Rummaging through some old newspaper cuttings from the '90's, I found this old photograph of the famous Ivy restaurant (founded 1917), with a super-imposed photograph of Charles Laughton in the 1933 picture, "The Private Life of Henry VIII".
This is how The Ivy used to be- the favourite playground of the luvvies of the silver screen: Larry, Vivien, Noel, Ivor and Sexy Rexy. I love the wood panelling, the Tudorbeathen leaden lattice windows and the naff neo-classical statues. How I would give my teeth (what's left of 'em) to go back in time and enter those hallowed portals!
In 1990, Caprice Holdings "restored" and relaunched the restaurant; supposedly to its "former glory". I've got mixed feelings about the new Ivy. By then the restaurant, it is true, had become a shadow of its former self, semi-derelict, and in desperate need of a makeover; but the 1990's re-incarnation was, with hindsight, a bit Footballer's Wives, (to be fair, a reflection of the then fashionable age of one Mr Anthony Blair and the cringe-inducing Cool Britannia); service was impeccable, but the whole place lacked the elan and dash of its previous incarnation.
Back in the 90's (as with Terence Conran's "Quaglino's"), it was extremely difficult to get a table; these days, I gather, it's an easier ticket, and reservations can be booked on a few weeks notice.
If you're still interested, A.A. Gill's The Ivy, The Restaurant and its Recipes is the definitive guide. I've already covered The Ivy's Chicken Masala (which is included in A.A. Gill's book)- an excellent and delicious dish, which has the slightly unusual trait of being thickened with chopped aubergine.
Here's A.A. Gill's take on the Ivy's Hamburger. I've always had a slight problem with my own home-made hamburgers: I make a delicious mix, but then add too much liquid (or too much beaten egg), so that when it comes to the "pan-frying" bit, the meat crumbles, and doesn't hold together. This is the official Ivy version. Admittedly, it's pretty basic, but I think it's worth publishing online:
Mix up a good quality minced beef, and mould into balls or patties. Put the burgers into the 'fridge to set. Whisk together tomato ketchup with American mustard (French's mustard would be ideal) to make the sauce.
Lightly toast some baps, and keep them warm. Cook the burgers on a griddle or a smoking hot pan (not under a grlll, as this could boil the meat).
Serve the burgers in the warm baps with slices of red onion, gherkin, beef tomato and the Ivy hambuger sauce.