Diplomat Magazine - Clinging Together Like The Ivy
Venetia van Kuffeler meets with Fernando Peire, Director of the Ivy restaurant and The Club at the Ivy to hear about this classical institution and its hip, younger sibling.
Located in the heart of London’s West End, The Ivy has long been renowned as an exclusive haunt of the rich and famous. The restaurant came into its first heyday during the 1930s, when well-known diners included Noel Coward and Laurence Olivier; decades on, it remains closely associated with film and theatre stars. I go to meet Fernando Peire, Director of both The Ivy and the newly opened Club at The Ivy, to learn more about this gastronomic institution. Peire is a legend in London’s restaurant scene, and I am lucky enough to be granted the second interview he’s ever given.
How did it all begin? In 1917 Abel Giandellini purchased an unlicensed café on West Street, opposite the Ambassadors Theatre, and hired a young Italian named Mario Gallati as Maitre d’. The café soon found favour among the theatre community, prompting wider success; as Peire observes, ‘Even then, where the actors went, everyone wanted to be.’ Giandellini and Gallati set about transforming their modest establishment into a grand restaurant. They re-developed the building in which The Ivy stands today, installing a huge kitchen. Its new name was unwittingly coined by actress Alice Delysia, who, upon overhearing Giandellini apologise to a customer for the inconvenience caused by building works, reassured him by paraphrasing a popular song: ‘Don’t worry – we will always come and see you. We will cling together like the ivy.’
In 1947, following an unsuccessful bid for a share of the ownership, Gallati quit and went on to join a struggling restaurant, called Le Caprice, which soon became the most fashionable in town, eclipsing even The Ivy. Giandellini sold The Ivy to Bernard Walsh of Wheelers in 1950, thus ending the restaurant’s first golden era.