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22nd March 2023

Romanticising life with a Crème Brûlée

Reject the ‘special occasion’ mindset and start romanticising your everyday, being bougie on a budget.
Romanticising life with a Crème Brûlée
Dining alone at The Ivy. Photo: Ambar Ennis @ The Mancunion.

Most people are brought up with a ‘special occasion’ mindset: nice dinners out are reserved for birthdays or anniversaries. Those special occasions will usually entail visiting a seemingly elusive, luxurious spot. Take for instance, The Ivy.

Starting its story in 1917, The Ivy has curated an image of exclusivity and refinement, where an evening menu is more of a financial investment than a quick bite. Reservations are hard to come by in the London branches and the Spinningfields restaurant exudes that Gossip Girl sort of wealth. We’re at a point where mentioning The Ivy is automatically met with gasps of awe and delight through the sheer connotations of high-brow dining – if you’re going, you surely have money or it’s a special occasion. I reject this.

I grew up in a special occasion household where money was tight and my parents worked in jobs that wore them down. Most of us at UoM have grown up under an austerity government where pinching the pennies and cutting back on enjoyment was a national motto – encouraged by a government that has made sure we definitely do not get inflated egos about our place in society.

I have decided to reject both of these things as holds on my present-day life. So as of late, I have been going to The Ivy to have a bite, perhaps even wearing jeans and Converse, and I have mostly been going alone.

It all started when I went to a Uni event that served terrible canapés and no dessert. I knew what I wanted and it was a crème brûlée. Before I left the event I booked a reservation at The Ivy Brasserie for half an hour later and so began my journey into romanticising the heck out of my life.

Initially, the plan was just a dessert (to keep the bill under a tenner). But I was peckish and intrigued. Here I was in the most garishly stunning restaurant in Manchester and my table for one vibe was giving “oh she must be important, why else would she be dining here alone in jeans?”

Having assessed the menu and experienced utter confusion at how one restaurant was offering a £16 shepherds pie and a £21 monkfish curry (is it range or is it just indecision?), I opted for the duck salad starter for £9.95.

This salad was everything and more. The presentation? Stunning! The textures within each bite? Exceptional! The sheer brilliance of each mouthful was a true delight.

Next up: the show stopper. To accompany my crème brûlée I ordered a pot of tea. I’m usually anal about the profit margins on teabags but today I was doing me to the highest heights.

One thing I couldn’t get over was how wonderful the staff were. Their demeanour was consistently polite and warm, and neither my relaxed attire nor my young age stopped them from being such generous hosts. I’ve had a few crème brûlées in my time and they usually come with berries on the side to add some freshness to the custard-based dish. I asked for some strawberries and not only were they fetched right away; they didn’t even charge me any extra. They really just wanted to ensure I enjoyed my experience to the fullest. The crème brûlée was, of course, divine, with a perfectly even layer of caramelised sugar on top.

Cost breakdown of the trip

Crispy duck salad: £9.95

Creme brulee: £7.95

(huge) Pot of tea: £3.95

This trip totalled £21.85 and it was worth every penny. I’ve begrudgingly spent that in a hundred restaurants when a catch-up lunch with a friend ends up being more than the Greggs vegan sausage roll I budgeted for.

Since this first trip, I have returned to The Ivy numerous times either by myself or have taken my mum for a Rooftop Terrace coffee after work to show her that we absolutely do fit in here and are welcome. Spending money on nice experiences and nice food is bottom of the priority list for most of us, and that’s absolutely okay. But reserving enjoyable moments for a justified special occasion isn’t.

Had I stuck to the plan of just dessert, it would have been eight quid. When I’ve been for just a hot drink, it’s less than £4 – when the average coffee house can charge £3.50 for an oat cappuccino, this doesn’t feel so steep.

So go to the special occasion places even on the most miserable of Mondays. Book yourself in for an impromptu crème brûlée. Luxury being exclusive is so boring, we all deserve to enjoy our lives and we can do so well before the graduate salary kicks in.

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