Cruise and Maritime Voyages Magellan

In early October 2019 we took a 3 night mini cruise on the CMV Magellan, which was built in the 80s and served as the Carnival Holiday, hence her dolphin wings on the funnel.

We had booked an outside cabin and were assigned 6131. The cabin had twin beds that could be made in to a double and a Pullman on the wall. As to be expected the cabin was dated by modern standards but on first appearance clean and would do us fine for 3 nights. We decided not to get the beds pushed together to make a double as it wouldn’t be quite big enough.

Owing to the age and size of the ship we fully expected it to be different to our usual size of cruising, and were up for the small ship experience of getting to know the crew and fellow passengers. We knew the entertainment would be somewhat more sedate and the range of bars limited.

Drinks prices were reasonable which was great since a drinks package was not available. £15 for a bottle of house wine isn’t too bad.

Our assigned dinner table was in the Waldorf Restaurant on a table for 6. Our table companions were people who’d not cruised before and we all got on incredibly well.

The food on the first night was tasty enough, particularly the Thai Beef Salad. The Carbonara didn’t appeal as it should NEVER contain cream!

one disappointing aspect was that a number of times we were asked by crew if Andy is my dad. I think about 15 times in total over the 3 nights with most being on the first night.

After a couple of drinks in the pub listening to some Irish music and by chance meeting some ladies who follow our blog and MSC groups it was soon time for bed.

On getting in to bed, I noticed that the light fitting above the bed had what appeared to be flies in it! After further investigation so that I could ask the steward when I saw him to give it a wipe, it turned out to be thick with dust!

Obviously this didn’t impact my sleep, and could wait until the next morning, just wasn’t nice to see (this fitting is open so it was easy just to put my phone up to get the picture.

What did impact our sleep was the bizarre whistling noise heard intermittently through the night! I contacted reception and they just advised the ship was full and nothing could be done. Great.

The next morning we went to the Kensington restaurant for breakfast which was served quickly. A range of traditional breakfast items were available to order, and we had a quick look at the buffet to check whether it was roughly the same. Andy didn’t enjoy his full English and thought the ingredients were cheap. I was surprised at the sauce on the eggs florentine – it wasn’t smooth in the way a Hollandaise tends to be, perhaps they were sat warming for a long time?

It did feel as if it was an inconvenience to ask for another glass of orange juice.

We watched the sail in to Dublin from the top deck and I had a cappuccino from the pool bar – again I think we inconvenienced the bar man as most of the customers were using the ‘free for all’ in the Raffles bistro to get their own hot drinks.

We arrived in Dublin and took the complimentary shuttle to the city and took in the main spots such as the GPO and Temple Bar

We headed back to the ship in time to change for dinner, and as we’d not eaten since breakfast and were on the late sitting went to the buffet to get something to tide us over. The evening menu wasn’t to our taste so we therefore went back out to Dublin and had a fantastic night out on the town, taking a taxi back to the ship at around midnight.

It did seem strange to have a gala night when the ship was overnight in port with many guests out on an excursion for the evening!

Unfortunately yet again we didn’t sleep well due to the thin walls but owing to the tiredness perhaps better than the first night. The steward still hadn’t done anything about the dust that I’d pointed out to him!

For our second day in port, Saturday, the programme of events on the ship was the same as the day before – I.e. very little with activities such as take yourself for a walk, Christian meet up and jigsaw puzzles.

With that in mind we caught a shuttle to Dublin with the aim of spending as much time off the ship as possible. We went to the Guinness stores and had a great time, learning about the black stuff and pulling our own pints (someone knocked me slightly so there’s a little spillage on mine)

By this point we’d decided that aside from the dust, thin walls and the noise the line just wasn’t for us even though there was nothing ‘wrong’ with the line. Fair enough the food and entertainment wasn’t to our personal choice but that’s exactly all it is – personal choice and we completely understand why others would actually find what they enjoy on this line.

Then things got worse.

