Little Gems





A  seven day eating holiday on the Isle of Wight

2013/14 reviews

2012/13 reviews


PC means proprietor/chef


Old reviews 2013 Reviews

Quay Arts Café -  Newport (HR)

"Best Cafe" Award 2013" and 2012

There was a change of Head Chef this year and I congratulate the team of chefs because the transition has been seamless.

They do simple things well. Soups, baguettes, jackets, salads all  consistently nice. Daily specials such as frittata or curry or are  tasty and often creative. Portion control can sometimes be a bit erratic, but hey-ho as they say. Food very much for the healthy diet conscious. and very much the sort of food you would expect from an arts centre.

The majority of customers are women between the age of 45 and 65. In fact I was in there this December the place was full and I did a rough age estimate. It worked out at an average age of 61 yrs

Sometimes I'm put off going to an eatery because of reasons nothing to do with the food. There is one restaurant I know that has really uncomfortable seats. Another cafe has such a bumpy road to it I really can't be bothered. I prefer the Quay Cafe in the summer when I can sit outside because I find it too dark inside but then what do you expect from a converted warehouse which has a charm of it's own.  Out side on the deck, watching the swans or an idle boat while munching on a fresh salad bowl is right up my street.

It can get very busy during lunchtime so be prepared to queue.

Where is it? Sea Street, which is at the bottom of Quay Street

Old Smithy - Godshill (R)

"Best Cafe" Award 2011"

2011. This is one of the most consistent cafes on the Island. You always know what you are going to get and it is straight forward honest food that in my judgement is cooked by someone who likes to eat good food herself. This is serious catering for tourism. Plastic table and chairs, huge conservatory overlooking the coach car park. The place is so popular there is almost always a queue, but it is worth it for their huge (both in choice and size) of naughty but nice cream cakes and my favourite, Bonoffi pie the best on the Isle of Wight. If you are local and want to avoid the crowds (not an easy task), go mid-week when the children are at school or when it is a sunny day so that you can sit outside. The service is efficient and pleasant. Amazing when they have to put up with hundreds of customers every day. Food is simple, basic and well cooked. Robust soups, tasty crab tart, fresh mackerel pate. Also, properly cooked jackets.

Where is it? - You can't miss it. Turn off the main road in Godshill into the large car park on the right if coming from Shanklin.

Gods Providence -  Newport (R)

Best Cafe award 2010

Gods Providence House is the nearest one can get to tinkling teacups and oldé worldé charm, and old-fashioned pre-war food – comfort food. Steak pie and steak pudding, with a selection of well- cooked vegetables, poached egg on toast, omelettes, scones, egg mayonnaise sandwiches, fruit jelly and lemon meringue pie. Their concession to the modern world is cafetiere coffee selection, herbal teas and BLT; and now some delicious looking puddings. Waitresses in black and white uniforms are quick and friendly. What they create with the catering packs is worth tasting.

 I have been eating in Gods Providence cafe come tearooms for over 25 years and they are serving the same food, same quality now as they did then. Things have subtly changed, for instance the coconut and chocolate slice has vanished and so has the upstairs salad bar. I am sad about this as I had many girly lunches up there. – always wholemeal pastry quiche with a selection of salads. I remember the grated carrot and coconut salad with great affection. Gods Providence House is now onto its fifth owner. The second one decorated the loos, the third one added curtains, the latest one colourful blackboards and painted walls.

The long serving cook has retired and the current owner attempted to change the menu but I see everything is back to normal.


Where is it? St Thomas Square, Newport

Beach Hut - Bembridge (HR) new

New and quite a surprise this one. The advertising suggests they are bigger than they are but in fact seat only 4 inside or a table of 8 if your squash together. But I love the enterprising attitude of the new proprietor. She is bubbly, full of enthusiasm and knows how to produce perfect, posh beach food . The crab ramekin is divine. She cares about diet. Her style of food is fresh, vibrant and very appropriate. Put on your must try list for 2013.

