The Ivy is a restaurant which is very popular with celebrities, people from the arts and media and theatregoers. It is situated in West Street, near Cambridge Circus in London and opposite the Ambassadors and St Martins theatres.
The original restaurant was opened by Abel Giandellini in 1916 as an unlicensed Italian cafe in a building on the same site. The restaurant's original Maître d', Mario Gallati, re-opened The Ivy in the current premises in 1929. The name itself originated from a chance remark by the actress Alice Delysia, who overheard Giandellini apologise to a customer for the inconvenience caused by building works. When he said that it was because of his intention to create a restaurant of the highest class, she interjected "Don't worry – we will always come and see you. 'We will cling together like the ivy'", a line from a then-popular song.
In part due to its proximity to the West End theatres, exclusivity and late closing time (it is still open until 1.00am), the restaurant quickly became a theatrical institution, with Laurence Olivier and Vivian Leigh, Marlene Dietrich, John Gielgud, Lilian Braithwaite, Terrence Rattigan, Binkie Beaumont and Noël Coward being habitués, having their regular 2-seater tables along the walls. According to the actor Donald Sinden in his Sky Arts television documentary series Great West End Theatres, The Ivy became so famous as a theatrical-celebrities haunt that in the 1943 revue Sweet & Low which ran for almost 6 years at the neighbouring Ambassadors Theatre, there was a satirical sketch included, updated regularly, entitled Poison Ivy, where the show's star Hermione Gingold "would exchange wicked and salacious celebrity gossip".
In 1950 Giandellini sold The Ivy to Bernard Walsh and the restaurant became part of his Wheeler's group of fish restaurants. Subsequent owners were Lady Grade and the Forte Foundation. It then closed in 1989 and Jeremy King and Chris Corbin, who had previously worked together at Langan's restaurant, bought it and Le Caprice the following year. The restaurant was totally renovated in 1990 to a design by American architect M.J. Long and Fernando Peire was appointed Senior Maître d'.
In 2000, the restaurant was awarded the Moët & Chandon London Restaurant Award for excellence.<ref>? The Ivy London Restaurant, Leicester Square.</ref>
In 2005 the restaurateur Richard Caring bought The Ivy and included it into his Caprice Holdings group, which also owns Le Caprice, which is located behind the Ritz in the St James's area of London, the fish restaurant J. Sheekey, located near Leicester Square, Scotts in Mount Street and 34 in Grosvenor Square.
The Ivy houses specially-commissioned artworks by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, Sir Peter Blake, Sir Howard Hodgkin, Bridget Riley, Allen Jones, Joe Tilson, Patrick Caulfield, Michael Craig-Martin and Tom Phillips.
The restaurant seats 110 guests and there is also a private dining room on the first floor of the restaurant, seating up to 60 guests. Mobile phones and cameras are forbidden anywhere in the restaurant or adjoining Club and there is a rigid Dress Code: "Gentlemen are not required to wear ties. Shorts, singlets and micro-skirts are not acceptable forms of attire at The Ivy".
A celebrated recipe book, written by the restaurant critic A.A. Gill and titled 'The Ivy: The Restaurant and its Recipes' was published in 1997.
The Ivy was the inspiration for the restaurant of the same name in Los Angeles, though they are unconnected.
The Club at The Ivy
In September 2008, The Club at The Ivy, a private members' club with a hidden entrance inside a nearby flower-shop, was opened on the three floors above the restaurant, with membership (drawn primarily from creative industries and the arts) as hard to get as "a table at The Ivy itself" according to the author A.A. Gill.
It boasts a Piano Lounge; a restaurant open from 7.30am for breakfast, lunch and supper; a wood-panelled Library "of books that reflect many of our members’ interests in art, literature, film, theatre, architecture and design"; a film screening-room known as the Loft; a further private dinning-room seating up to 14 people and a cigar-terrace.
Its Director is Fernando Peire, the former Senior Maître d', who is also widely known from the Channel 5 TV series The Restaurant Inspector.