We got back on to the ship and went to the cabin. We walked past one a couple of doors down that had the door open and an industrial blower. We got back to ours and lo and behold there was one in ours. The steward soon came to say there had been a small leak a few doors down, ours wasn’t impacted too badly but to give it an hour and we should be fine. Not a problem we thought an hour isn’t too bad and we could drop the bag and go on deck to relax.

An hour and a half later we went to change for dinner. Andy has a bottle of cola by the window and went to get it. The floor was sodden. So much for an hour!

There was no way it would be dry that evening or we could have the dryer going. Back to reception!

I asked the receptionist what had happened with the leak and he was oblivious. We showed him the video of the wet floor and he replied that it wasn’t the cruise line’s problem and not their fault! We had to be very insistent to move cabin for the final night, so it was then back to pack earlier than we anticipated and to move.

Our new cabin on deck 7 was of a similar standard – we didn’t bother unpacking for obvious reasons! There was a bag of laundry in the room that was removed promptly. We both noticed a tube of Pringles on the tea tray and thought it odd as there is no mini bar type service…

On to the restaurant for dinner and we had another lovely time with our tablemates.

The food again was tasty enough but really felt too similar to what we could have at home, whereas when we go on holiday we enjoy ‘different’ cuisines and more unusual choices. We both commented on how nearly every hot dish is served in a sauce – possibly because it’s easier to keep warm?

On returning to the cabin that evening we were exasperated to find that the new cabin steward had placed someone else’s rubbish of a toothbrush, ratty old suit carrier and an empty sea sickness tablets box on my bed! Where on earth had that come from? Did she think it was ours that had been left elsewhere in the cabin since we had the cases on the bed ready to put out for disembarkation? Why were they still there from the last passenger? The mysterious Pringles has also gone so I can only assume that the room hadn’t been fully cleaned after the last guests had checked out in Dublin!

A slightly better nights sleep followed after I’d calmed down however we were again up early to make sure we were ready to disembark as early as possible. We were ready to leave the ship after the issues and near sleepless nights!

When our allotted time came to disembark we went to the gangway on deck 3. There was one last parting shot after queuing for 30 minutes or so. We were not allowed off the ship as reception wanted to see us.

Back up to deck 5 to reception. Gave our details, the receptionist looked perplexed and searched for the details. It was regarding the flood and was to ask us to see reception when we got back onboard the day prior!

Back down to queue again and we were finally let off the ship.

We will not be going with CMV ever again after this. As mentioned previously we would have been happy to have turned round and said it was ok but not for us, but with these further problems our opinion is very negative.

It was of course wonderful to see the Liver Building and the Cunard Building!

What a week!

Thought we’d write a short blog post as what we have to say is too long for a Facebook status update!

This week has been so busy it’s been incredible. Monday was an ordinary day taken up by our day jobs (hey, it pays us to go cruising so we can’t knock it!).

Tuesday we travelled down to MSC’s offices in Uxbridge for the big announcement about MSC Magnifica being renovated and coming back to the UK for her 2021 summer season with some exciting itineraries to the Meditteranean, Norwegian Fjords and the Canaries. This kept our Facebook group really busy and we’ve started another one for MSC Magnifica.

You can read more about our night out here:

MSC Magnifica news

Prior to the announcement we had a tour of the MSC Cruises Cruise Management Centre from where the company look after the whole of their cruise fleet, world-wide with cutting edge technology. We were really wowed by this.

Our main Facebook group https://m.facebook.com/groups/MSCUKForum/?ref=group_header&view=group reached a new high of membership numbers with over 4,800 people belonging to our group.

We also have a group specific for travel agent deals and one of our travel agent friends has booked 100 passengers on MSC this week, many of whom made contact through that group.

On Friday we then booked ourselves on a cruise. Magnifica was just too magnificent to resist the deal we got on a balcony on this cruise:

You cane read what we thought of our first trip on Magnifica in this post: https://timthorpetravel.com/2018/04/02/hannover-and-msc-magnifica/

Our weekend consisted of a visit to the fantastic Electric Cinema in Birmingham to watch Downton Abbey followed by some fantastic drinks in Birmingham. Then lots of shopping and gardening over the weekend as we try to get back to normal after building our extension earlier in the year.