By the way - I wanted to have my special girly birthday party there but when numbers grew to 14 I had to go somewhere else. It was October and the weather was too risky. The point is she made a real effort to accommodate me and my chums I am only sorry I had to change venue

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Chessell Pottery Barn  - Chessell (HR)

Best Cream tea award for several years now classed as a "Little Gem"

The pottery cafe has developed a nice simple menu of homemade scone and cakes, freshly made soups and simple but very nice ploughman's type snacks using Gallybagger cheese and local pickles.  The BEST cream tea we have had this  year. Cleary a great deal of attention and affection has gone into this dish. perfect scones, great clotted cream by Calbourne Classics, great fresh tasting locally made strawberry jam. Definitely a pot of tea and a piece of cake stop.

Where is it? On the middle road to Freshwater just past Calbourne

Well Bread - Cowes (HR)

A new entry to this guide and a new concept for the Isle of Wight.

Well Bread has a mission statement,  a sort of religious resurrection based upon old fashioned values of honesty and friendship. Basically you order nothing, help yourself and be honest about your consumption when you go to pay.

I was quite excited by the concept and felt as if I was acting in a communal play, a sort of interactive art installation. It may leave some customers feeling uncomfortable but if they stay the course in another way it is confidence building.

Basically Well bread is a bread shop that also sells giant tray bakes cut into good sized wedges. But as well as buying bread you can beak bread with your new found friend on the long scrubbed refectory table. I won't give it all away because this is an eatery to be discovered. Putting it simply it is a DIY cafe that sell fantastic bread. Go, try.

Where is it - Cowes High Street walking towards Bath road

Tramezzini - Ventnor (R)

I was verging on heart broken when Goodman's on Ventnor sea front  closed down. Or rather, I was mourning the loss of a highly talented chef. So you can imagine my delight to discover he has re-emerged at the Tramezzini Deli.

Apparently Tramezzini means little sandwich, clearly a joke as my hot meatball rague sandwich was far from small. It was not only big on size but big on flavour too. The bread was super fresh and crusty and served simply with a few top of the range crisps. I finished with a light and creamy cheesecake topped with some zingy fruits, wonderful. Good coffee too. I am already looking forward to a return visit.

They also have a deli counter. This one is going on my regulars list.

Where is it? Ventnor High street, heading towards Shanklin and on the right.

The Green - St Helen's (R)

This has become a regular little haunt for maddish mum and me. Light lunches and simple cakes from a very small but well executed menu are just the ticket. We usually have soup and sandwich, pot of tea and a cake to share. We love the decor, log burner, colour scheme and pretty additions.

Where is it? On the lower-green road.

Warren Farm - Alum Bay

A great cup of tea and piece of cake stop. Menu is really simple. Ham sandwiches, ham salad, cakes and cream teas in great farm land surroundings.

Where is it? Turn left down a farm lane just before you get to Alum Bay

End of the Line - Freshwater

A cup of tea and a piece of cake stop -particularly for the upside down cherry and almond sponge.

Where is it? next to Honnor and Jeffrey garden centre

Thornton's - Newport 

You may well ask what am I doing at Thornton's? The one thing you can be certain about a chain of eating establishments is that they are always consistent. That is consistently bad and very occasionally consistently good. Thornton's is the latter.

 Thornton's in Newport is my preference for service and atmosphere and their cakes are scrummy. My favourite is the Lemon Tart, lip- puckeringly tangy with a smooth finish. A close runner-up is the Chocolate Alpini cake.

Where  is it? - Newport High street, just down from the Post Office.

Osborne House Cafe - East Cowes

A simple selection of sandwiches, cakes and soup of the day in smart cafe surroundings.

Thompson's Garden Centre - offers a good range of homemade cakes with a cup of tea, and, they take credit cards for small amounts of money.

Cappuccino coffee is the one drink that I get really annoyed about. Most establishments think that as long as it has chocolate sprinkled on the top that is all it requires. Then there are those that think it has to have the froth piled on top like a snow-capped mountain. A real cappuccino is 1/3 coffee, 1/3 milk and 1/3 froth all below the rim of the cup. Milk to the rim is a Latte. A large cappuccino is never served in a mug, that is disgusting. The chocolate topping should be cocoa, not sprinkles and this is why I always ask for my cappuccino without the topping as no one ever seems to use cocoa anymore.

