The Mayfair site acquired by Richard Caring in 2016; initially planned as a ‘Caprice Café’ and now open as the third London branch of the growing Ivy Asia concept.
Harden's survey result
“Great fun … despite lots of Instagram poseurs hanging around” – that’s the most common view on Richard Caring’s latest Ivy sub-brand: a mashup of “stunning” OTT interiors and a Pan-Asian menu which by-and-large totally avoids dishes from China to throw together Thai curries, wagyu beef and lots of fish and seafood (much of it presented as sushi or sashimi). Even fans would concede that “the food is secondary here – for entertainment value, this place has ‘got it’, but the menu is somehow lost in the mix”. And there are those who discern “crazy levels of cultural appropriation (a floor-to-ceiling, fake banyan tree? Seriously?), stirred in with a menu that’s less Asian-fusion than Asian-confusion, all creating a bit of a Caring-inspired mess”. This year saw the addition of a Mayfair branch to the original one (in the shadow of St Paul's) and last year’s opening in SW3 (where “very loud music can add to the already-high noise level”).
Richard Caring continues to pimp the Ivy brand to the max: since this Asian-themed sub-brand first debuted in Manchester in 2018, it has expanded with a 200-seat venue in the City’s One New Change mall (“great view of St Paul’s”) and – in August 2021 – a second branch opened in SW3 near The Ivy, Chelsea Garden; (and there’s a third coming soon on the Mayfair site that was once Princess Garden). True to Caring’s restaurant DNA, the decor in all locations is wildly maximalist, with fluorescent onyx floors, replica samurai armour and (cringey?) pagoda-style roofs over the bars. Some reporters do find the effect “very cool, in a see-and-be-seen kind of way”. To say the least, though, the Asian-theme-park styling doesn’t send the message that authenticity is on the agenda – a concern which the Chelsea branch’s risibly off-message launch video did nothing to allay (‘naive… totally inappropriate and culturally insensitive’… and that was just what they said about it themselves!). As to the sushi and wide menu of other Asian-inspired scoff: some diners find it “surprisingly good” but, all things considered, it’s kinda beside the point.
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