“The original restaurant was opened by Abel Giandolini in 1917 as an unlicensed Italian café in a building on the same site. Legend has it that the name itself originated from a chance remark by the actress *Alice Delysia, who overheard Giandolini apologise to a customer for the inconvenience caused by building works. When he said that it was because of his intention to create a restaurant of the highest class, she interjected “Don’t worry – we will always come and see you. ‘We will cling together like the ivy'”, a line from the then-popular song, 1902’s “Just Like the Ivy I’ll Cling to You”, written by AJ Mills and Harry Castling. The restaurant expanded into the current premises in 1929 run by Giandolini, with his longstanding Maitre d’ Mario Gallati as host.
In part due to its proximity to the West End theatres, exclusivity and late closing time (it is still open until close to midnight), the restaurant quickly became a theatrical institution, with Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, Marlene Dietrich, John Gielgud, Lilian Braithwaite, Terence Rattigan, Binkie Beaumont and Noël Coward being habitués, having their regular 2-seater tables along the walls. According to the actor Donald Sinden in his Sky Arts television documentary series Great West End Theatres, The Ivy became so famous as a theatrical-celebrities haunt that in the 1943 revue Sweet and Low which ran for almost six years at the neighbouring Ambassadors Theatre, there was a satirical sketch included, updated regularly, entitled Poison Ivy, where the show’s star Hermione Gingold “would exchange wicked and salacious celebrity gossip”.
In 1950 Giandolini sold The Ivy to Bernard Walsh…”
“…In 1925 (Alice Delysia) returned to the (C.B.) Cochran stable, starring in his revue On With the Dance, much of which was written and composed by Noël Coward. During rehearsals for the show, Cochran disliked Coward’s song “Poor Little Rich Girl”, written for Delysia, and he wanted to cut it. He backed down in the face of implacable resistance from the author and the performer, and it became Coward’s first hit song.”