MSC Magnifica news

The news is finally out regarding MSC Magnifica and the ambitious plans for renovating the nine year old Musica-class ship ahead of it’s home-porting in Southampton for the summer season of 2021. We’ve known some of the details about this since March this year and it’s killed us keeping it a secret.

We’ve built an excellent working relationship with MSC Cruises mainly due to the forum we run https://m.facebook.com/groups/MSCUKForum/?ref=group_header&view=group and of course having cruised with the line 28 times in five years means we have a great knowledge of the company. We were honoured to be invited to the company’s head office in Uxbridge last night for the unveiling of the plans and the fabulous new itineraries.

In the same style as every MSC cruise a reception was held with free flowing Aperol Spritz and Prosecco on offer.

MSC moved in to their new offices just days after the Brexit vote in 2016 and since then have invested heavily in the site, with MSC Cruise Management being based in the building. This impressive operation has a state of the art control room with direct links to every ship in the MSC Cruises fleet and is the nerve centre for the fleet worldwide. The Cruise Management area is also set up with representatives from every department you’d find on a cruise ship.

Captain Pier Paolo Scala and MD of MSC Uk and Ireland Antonio Paradiso gave us a talk on this impressive operation.

Following the tour of the Cruise Management Centre it was back down to the atrium for the big reveal from Antonio – you can watch the full video live in our Facebook group but the key highlights are:

  • MSC Magnifica will sail from Southampton once again in 2021 after being renovated at Fincantieri’s ship yard
  • The renovation will include the addition of a new 25 metre section to stretch the ship
  • 215 new cabins will be added, which will take the percentage of balcony cabins onboard to over 65%
  • A new water park and splash area will be added, some of which will be indoors – perfect for any weather
  • An additional speciality restaurant will be added and the existing one reconfigured
  • The Southampton season will feature 24 sailings, with exciting, new itineraries to the Canary Islands, Norwegian Fjords, The Baltic and of course the favourite Northern Europe classics of Zeebrugge and Hamburg
  • MSC Magnifica will only embark guests at the port of Southampton

Speaking to us Antonio mentioned that a lot of feedback has been taken from the conversations on our Facebook forum and he spends time everyday reading the forum to keep up with how UK and Irish guests are feeling.

The evening was rounded off with a DJ set from DJ Paradise! Thank you for such a great evening MSC

Big ship, small ships, relationships…

Looking at your first MSC cruise and wondering which ship to pick?

Seasoned cruisers will usually tell you they go on itinerary first and that the ‘hardware’ i.e. the ship, isn’t that important to them. But, you’ve seen online the pictures of Swarovski crystal stairs or cosmopolitan indoor promenades… Stories of zip wires high above the ocean… You have kids and a selection of log flumes is important to you… Or you don’t want to go on a mega ship and would prefer a smaller, more traditional ship.

Which ship should you go for?

 

Lirica Class

The Lirica Class of cruise ship are the oldest in the MSC fleet and also the smallest. These ships offer timeless elegance, and by the standards of other cruise lines are not actually that ‘old’ with MSC Armonia being 18 years old this year.

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Ships in this class: MSC Armonia (2001), MSC Sinfonia (2002), MSC Lirica (2003),  and MSC Opera (2004).

What to expect: The Lirica class are around 65000 tonnes and carry approximately 2500 passengers at full capacity. This is small by modern standards but certainly not too small in our opinion.

We’ve sailed on all four of the ships in this class and had a wonderful holiday on each one of them. The addition of the children’s aqua park during the Renaissance Program when a new lounge and balcony cabins were added compliments the classic style of the ship. The ships were subject to an amazing engineering project which saw them cut open and extended.

The coffee lounge above guest services and by the theatre has been a consistent hang out for us; a great place to listen to piano.

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There are no ‘bells and whistles’ in terms of water slides, sparkly stairs or a grand atrium however the ships are kept spotless and the intimate atmosphere means you will get to know the crew.