Kings Manor Farm shop and cafe - Freshwater new ownership

They use fresh local ingredients and as one rambler commented as they walked through the door "What a lovely smell". I couldn't have agreed more. The aroma of beef being sautéed in an open pan permeated the air. I was suddenly hungry and it had to be beef. Indeed, I enjoyed the most delicious Thai beef salad English style. This was followed by a chocolaty chocolate slice, like a very fat biscuit and great tasting coffee.

Where is it? Turn right at the Co-op towards the Red Lion. Turn left before the red Lion. Kings Manor is a little way down that road on the right into a narrow lane.

Steephill Cove   is a dream holiday destination for alfresco eating and a cool windy August deters no-one. I have to say that I could spend almost my entire summer eating in this little gem of a place. Coffee and cake, crab sandwich, lobster salad, grilled mackerel.

The Boat House - Steephill Cove (HR)

2011 - They are consistent do what they do very well

2010 - My first visit here was over 8 years ago. I fell in love with it. The venue alone filled me with happiness and ephemeral joy to be remembered like a holiday romance. In 2010 the concept is exactly the same. With fresh seafood from boat to table on a daily basis, now as it was then. People ask me why I have given cafe with a small menu offering the most basic of cooking a Highly Recommended award. They have a mission and they deliver it - it's as simple as that.

Imagine the tropics, imagine alfresco eating under the gentle shade of a palm-fringed veranda and you have The Boat House. What a joy, what bliss. What pleasure and how clever to think of planting a piece of the South Sea Islands on our own Wighty shores.

Wooden slatted floors, canvas roof, directors' chairs, bits of old rope twisted around driftwood rails. Stones off the beach, trellis walls and trees growing through the floor contrast with damask napkins and large glass goblets for the delicious house wine.

The menu is basically salad, salad and salad. I had the seafood platter with an almost perfectly cooked lobster. A crab shell-filled with hand-picked succulent brown and white crab meat and a dozen shell on prawns resting on a large bed of salad. The seafood was incredibly fresh. The only thing missing was a dollop of genuine homemade mayonnaise.

Desserts are homemade. My raspberry brulee was completely wrong in terms of it being made to an accurate recipe, however it was divine in its own special way.

Where is it? The Boat House is normally open every lunchtime so long as it isn’t blowing a ‘hooly’ outside and some evenings. Next year they plan to open lunchtimes only. Proceeding by car from Ventnor, the lane leading to Steephill Cove is 50yds short of the Ventnor Botanic Gardens. Cars cannot descend to the cove, but parking is available on the main road; or park at the top Ventnor esplanade car park and take the cliff walk. Approx 30 minutes.

Crab Shed - Steephill Cove (HR)

This little eatery with its ultra casual layout on two levels are suppliers of fresh crab, and lobster to take home. They also serve perfectly formed simple light lunches. Their crab pasties are kept to perfection in a  temperature controlled oven. I love their freshly grilled mackerel fillets ( my all time favourite fish) with salad or in a ciabatta. Salad garnishes are often the one thing that irritates me the most. Spiky rocket and lack of dressing are the worst. The Crab shed consistently serve a green salad that is both tender and textured with a light fruity dressing and a grating of parmesan, in fact the best green salad on the Island.  The ingredients speak for themselves and the Wheelers let them shout from the hill tops.

Chale Green Stores Cafe - Chale Green new ownership

There were a few teething problems when it recently changed hands but it seems to be settling down. We like the rural surroundings and the parterre style outside seating area. Food is simple, and some of it ready made from the deli counter.

The Beach Shack formerly Devonia Kiosk - Sandown

Amongst the usual beach kiosk stuff comes a sparkle of good food from a couple who want to offer more than just cheesy chips and burgers. They serve the best crab cake I have ever tasted - ever, anywhere in the whole wide world - this alone deserves an award!  Also many wonderful home made soups; including rich mushroom, intense pumpkin with crispy bacon and mozzarella balls.

They have extended their "specials menu as a result of the success of their crab cakes

Island chefs should do themselves a favour and pop along there on a sunny winters day for a warming special.

Where is it? The first kiosk at the beginning of the walk along the revetment to Shanklin.

