Marylebone is a popular destination for those looking for great food - we have some of the best restaurants and bars in London in the area. There has been a massive change in the area over the last few years though, and some of the tried and true locals favourites have moved on, as well as many of the chains which (though boring) were great stalwarts when out with younger children. Amongst others we have lost Giraffe which was truly great for kids, and more recently Carluccio's where the staff overlooked the noise and mess that comes with kids and was always an easy and affordable option. Thankfully a few places like Cote that are reasonably priced, where kids are welcomed and not just tolerated do still exist in the area.
Some of the newcomer restaurants that have opened are not particularly kid friendly in their menus, or do not encourage children (to put it politely), or are just too expensive to go to regularly and not really value for money.
Yet we do have a few little gems in the area, such as The Ivy Cafe on Marylebone Lane.
Recently, I was invited by The Ivy Cafe to have lunch with a friend at their Marylebone branch. As you may know, The Ivy Cafe has been growing rapidly as a group with branches is many of the "nice" areas of London and the South East such as St John's Wood and Richmond. The Ivy brand has a great reputation but when I first heard they were coming to Marylebone I was not convinced we needed something like that in the area and had my concerns about whether it could be a place where locals want to go rather attracting mainly the destination diners that many restaurants focus on.
Well, I was totally wrong!
Not only do the team at The Ivy Cafe welcome families with children, they also provide tasty food at a price level that is justifiable, in lovely surroundings and most importantly welcoming to locals. In fact during my lunch there I not only saw 2 people I know from the area but also bumped into my cousin who lives and works in the neighbourhood who was having a business lunch there and who confirmed that it is definitely one of his go-to places for a meal. It is definitely a place for locals - which is lovely to see.
The Ivy Cafe has a varied menu, with something for everyone. Comfort food is definitely prevalent but there are lots of lighter and healthier options too. I enjoyed my prawn cocktail starter with beautiful large prawns, and couldn't resist the Shepherd's Pie which is always comforting, delicious and far better than anything I ever make at home! My dining companion used her test of a restaurant by ordering the fried calamari which was crispy yet tender (passing the test with flying colours) and proclaimed her sea bass main delicious and light. We indulged with a chocolate mousse and tarte tatin for dessert which were both lovely as well as some much-needed coffee to carry us through the afternoon after a rather larger-than-usual lunch!
The manager chatted to us and mentioned that a few of the local restaurants have pitched together and can share child seats if they have a larger than normal number of little ones dining with them, which I think is a great idea and nice to see the community working together. They will do small portions and children's options, and I am sure my child would happily eat many of the things from the main menu as the menu has a wide and varied mix with many family favourites that children would be familiar with.
My only negative from the visit was that even though it was a Monday afternoon in early October, the place was packed. I believe they do keep some tables for walk-in diners but given the restaurant's popularity it may not be easy to just pop in at peak times (if like me you are never organised enough to book!). But if you get a table you are almost guaranteed a good meal.
As well as a delicious all-day menu, they have a breakfast menu, a cream tea from 3-5pm every day with scones (guess where you might be able to find me one day very soon?), and a weekend brunch menu as well as a dedicated vegetarian and vegan menu. So there really is something for everyone! It is quite clear why The Ivy Cafe has become a popular place for Marylebone residents and visitors alike.
The Ivy Cafe 96 Marylebone Ln, Marylebone, London W1U 2QA
Disclaimer: I was invited to dine with a guest and did not have to pay for our meal. I will happily return to the venue in the future to dine there with family and friends based on my experience.