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 The Wall Street Journal - The Ivy: Steeped in celebrity

Jemima Sissons goes behind the scenes for a cookery lesson in London’s famous kitchen.

When I arrive on a bright recent morning at 10 a.m., the large stainless steel kitchen is a hive of activity. In scenes reminiscent of Macbeth, 100-liter copper vats of lobster bisque bubble away, as trays of claws are thrown inside to stew and froth. Giant cauldrons of beetroot simmer and splutter; they will soon be turned into a salad with mimosa, rapeseed oil and mint. Over in the pastry section, sleeping armies of tortellini are being prepared at lightening speed, next to fragrant, freshly cooked tuiles and trays of pistachio nuts. Delivery boys unload trays of wild chanterelle mushrooms and boxes of pungent Asian herbs - including Vietnamese mint, wild pepper and banana leaves, which in a few hours, will be wrapped around sea bass fillets and served with soya beans and a sweet coconut dressing.

I am at the Ivy - arguably London’s most exclusive restaurant - where everyone from public relations mogul Roland Rudd and publisher Lord Weidenfeld to Jude Law and Kate Hudson gather for a bit of afternoon respite. Rather than a slowly evolving tale, the story of the Ivy is unapologetically scripted, and that is the secret of its success. Although The Ivy opened in 1916, it closed in 1989 and was then bought by restaurateurs Jeremy King and Chris Corbin 20 years ago (they sold it to Signature Restaurants in 1998, which in turn, sold to fashion magnate Richard Caring as part of Caprice Holdings in 2005). The Ivy was re-imagined with a single goal in mind: “to become ‘the’ theatre restaurant in London,” says Fernando Peire, who joined the eclectic, modern British-meets-international- type-of-cuisine Ivy when it opened as maître d’, and after a nine-year break, returned as restaurant director. The Ivy serves reasonably priced, good quality food (a three-course lunch or dinner is around £48 a head, without wine). There are no airs to win Michelin stars or to make its chef a TV celebrity. The only celebrity sought is the one that walks through the door.

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