Quarr Abbey Cafe

Chefs tend to change frequently here so it isn't the easiest place to review. They still produce very nice soups and cakes. Waiting staff seem occasionally confused by the system that they operate but manage to be friendly despite this.

You might bump into the odd Monk but generally speaking this re-vamped cafe is for the middle classes with a love of peaceful surroundings and art.

There is a hotchpotch of old furniture and I have found myself moving the chairs around until I have found the right chair to fit the table height. While waiting to order you are confronted with a tempting array of homemade cakes.

Where is it - In the grounds of Quarr Abbey which is between Wootton and Ryde

Barefoot on the Beach - Colwell Bay new

They call themselves a destination venue and it's true. You would be forgiven for thinking you had been magically transported to some beach place in Australia or New Zealand - It has that feel about it.

Food is simple, salads, sandwiches, daily seafood specials. Competently cooked. I had sea trout pate, it was small, barely a snack but quite tasty and the pan-fried sea bass with new potatoes. Fish was ever so slightly overcooked. Puds are cakes. Your are paying for the venue as much as the food. My kind of holiday cafe destination.

They are currently looking for a new head chef. I hope they get it right. Will let you know after my next visit.

Where is it? park in the Car park at Colwell and walk west along the revetment




Little Gems



Crab Cakes -  Beach Shack, Sandown - The best ever,

Fresh Crab Meat - Ventnor Haven Fisheries - has been established since 1830. The simple hut has gone and has been replaced with a splendid wet fish shop on the harbour wall. They sell freshly caught fish, freshly prepared crab and lobster and the seasonally short and rare

Crab Pasties - Crab Shed, Steephill Cove

Doughnuts -  Daisy's Bakery, Sandown

Ice Cream - Minghellas

Cream Tea - Chessell Pottery, Chessell - attention to detail, quality scone, home made jam, local clotted cream

Clotted Cream, natural yoghurt and ginger pudding - from Calbourne Classics

Raspberry Meringue - Mojac's at Cowes -Still a top dessert 

Tiramisu - Bonchurch Inn - another top dessert

Bembridge Prawns - a short and magical season, look out for them

Cream Cakes - The Old Smithy, Godshill - traditional meringues, choux buns great bonoffi pie at

Soup - Ditto, Sandown - Using fresh vegetables, no flour. Choice of two or three each day, 

Bronze Turkey- Brownriggs Poultry. Superb quality

Dairy Deli- From farm yard to main road - this has got to be a wise move. Operated by Jill Caywood of Calbourne Classics I already know I am going to pick up some great puds. You can even have a coffee and a piece of indulgent chocolate brownie after you have shopped - not before, if you are like me a full tummy puts me off shopping for food. I like the Dairy Deli because I can buy everything I need to feed us for a week, including baby, and, I can buy washing up liquid for the Brawn to clean the dishes afterwards

Speciality Sausages - Hamilton Butcher's - good range and very tasty

Cheese Omelette - Watersedge, Gurnard - Light and fluffy,

Isle of Wight Cherries - fat and tasty. I particularly like the pale one

Butchers - Farmers Jacks, Arreton, offers a particularly good range of Island produced meats - for those who can afford an occasional special joint.

Lavender Cake, lavender shortbread and lavender ice-cream - a must try at the Lavender Farm - Wootton

Fish and Chips - Junes Fish Bar - Shanklin, Corries Cabin - Cowes, Wootton Fish Bar - Wootton

Apple Fritters - Ventnor Pier - their are v.good




Taverners -  Godshill (HR)

"Top of the Tops" Award 2013

"Best Pub" Award 2013 and 2012

2012 - If I could only chose one place on the Isle of Wight to eat it would be the Taverners. Roger is a very talented chef. He loves food, he is interested in recipes and ingredients and good cooking.

Unlike most eateries I can never guess what is going to be offered to me. His menus are interesting and creative.

He is a lateral thinker. For instance, he won't serve run of the mill food like cheesy chips. But I am told he is frequently asked for it to go with his own made chips. So what does he do? He combines the idea of baked camembert in a box - only he used the isle of Wight cheese and serves it hot and melty as a dip with his chips. Brill.