Find out more on MSC Opera, our most recent cruise on a Lirica class ship here

Musica Class

The Musica Class are in comparison mid-size and more modern, having been built between 2006 and 2010. Being on a larger scale these ships feature stunning atriums spanning a few decks with elegant marble stair cases.

At 92000-95000 GT they’re still ‘small’ in comparison to what’s being built today, however they certainly don’t feel it on the inside! The maximum capacity of MSC Poesia is around 3600 passengers.

Ships in this class: MSC Musica (2006), MSC Orchestra (2007), MSC Poesia (2008) and MSC Magnifica (2010)

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What to expect: More balcony cabins than the Lirica class, which often makes a balcony good value. Central atrium with sweeping marble staircases for that perfect cruise ship photograph, speciality dining is available (at cost), bars and lounges with unique themes and styles. MSC Magnifica is unique in this class of cruise ship as she also features an indoor pool.

The Tiger Bar on MSC Magnifica had a great atmosphere and had us dancing all night.

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Atrium, MSC Magnifica

Read more about our experience onboard MSC Magnifica here

 

Fantasia Class

The Fantasia Class of cruise ship are definite mega-ships. MSC Fantasia was our first MSC cruise and a ship we’ve had several cruises on so she holds a very special place in our hearts having first seen her while on a mini-break in Venice.

At 138,900 – 139,400 GT these ships are large and carry between around 4000 and 4400 guests (depending on cabin occupancy)

Ships in this class: MSC Fantasia (2008), MSC Splendida (2009), MSC Divina (2012), MSC Preziosa (2013)

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What to expect: The WOW Factor. These ships feature stunning Swarovski Crystal staircases in both the main atrium and also in the exclusive MSC Yacht Club which is available on all four of these ships and every MSC cruise ship built since – find out more about the Yacht Club experience here.

Speciality dining options, including the Galaxy restaurant on MSC Preziosa and MSC Divina which occupies a prime spot on deck 16 as well as the Butcher’s Cut steak house on all four ships.

Our favourite spot tends to be the Piazza on deck 6 or the bar above the casino on deck 7 (the name varies by ship).

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The impressive theatre holds around 1600 guests and the deck 15 aft pool bar is not to be missed for stunning views! MSC PReziosa and MSC Divina also feature infinity pools.

Apart from MSC Divina we’ve been on all four of these ships too – most recently MSC Preziosa which you can read about here.

 

Meraviglia Class and Meraviglia Plus

MSC Meraviglia was the first of the Meraviglia class of ship, launching in 2017 and  followed by the MSC Bellissima in 2019.

In a completely different style to the other MSC ships these beauties feature an indoor promenade or Galleria, perhaps similar in someways to RCCL’s Royal Promenade but with that unique Italian style of MSC. The Galleria is what makes these ships ‘the ship for all seasons’ as large-scale events can be held indoors instead of pool-side.

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Galleria Bellissima

At 171,598 GT MSC Meraviglia and MSC Bellissima are equal 6th largest ships in the World and are the largest of the MSC Fleet. MSC Grandiosa will be larger and pip them to the post at 181000 GT.

The Yacht Club on MSC Meraviglia was the first to be fully enclosed together – the Fantasia class had the exclusive restaurant at the aft of the ship whereas Meraviglia onwards feature the restaurant above the lounge.

Ships in this class: MSC Meraviglia (2017), MSC Bellissima (2019) (both Meraviglia Class) MSC Grandiosa (Nov 2019), MSC Virtuosa (2020)

What to expect: Stunning indoor Galleria flanked at one end with the theatre and MSC Aurea Spa and a multi-deck atrium with Swarovski crystal stairs at the other. Multiple speciality dining options including Japanese, Spanish, French and a steak house. You’ll find us in the Sky Lounge on Deck 19 watching the sunsets and enjoying excellent free snacks whilst listening to a live band.

To keep you entertained ropes courses, sportplex, a chocolate ‘factory’ and the jewel in the crown that is Cirque Du Soleil shows in an exclusive partnership with MSC Cruises.

