later, Caprice Holdings’ owner Richard Caring commissioned Martin Brudnizki Design Studio to rethink the restaurant and bring it firmly into the 21st century. The resulting design preserved iconic features such as the windows, green banquettes and oak, the gentle lighting and remarkable collection of contemporary British art, but offset them with a sumptuous dining bar in the middle of the restaurant, a larger entrance showcasing the original Eduardo Paolozzi installation, and completely redesigned loos. Since re-emerging in a blaze of triumph, The Ivy has only gone from strength to strength – and will surely continue to thrive for many years more.
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