Good Sunday lunch too. As well as the specials board ,don't forget his signature pork pies, with crisp pastry, from the regular menu. Oh, and don't forget their freshly made to order apple juice.

2010 - We visit regularly and have enjoyed many dishes. Love the lamb burger and much more.

2009 -The flaky pastry turns out to be baked suet crust which shows what a delicate hand the chef has with pastry. I have never had suet pastry as light and crisp as this. I pop in here quite often for homemade soup, and snacks. Most recently we, maddish mum and I, have enjoyed smoked haddock en cocotte with Gallybagger cheese and delicious homemade chips, rich mushroom soup, pumpkin and apple soup, apple crumble with proper custard. Their Sunday roast is also good rustic fare.

Where is it? At the Newport side of Godshill Village

Red Lion - Freshwater (R)

My most recent visit with my maddish mother was Dec 2010' The consistency of the cooking here is so welcoming. No wonder it is always so busy. Portions are generous. Some effort is made to make the vegetables more interesting - a talent that seems to have vanished at most places, not just on the Island either. The food here is really to restaurant standard. Carefully cooked calves liver. Pork cooked to tender perfection and well executed sauces. most recently a huge steak and Kidney pudding, rustic and tasty with rich gravy.

Pub Specials Board - Island round up.

I have virtually given up on the puddings at most pubs as they seem to have little time to prepare anything homemade let alone decent by the time they have churned out the nuggets, chips, jackets, and daily specials. The pub eateries below make an effort

The Pier View - Cowes. They serve excellent home-made burgers with a nicely toasted bun. The chips are bought in and the salad garnish needs dressing. But I am dreaming of eating another burger there soon.

Seaview Hotel Pub -Seaview. Good menu mostly home-cooked  but less salt please.

Over heard in an Island Pub

"I'm sorry we haven't got Chardonnay, the nearest we have to that is a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc"!!!

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The Boat House - Puckpool (R)

So, it was a special birthday this year and this is where I chose to take 12 of my very special life long friends. I have never had a duff dish at the Boathouse and, I liked the sea views. The staff were incredibly accommodating and gave us full run of one of the side rooms - in fact their wonderful service added to the enjoyment of the day. Some of us had the pheasant with bacon and cabbage, delicious, One had a brilliant sort of tower of vegetables. I must return for that one. Others had the light pasta and vegetable dish. To be honest it was such a fun lunch I can't remember what we all had. I do recall we all enjoyed it. not a single moan or complaint. They are consistent.

In 2011 the Boathouse still pleases. A Sunday lunch in November with maddish mum and me was very pleasant. The herb crusted cod on a bed of crushed potatoes presented a moist, nicely cooked piece of fish and the salmon with a creamy red wine sauce  on a ed of wilted spinach was unusual and married into a nicely flavoured dish. MM declared the sticky toffee pudding to be wonderful and my Vanilla demi-freddo (half frozen ice cream - with warm strawberries and rhubarb was a good combination. We will be back.

Used to be know as the Battery Inn. It has been completely refurbished and changed hands again. The new hands have found a voice. Their menu is not over ambitious which allows for some competent cooking. We have tried all the puddings and liked them all. The loin of pork on a bed of apples and walnuts with a cider cream sauce was just the ticket. The Sunday roast beef was respectably traditional with crispy roast potatoes, freshly cooked vegetables, nice gravy etc, etc. I have also had very nice fish pie - a strangely difficult dish to get right!

Where is it? Just past Puckpool and just before the old toll road towards Seaview

New Inn - Shalfleet (R)

2011 - I suspect there may be an air of competition between the New Inn and one of its partner the Boat house at Puckpool. I know which one I favour but things may change. On this visit we, maddish mum and tried the two pork dishes, Sunday roast pork and the belly of Pork, the latter was the best choice. We were having a late lunch and the roast potatoes were not crunchy and the whole meal lacked that vivacity of just being cooked, however it tasted fine, my large slab of belly pork fared better. The highlight of the meal was the steamed syrup and orange pudding. The light and sticky pudding was covered with a layer of orange slices and added another dimension to the pudding.