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MSC Meraviglia launch ceremony with screen icon Sophia Loren

We feel privileged to have been invited to the naming of MSC Bellissima, which you can read about here. We’ve also cruised on Meraviglia which is covered in this blog. Our next MSC cruise will be on the MSC Grandiosa

 

Seaside Class

If MSC Meraviglia was the ‘ship for all seasons’ then MSC Seaside is the ‘ship that follows the sun’.

These ships are smaller than Meraviglia at 153,000 GT but they are so impressive! A game-changer in cruise ship design the Seaside-class aim to get guests closer to the sea, with a board-walk concept offering bars and dining options.

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We enjoyed MSC Seaview’s maiden voyage so much we booked her again later the same year and were pampered in the Yacht Club.

Ships in this class: MSC Seaside (2017) MSC Seaview (2018)

What to expect: There’s no indoor promenade on these ships so the interior is separated in to multiple, distinguished bars and lounges each with a different theme and style. The Venchi chocolate bar offers premium chocolates and crafted cocktails with the signature chocolate as an ingredient.

Entertainment wise these ships feature the longest zip wire at sea, which whilst very tempting neither of us have ever tried! The aqua park offers a choice of exciting water slides, rope bridges and of course a multitude of pools and hot tubs to relax in.

You’ll normally find us around the Champagne Bar which offers (naturally) a choice of Champagnes as well as fresh seafood* – extra charges apply

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Cheers! – Champagne Bar on MSC Seaview

A few surprises about MSC

 

Inside Cabin with Butler Service

We all know that booking an inside cabin is the most cost-effective way to cruise, but did you know that you can still indulge in the absolute luxury of the MSC Yacht Club whilst having an inside cabin? Every new MSC cruise ship launched since the MSC Meraviglia has inside Yacht Club cabins. For around the price of a Fantastica balcony with drinks package you can snap up one of these cabins. We’re trying it for the first time on the MSC Grandiosa’s maiden sailing from Hamburg to Marseille.

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A Yacht Club interior cabin – photo from http://www.msccruises.co.uk

If an inside cabin isn’t your first choice, MSC also often run a promotion called ‘Get the Best’ where you can book an inside and have a free upgrade to balcony. This offer is currently available direct through MSC UK and UK Travel Agents.

To find out more about our previous Yacht Club cruises check out our review of Fantasia.

 

Flexible itineraries 

This can be a bug bear for some cruisers, but in most sailing areas except cruises departing Miami, you can embark an MSC cruise at nearly every port of call. This gives cruisers the flexibility of choosing from a wider variety of airports to fly from to meet the ship. Use a reputable travel agent and create your own package with flights from your local airport and a pre or post cruise stay near the port. This gives an excellent opportunity to explore Meditteranean gems such as Naples, Barcelona and Rome among others.

What else do we love about this? Quite simply the fact that you’re not experiencing the whole ship changing over on one day, which speeds up embarkation.

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MSC Bellissima’s current itinerary allows guests to embark at all these ports except Valletta

 

Ever walked on crystals?

MSC have a bit of a ‘thing for bling’ – every ship launched since MSC Fantasia features Swarovski Crystal staircases. We were told on MSC Splendida that the silver ones are €5000 per step and the golden ones in the Yacht Club €10000 per step! To put that in to perspective, MSC Magnifica’s world cruise first went on sale at around £10000 per person.

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A ship for all seasons

MSC Meraviglia was dubbed as a ship for all seasons. With her indoor promenade it doesn’t matter if there’s bad weather ahead. Whilst everyone would prefer to cruise in pleasant sunshine, it’s inevitable that certain parts of the world, such as northern Europe it’s not guaranteed. The inside spaces mean that guests can still take full advantage of the cruise experience as what would usually be a deck party can be transferred inside. The promenade, or Galleria, is also topped with a stunning LED dome that’s used to project scenes  from under the sea, space, fireworks around the world and more!

