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Alfresco dining for Chelsea - Test Driving Ivy Chelsea Garden

What should we know about the Ivy Chelsea Garden?

The Ivy Chelsea Garden is the latest spin-off by Richard Caring - who opened a similar brasserie-style Ivy Market Grill last year in Covent Garden (executive chef Sean Burbidge has overseen both menus). It's on the site of the former Henry J Beans right in the middle of the Kings Road, with room for 275 covers and a frankly fabulous garden which is certain to become an instant magnet for the Chelsea set. The décor inside is impeccable: think marble and parquet, and walls full of vintage signs and illustrations.

Where should we meet for drinks first?

There are plenty of smart pubs nearby, like the charming Phoenix, hidden away from the main drag on Smith Street. Or there's the popular Botanist on Sloane Square for cocktails, or you could pop into the Saatchi Gallery Mess for a glass of wine with some artwork on the side.

Where should we sit?

It'll be first come, first served for the garden - at the moment only open for lunch, although once it gets warmer in the evenings you'll be able to enjoy dinner outdoors too. Failing that - the orangery offers lovely views out to the garden - and there's really no bad place to sit, with plenty of comfy banquettes and romantic corners.

And the food?

There's a long list of brasserie favourites, from an old-style prawn cocktail to fillet steak - and if you're feeling flush, what must be the "hero" Ivy Chelsea Garden dish, a chopped lobster rigatoni with courgette and a rich veloute - at £32.

Start with some handy nibbles to munch while you're choosing - especially the impressively sticky, crispy truffle arancini (£4). As for the rest - standout dishes include:

  • Field Mix salad - a vibrant, colourful mix of thinly siced vegetables with some on-trend avocado hummus and edible flowers - the perfect ladies who lunch dish. (£6.75)
  • Whole lemon sole - which they'll take off the bone for you if you ask: rich with buerre noisette, capers and parsley. (£17.50)
  • The Chelsea Garden fish cake is vast - almost the size of a dinner plate, and comes with creamed spinach and a poached egg. (£13.50)

And from an ice-cream dominated dessert menu, the much-photographed melting chocolate bombe with hot caramel sauce (£8.50) and a very good, dark and intense treacle tart with clotted cream AND a special mini saucepan of Jersey cream (£6.50). Don't say we didn't warn you.

What about the wine list?

There's a reasonable range available by the glass: if you're in the mood for a light rose, try the Chateau D'Enclans 'Whispering Angel', served at table from a vast bottle. (£11.50)

Overall thoughts?

At the time of visiting, the Ivy Chelsea Garden had only been open a few days but already looks like a neighbourhood institution. In fact we heard it was instantly booked solid for weeks, with a two hundred strong waiting list for a table. In an area which is crying out for some decent places to eat, there's more than enough choice on the all-day menu from breakfast through till dinner, and a venue which oozes affordable glamour.

The Ivy Chelsea Garden is at 197 Kings Road, London SW3 5ED. To book, call 020 33301 0300.

Hot Dinners were invited to the Ivy Chelsea Garden. Prices are correct at the time of writing. Outside photo by Paul Winch Furness.

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