The New Inn has been serving seafood as its mainstay for over 30 years. Chefs seem to come and go. Sometimes it is good and other times it is not so good - largely because of odd combinations and disappointing puddings. My recent visit after a break of 12 months was rather enjoyable. My cod with brown shrimp butter and runner bean vinaigrette  was good to eat - I may have added some tarragon to the dressing but that is nit-picking. It came with nicely cooked vegetable -proper al dente and not crunchy. There is nothing worse than undercooked squeaky French beans - they really put my teeth on edge. The new potatoes were maris piper and very tasty.

Wisely ,the delicious Ginger pudding with hazelnut ice-cream came from Calbourne Classics, it was v. good made better by their in-house addition of hot molasses sauce.

Where is it? By the traffic lights at Shalfleet


Bonchurch Inn - Bonchurch (HR)

"Best Pud" Award 2012 now classed a "Little Gem"

2012 - I love the Bonchurch Inn. The chef who is also the son goes from strength to strength. It's not a small menu and the wait is long as it's all cooked fresh. The wait is worth it. I recently enjoyed Freshly made minestrone soup as it should be. Followed by pan-fried Pollock with chorizo, tomatoes, and garlic butter with perfectly cooked mixed vegetables Italian style on fresh tagliatelle. And, of course the famous tiramisu.

2011 - It was music to my ears when the bar man apologised for the wait because they cooked their risotto from scratch - quite right too, there is no other way. While I waited I enjoyed the mouth watering aromas from the adjacent table who had been served with beef bourguignon and chicken breast in stilton sauce. Judging from the silence as the six tucked in I assumed it was all good.

By today's standards Bonchurch Inn is primitive. The decor is old and smoke tinged. It has clearly escaped the thuggery of the brewery make-over. The ladies loo is outside and the kitchen on the other side of the courtyard, where dished are rushed over in the rain. The only thing that is missing is the wood burner. The risotto Milanese, when it arrived was excellent, the rice had that magic micro-bite, the flavour so intense it did not get boring and the mixture was nice and loose with enough liquid to allow for the continued cooking in its own heat.

Now the pudding, Tiramisu like no other, creamy, rich, boozy and moreish. Not only the best on the island but better than the version at Jamie's Italian in Portsmouth.

2010- This is not just a step back in time but a leap into another world. The small bar at Bonchurch Inn reeks of nostalgia. Pubs when pubs were real pubs - not family eateries. Old men sat around a crib table, ladies in felt hats with their glass of stout in an atmosphere that is dark, quite and restful. It's not really like that but you get my drift. The courtyard entrance tells a different tale of Provincial France, where an ancient stone walled alley leads to a hideaway known only to the locals.

The Inn is run by an Italian family steeped in tradition. A few basic dishes such as scampi and chips are available for those frightened of food. Then a typical Anglo/Italian menu with little embellishment, lists lasagne, spaghetti bolognaise, pasta carbonara, and pizza.

Actually, I don't like pizza (Posh something on toast) and I am not mad on pasta (just a bland floury vehicle for a sauce) But when I visit this often forgotten inn I love both.

The pizza at Bonchurch Inn is a must. The base is tender and freshly baked, not like the hard defrosted rubbish you get in most places and the tomato and cheese topping is intensely flavoured. Their pasta is light and deliciously prepared. They also serve and antipasti platter - great for sharing.

In the Winter cuddle up in the tiny bar and on a hot summers day chill out in the Courtyard. By the way beer comes from the barrel.

Where is it? - From Ventnor to Shanklin turn right towards Bonchurch pond. Drive slowly or you will miss it. it is on the right half way down the hill. If you get to the church you have gone to far.

Reef - Sandown

This is not the place to go if you are in a hurry. Whilst it is good to know freshly prepared food requires a wait I have found it difficult to comprehend as much a 50 minutes for a Sunday Roast - which was, when it arrived,  very good and ticked all the boxes - or 45 minutes for a delightful stuffed chicken breast dish and  a perfectly cooked haddock roulade, when maddish mum and I are the only people in the place. I can only deduce that the chef deals with one dish at a time and he works alone. Thankfully they have a flat screen to watch which helps to fill the time. Last year we were entertained by Laurel and Hardy. This year by a Father Christmas story, and in January a fun surfing video full of hunky men!!