Testament to the ability of this space to hold parties has got to be during the naming ceremony of MSC Bellissima when we were ushered inside as a storm was making the marquee wobble! Read more about our experience of Bellissima here.

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The ship that follows the sun

At almost the opposite end of the spectrum to MSC Meraviglia class ships focussing on the inside is the Seaside class of ship which focuses on getting guests closer to the sea. A boardwalk promenade offers dining space and also comfortable places to sit right outside the bars. A pool on deck 7 with the surrounding bars and ice cream parlour is a fabulous place to hang out! Not forgetting the longest zip wire at sea, an excellent water park and other amazing outdoor spaces there’s no wonder we loved Seaview so much on her maiden voyage we had to go on her again just a few months later! Check out our blogs on Seaview here – MSC Seaview so far…

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The Infinity Bridge, deck 18 MSC Seaview

 

Michelin starred chefs

MSC Cruises have partnered with Michelin starred chefs to create signature dishes for the elegant nights onboard the ships. Harald Wolfahrt, Ramon Freixa, Carlo Cracco and Roy Yamaguchi all have partnerships with MSC cruises. Ramon Freixa has also put his name to the Hola! tapas restaurant onboard.

On elegant night be sure to check out Ramon Freixa’s signature dish of duck royale or Carlo Cracco’s braised blade of beef!

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Cucina Rustica – Birmingham

Readers of our blog will know how in love we are with pretty much anything Italian, especially when it comes to cuisine! For my birthday this year we weren’t able to be on a cruise or in Italy (shame) and so we decided to book Cucina Rustica, currently ranked #16 of 115 Italian restaurants in Birmingham.

So, given that this restaurant isn’t the highest ranking why did we decide to choose it? Quite simply the menu and the fact it isn’t part of a chain. After the amount of time we have spent in Italy or on board Italian cruise ships I wanted something authentic that would provide wow factor in the cuisine.

We arrived just before our 7:30 reservation on Wednesday 3rd July and were shown to a table in the middle of the restaurant. A (presumably) junior waiter provided us with menus and the wine list and left us to look. I was somewhat surprised that we weren’t provided with the list of fish dishes which the website advises is available.

The extensive winelist focuses around Italy and France, and of course we opted for a bottle of Prosecco to toast the festivities and a bottle of Verdiccio to go with the food (although at that point we hadn’t decided what food to have, but we know we like a good bottle of this!

After being presented with the somewhat extensive list of daily specials, we made our decisions. All in all it was probably about half an hour between entering the restaurant and ordering. I opted for the Fegatini di Pollo – chicken livers with shallots, cream and pancetta and Andy opted for Salmone con Granchio – smoked salmon with crab meat and avocado.

For our main courses Andy ordered the Vitello ai Porcino – veal with porcini mushrooms in cream, whilst I decided to go with Costolette di Agnello – rack of lamb with honey glazed apples and Marsala wine sauce.

Our starters arrived within about 10 minutes, and yet again my photography doesn’t do food justice, but my excuse is that I was celebrating my birthday! I hope the photos do the food justice, and show how generous the portions are. One of these dishes would certainly do for lunch.

Andy would describe his salmon dish as good quality salmon which was well balanced with the crab and avocado. Good quality smoked salmon is not cheap and at £8.95 this represents good value in his opinion.

My chicken livers were tender and the marsala wine sauce perfectly brought together the dish and moistened the ciabatta bread it was served on.

 

No sooner had our plates been cleared then we were presented with our main courses. We had been sat with the plates infront of us for a while just taking in our surroundings and enjoying ourselves, but it did seem as if the need of the kitchen to deliver the food to tables was prompting the wait staff to clear the tables. Incidentally there was one table next to us that was not cleared properly throughout our time in the restaurant.

 

Yet again the main courses were excellent. My rack of lamb, which I had asked to be served rare, came out as exactly as I would have cooked it. I had seen previous reviews complain that what was served was lamb chops, and to be fair, this was lamb chops, however what the other review did not mention was that these were four very succulent and large lamb chops. I struggled to finish the portion!

