HAVING opened its doors in The Lanes in Brighton a few weeks back, The Ivy has had enough time to gets its feet under the table of the city’s restaurant scene. With this in mind, EDWIN GILSON paid a visit to the upmarket brasserie to sample the food and take in the atmosphere

A NIGHT at The Ivy makes you feel like a million dollars.

Its very name has connotations of grandeur. Since its original London establishment opened in 1917, occupying a highly desirable corner of the West End, it has cemented its reputation as a plush hangout for actors and celebrities.

Needless to say, a three-course meal with a few drinks will set you back a bit – especially if you opt for the lobster.

And yet the young manager of the Brighton branch, Michael Doudeskos, is keen to stress that he doesn’t see The Ivy as “high end”, the kind of restaurant that will rival The Salt Room and 64 Degrees for upmarket dining.

Instead, he insists The Ivy aims to be a relaxed brasserie and says he has seen all types of people dropping in for breakfast, lunch and dinner since it opened, from major players in the city’s business world to the Brighton sea swimming club.

Doudeskos arrives having run a prestigious champagne bar in London, experience which will hold him in good stead as The Ivy prepares to open up its entire floor space to diners. Up to now, it’s been deliberately capped at 70 per cent.

The restaurant occupies an ideal spot in the city centre, on the site of the Ship Street post office that lay in various states of dereliction for almost a decade.

There will do doubt be quibbles about gentrification in some quarters, but The Ivy couldn’t be better placed to attract tourists who already have their heart set on a trip to the historic Lanes.

Inside, it looks magnificent – vibrant and bold without being gaudy or overly keen to impress. Brightly coloured prints adorn the walls, the jumble of blue and greens loosely based around a theme of countryside and sea.

Doudeskos says the design is tailored to match Brighton and the South Downs, although a painted monkey points to influences further afield – as do the tropical plants scattered strategically around the palatial room.

The circular bar is another nice touch, bringing to mind two seasoned thespians sharing acting tips over a whisky in the West End.

Sliding into an orange booth – all great restaurants and pubs should have booths – we peruse the extensive menu, whose cover features an animation of the Royal Pavilion behind colourful foliage.

You can’t say The Ivy hasn’t tried to form a connection with Brighton residents.

Given that my girlfriend and I are pescetarians, we were pleasantly surprised by the range of seafood options available, from Atlantic sea scallops to crab linguine.

I went for the former to start and found the dish’s pea puree a delicious foil for the sumptuous scallops.

My girlfriend opted for the hearty, flavoursome but light tomato soup, garnished with asparagus and ricotta.

Many of The Ivy’s most popular meals exist on the border between soul food and fine dining; you can get the shepherd’s pie, for instance, for a relatively reasonable £13.75.

Further up the price scale for main courses is the yellowfin tuna at £17.95. It comes with wasabi mousse and edamame beans, adding a distinctly Japanese feel to a dish that my partner likened in texture and taste to sashimi (the yellowfin after all, is served raw).

My haddock and smoked salmon fishcake, meanwhile, offered all the warmth and comfort of a log fire in winter, with the accompanying egg and hollandaise sauce providing a creamy context.

The portions are compact and predictably well presented but filling enough to have us contemplating whether we could manage dessert.

We weren’t pondering for long once we surveyed the irresistable options, although we couldn’t quite stretch to The Ivy’s signature sweet – the chocolate bomb.

Perhaps we have reason to regret our decision as Doudeskos says it’s gone down very well with those who have had the courage, and the stomach, to tackle it.

Not that the puddings we chose fell below the general standard. My apple tart, doused in Calvados brandy and dramatically set alight by our waitress, was a zesty new spin an old classic, while my girlfriend’s creme brulee, served in a cute mini-pan, was divine in its delicacy.

Three hours after we entered, we were completely sated. Clearly, The Ivy isn’t going to be for everybody – at least not on a regular basis.

It’s difficult to digest Doudeskos’ claim that people from all walks of life have been popping in for a quick and casual three-courses over the past few weeks, as if that’s a completely normal thing for average Brighton residents to do.

For the vast majority, it will exist as an “occasion” restaurant – a night to book far in advance and look forward to while licking your lips.

That said, it’s hard to envisage a better way to spend a companionable evening with family and friends. The decor is inspired, the service friendly and the food fantastic.

While The Ivy is a new addition to Brighton, to spend time in its opulent surroundings is to enjoy a slice of British dining history.