The Ivy - 1-5 West Street London WC2H 9NQ
How To Get A Table
Director of The Ivy and television’s Restaurant Inspector, Fernando Peire, dispels the “myth” that you can never get a table at The Ivy.
Q: How long have you been with the The Ivy?
FP: I started working for The Ivy restaurant as Maitre d’ in 1990, just after the restaurant was refurbished after many years of neglect. I left in 1998 when the business was sold to Belgo plc and I returned to The Ivy, in my new position, five years ago. I still sometimes work at the desk as maître d’, greeting, seating and answering the telephone. I love it.
Q: Was it as hard to get a table in the old days as it is now?
FP: Like all new restaurants, The Ivy took a while to settle in and catch on. It was always hard to get a table for the middle of the evening or for a one o’clock lunch table. However, eventually it became really difficult to get in even very late after theatre and it became the actors’ restaurant, as it had been when it first opened in 1917.
Q: Is that because you saved tables for regulars?
FP: Of course. All good restaurants with as many regulars as The Ivy do this. We have always held tables back until the day and we continue to do this, in fact almost more so now than before.
Q: But isn’t it true you have to book months in advance now?
FP: Not at all. Some years ago, a myth was created that you had to book six months ahead to get into The Ivy. It’s absolute nonsense! There had been a change of management and it’s fair to say that there was a period when advance reservations went out of control. When Richard Caring bought the business and brought me back to The Ivy, we went back to basics and to the old ways of taking reservations.
Q: So are you saying it’s easier to get a table now than before?
FP: We take far fewer advance reservations and we give a lot more tables away on the day, so it pays not to make plans too far ahead.
Q: So sometimes you can just walk in and get a table?
FP: Of course. It’s not impossible. I have always found that the best way to get a table in a hot abroad restaurant is to walk in after the main service and to offer to wait for a table. The Ivy has a lovely bar and great cocktails, so a drink in the bar while you study the menu can only add to the anticipation and fun. If a table isn’t going to come up for an hour and you don’t want to wait that long, we also have three tables in the bar that we also save for customers without a reservation. So it’s not always that hard to get in.
Q: - So what’s a good time to turn up without a booking?
FP: Personally, I would always look to turn up between 8.30pm and 9.00pm any day from Sunday to Thursday. The weekends are too crazy for my liking, wherever you go, but midweek nights are almost more buzzy and definitely lots of fun. And remember, The Ivy is not the only restaurant in the neighbourhood, so if you don’t want to wait, there are another dozen decent places you can try.