Ross, Deborah

SO, off to the Ivy. . . . Ha! Ha! Ho! Ho! Caught you out! Again! This time, I did go to the Ivy. I did! But enough about me. The food is the thing, after all. Don’t want to waste all those years spent, nose buried in a courgette, at the LSC. The food, the food, the food, the food, the food, the food, the food. See? Only 46 words in and I’ve already mentioned the food seven times. The food, the food, the food; and that makes it ten. Well, 11, actually, if you count the food in `The food is the thing, after all’, which I think we should. So that’s another two. So I’ve hardly started and I’m already up to 13, which is good, isn’t it? And I won’t be distracted. I won’t, I won’t, I won’t. The food, the food, the food (16).

The Ivy is on West Street, opposite St Martin’s Theatre where The Mousetrap is in its 48th astonishing year of boring tourists rigid. (Suspense? I’ve seen more in a sock; and, anyway, the seemingly nice constable did it. There, saved you a trip.) In through the discreet, golden double– doors to meet my brother, Jon, otherwise known as Nibbo. I can’t remember why he’s known as Nibbo. Actually, I can, but it’s an extraordinarily long story and I can’t be bothered to tell it. I am frighteningly lazy, you know. I sit in the shower. I recently treated walk-to-school week with all the disdain it deserved – i.e. drove my son in, then circled the building shouting out of the car window, `Long live the automobile!’ and, `If God had meant us to walk, why did he build motorways? And Little Chefs?’

Nibbo is a solicitor with lots of children. We don’t often get to talk alone. We will talk deeply and meaningfully about life, love, parking at Brent Cross and, if we have time, vegetables that are green and related to the cucumber, but are smaller and much more suitable for ratatouille, stir-fries and the like. I sometimes think Nibbo only became a solicitor because he was expected to become a solicitor. You know, nice profession for nice Jewish boys who can’t stand the sight of blood and all that. I wonder if there is anything he’d have preferred to do instead. `Well,’ he says, `I’d have liked being a carol singer, I think. Evenings only. One week a year . ‘ He can be intimidatingly profound.

But hang on, hang on . . . the food, the food, the food, the food (20). Yes, THE FOOD (22, because it counts as two in capitals). I must not lose sight of the food, the food, the food, the food. (26). And I won’t. But isn’t that Lesley Ann Down at the next table? It is! It is! Well, I never, Lesley Ann Down, as in Miss Georgina from Upstairs, Downstairs. My brother is very excited. My brother rarely mixes with the stars. My brother once queued behind Cheryl Baker in Safeway and rather pathetically boasted about it for weeks. I’m quite excited too. Although, that said, Miss Georgina was never my favourite. I liked Mrs Bridges, even though she bullied Ruby horribly. `ROOOOO-BEE! HAVEN’T YOU DONE THOSE CARROTS YET, GIRL?’ (Series two, episode four, scene five, and as discussed in my thesis `The Vegetable in 1970s Popular Television, Prior to the Rise of the Courgette, When the Carrot was King’.)

Anyway, to the food (27). We get our menus. Truly, the service is brilliant here. In particular, the waiting staff are brilliant hustlers. Is there such a word as hustler? Yes, just as I thought. Here it is, in my Post-Modern Book of Words I’ve Just Made Up. Well, thank God for that. Didn’t want to appear stupid; because I’m not, you know. OK, no higher education as such, but I’ve always had my mind fixed on bigger things, like the marrow. Indeed, should I ever make my fortune, then I think I’ll present Oxford with a Marrow Chair, so that we can all learn more about this most thrilling of squashes. Meanwhile, though, bustle, bustle, bustle go the crisscrossing waiters and waitresses, giving the whole place a very buzzy, busy, bustly atmosphere. They are there when you need them, but not when you don’t. They neither hover irritatingly, nor disappear irritatingly. And, by some kind of extraordinary magic, they manage to make sure that whatever is in your glass stays at the same level.

We order. I go for. . . . Look, look Andrew Lloyd Webber has just walked in! Well, I’ll be Mowed! Or Whistled Down the Wind, if you prefer. I know a lot of people are snotty about Andrew Lloyd Webber but I don’t care. I think he’s great. Beautiful, Bri-nylon, Mister Byrite, royal-blue blazer. `Andy,’ I am minded to call out. I love his music. Yes, yes, I have been to the opera, and I found that brilliantly impressive too, in its way. Well, it started at 7 p.m. and four hours later it was still only 7.03 p.m., which I found very impressive indeed. My brother is pleased to see Andrew as well. `Good job I brought my autograph book,’ he exclaims happily.

Actually, I’m beginning to get pissed off with my brother. I’ve done all the hard work so far. He hasn’t spotted a single celebrity yet. `Yes I have,’ he says. `Oh yeah? Who?’ `That woman over there. She’s just been appointed head of the Monopolies Commission.’ Oh. Wow. Good spot, I don’t think. Ah, the food (28) is here. The food, the food, the food, the food, the food, the food (34), which is what matters most, after all. My food (35) is absolutely to die for. I can certainly recommend the Ivy as much for the food (36) as the glamorous atmosphere. My food (37) is. . . . Jack Rosenthal! It is! It is! Three tables to the left of that pillar, then one to the right . . . see, Jon, see? That’s another point to me!

The Ivy, 1 West Street, London WC2; tel: 020 7836 4751. Open daily from noon to 3 p.m. and 5.30 p.m. to midnight. What the Ivy does, above alb is excellent food. Did I mention the food? Only 40 times! So don’t bloody complain!

Copyright Spectator Jun 17, 2000

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