With The Ivy reaching it’s 100th birthday earlier this year, we thought they’d be no better time to take a look back at how this oasis of A-list celebrities started out as nothing more than a humble unlicensed Italian cafe.
That cafe was opened by Abel Giandellini with its famous name originating from a chance remark by French actress and Singer Alice Delysia who said “We will cling together like the ivy”, a line from the then-popular song ‘Egg and Bacon’ by Ernie Mayne, in response to Giandellini’s ambition to create a restaurant of the highest class.
Giandellini teamed up with longstanding Maître d’Hôtel Mario Gallati and the duo went from strength to strength as they rolled into the roaring 20’s, with continued, steady expansion. It was already at this point that an air of Stardust was becoming associated with the restaurant, due to it being in the heart of the west end and its late closing time, it started to attract some of the biggest names in theater such as Noel Coward and Vivien Leigh.
By the mid-90’s, Giandellini sold The Ivy to Bernard Walsh and made it part of his group of fish restaurants where it went on to exchange several hands before it was sadly closed down in 1989.
Soon, The Ivy became associated with another duo – Jeremy King and Chris Corbin. Having already created some of London’s most iconic and best-loved restaurants, such as Le Caprice, the took The Ivy under their wing and breathed new life into it. It was redesigned by architect M.J. Long and it included 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, all of their pieces were specifically commissioned for the re-design.
The restaurant finally re-opened in the summer of 1990 and went down a storm.
It immediately carved out its own niche in the restaurant scene by forbidding the use of mobile phones and cameras in the at dining tables (as well as in its sister club, which emerged in 2008). There was a dress code which succinctly summed up in the following sentence:
“Gentlemen are not required to wear ties. Shorts, singlets and micro-skirts are not acceptable forms of attire at The Ivy”
Buoyed by the growing image and the reputation it had for attracting the ‘it’ crowd, business entrepreneur Richard Caring brought The Ivy as well as the Caprice Holdings group and commissioned the Martin Brudnizki Design Studio to refresh the restaurant to bring it into the 21st century. The heritage of the place was still preserved with the signature windows, green banquettes and oak, gentle lighting and the aforementioned art collection, but rain in parallel with a new dining bar situated in the middle of the restaurant giving the modern look we all now know it for.
The Ivy has since housed not only the titans of theater but also internationally acclaimed celebrities, such as Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Benedict Cumberbatch and Brad Pitt to name a few. Even Her Majesty The Queen once made an appearance!
Here at Bond, we raise our glasses in hope that it’ll be around for another hundred years.
Featured Image credit: The Ivy