 

Andy’s veal dish was a bit overdone for his liking, and the menu billed porcini and oyster mushrooms. We’re only just discussing this now hence not mentioning it at the time, however as you can see from the picture the mushrooms were just regular mushrooms. That being said, the dish was enjoyable, and the side salad we were both given was another generous portion. We’re personally not sure what the chips added.

 

We had no room for dessert and as such passed on that option, before paying the bill and leaving.

 

So our summary?

We’re left wondering whether there’s been a change of staff, as the head waitress / manager was working very hard with who we presume are new employees due to the university changeovers.

The food was in the main excellent, although the veal dish let it down, but we could have corrected that at the time if we’ realised, however it is worth mentioning.

Overall score? 8/10.

Would we return? Yes.

The Ivy – Birmingham

if i said to you ‘The Ivy’ you’d probably get images of the star-studded restaurant in London and think of a huge waiting list and high prices.

What if we told you that The Ivy has expanded and now has more local restaurants in some of the UK’s greatest places, including Brighton, Leeds and Birmingham and that at the end of the meal you won’t feel like a pelican with a whopping great big bill in front of you?

We booked The Ivy for our 1st wedding anniversary on 24th May; the anniversary is actually the 26th, but we had tickets for a show so decided to celebrate early!

The menu at The Ivy is varied with classic British dishes such as fish and chips or shepherd’s pie contrasting perfectly with more modern, international fare such as monkfish and prawn curry or crab linguine. With that in mind, The Ivy seems to offer something for all tastes.

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The beautiful rainbow of flowers outside were presumably there as the weekend saw Birmingham’s pride celebrations taking place. Walking through the door we were greeted by the host who was wearing a fantastic flowered suit which really suited his personality.

The inside of The Ivy, whilst having some eccentric twists in the decor is also very classy as you’d imagine with inspiration being taken from the original Ivy.

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We made an amateur mistake of ordering wine prior to hearing what the day’s specials were! Thinking we were going to opt for a chicken or pork based dish we opted for a bottle of Verdejo, Cuatro Reas from the Rueda region of Spain at £26 per bottle.

On hearing the special dishes we realised we’d want a red wine to go with the fillet steak with duck liver parfait we ordered at £32 each. As we’d already started on the Verdejo it was too late to change so we  ordered a bottle of Nero d’Avola from Sicily which was a bargain at £19.95 per bottle. Not a classic with fillet steak but we know the wine suits our tastes.

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Our steaks arrived and as you’d expect from a restaurant such as The Ivy they were cooked to perfection. Mine was BLUE – I put that in capitals as so many restaurants seem to struggle with the concept or don’t believe the customer genuinely wants a blue steak,

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As you can see from the picture the portion is quite large and we certainly felt it was worth the price paid. This was probably the best fillet steak I’ve ever had,

To accompany our meal we ordered a side of truffle and Parmesan chips and a portion of sprouting broccoli – the Parmesan and truffle whilst both being rich flavours worked together and didn’t compete with each other. The broccoli was wonderfully al dente and the lemon oil brought out the flavour of the young veggies perfectly.

We were unsure about whether to have a dessert, and as we had a show to go to we didn’t want to be too full and therefore declined. We were pleasantly surprised that the restaurant gave us two beautiful miniature raspberry tarts.

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The attention to detail of the small chocolate together with the smooth creme patissiere rounded off an excellent meal. We’d normally dine later in the evening hence not ordering a ‘proper’ dessert.

In terms of service we’d rate it very good; the shift changeover happened while we were sat at the table so it seemed a little odd to have two different waitresses, and we also prefer not to be interrupted whilst eating with the question “is everything O.K.?”. Whilst we completely understand the reason why restaurants do this and it is something I had to do whilst I began to embark on a career in hospitality I for one would prefer attentive service whereby the wait staff know if something is wrong, rather than be asked after just placing a fork-full of food in my mouth.

We had an absolutely excellent time at The Ivy and enjoyed the food more than the previous visit we had for my birthday last year. We will definitely back.