It is just a shame about the wait and the lack of home made puddings.

Where is it? Sandown sea front





Dan's Kitchen- St Helens (HR)

"Best Restaurant" Award 2013

"Best Bistro Style" Award  2012

Formerly known as St Helen's Restaurant it lost its way when Mark gave it up but I am glad to say it is now back on track under the competent hands of Dan Maskell. He used to be head chef at the Royal. He has left his fine dining hat behind and now produces quality Bistro style food. Dishes are typical of the era slow cooked pork belly, duck liver parfait with chutney, fish and thrice cooked chips. My smoked haddock risotto was creamy and runny and full of flavour --I hate dry, overcooked risotto - and the tender duck breast with creamy cabbage and roasted chestnuts was fine and rustic. I have eaten there three times in three months which says it all. Sunday Roast - was very good, with the essential crispy roast potatoes and medium rare beef. Deserts are perfectly executed, like the lemon tart which had a lip-puckeringly tangy filling in a crisp pastry case.

Where is it? Park on the car park on the green. Walk across the Green in  the direction of Bembridge. It is on a corner, you can't miss it.

Burrs - Newport (R)

2010 - Still providing tasty well executed dishes. Scallops cooked to perfection; the sardines on toast starter, tasty and robust. For mains we had lamb with blackberry sauce that worked beautifully as a combination and a vegetarian risotto - tasty but we like our risotto to be wet. The raspberry meringues were crunchy, tangy and creamy. Burrs has been serving us good food for years and  years. Their consistency for all of this time is to be  highly recommended.

2009 -Normally, I visit an eatery on my own, although occasionally with a friend or maddish-mum. This means I have to judge an entire menu based on three dishes. Therefore I tend to choose dishes that are a true test, something with pastry, something that must not be overcooked such as fish, something that most cooks/chefs get wrong such as bread and butter pud or fruit crumble, something that is a classical dish such as Pheasant Normandy. This can be boring. So, when four of us descended upon Burrs this year I could choose my meal with gay abandon knowing that the others would choose differently. With four of us there was twelve  opportunities for something to go wrong. This is why I have given them our Best All Rounder award. Nothing did go wrong. Every dish was professed to be excellent, good and gorgeous. We ate, unctuous goats cheese tart, full bodied tasting pate with chutney, perfectly cooked Duck with sticky (proper reduction sauce). Fresh tasting Black bream with roasted peppers. Lovely puds were creamy cheesecake, Marmalade bread and butter, and crème brulée.

This little Bistro, once the Tap at the back of the Bugle Hotel - do any of you remember that? has great atmosphere. It reminds me of one of those back street Parisian cafes full of Gitane smoke and accordion music. The food at Burr's suits the surroundings.

Where is it? East side of Lugley Street

George Hotel Bistro - Yarmouth (R)

Despite a change of chef food is still good

"Best Sunday Lunch" Award 2010, 201, 2012

2009 - I can never understand why an evening meal in a "premiere" establishment is so much more expensive than their lunch. This is a common trait albeit inexplicable. There might be the odd freebie with the evening meal but apart from that the same ingredients are used. I have been told that it is because the head chef cooks in the evening where as at lunch time it is his protégés. Does this mean we are charged less because there may be errors in the meal? Perhaps so but is this acceptable for a fine dinning eatery or any eatery for that matter. It is a chef's folly to risk his reputation to the vagaries of the lunch time cook. A brave one too or possibly foolish. An eatery with a reputation for good cooking should be consistently good whether it is breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Interestingly I eat lunch a lot and so do a lot of other people. I conducted a mini survey that showed me dinners would frequent expensive places in the evening rather than lunch time if they weren't so expensive. Is this one of reasons that the Ladies that Lunch,  brigade has grown I wonder??

 The chef at the George seems to have settled into a successful routine of good cooking. A Birthday Sunday lunch in late October proved to be a masterpiece of finesse. Sunday Lunch was to put it mildly, fantastic. fantastic fish soup, fantastic home made bread, fantastic pork terrine, fantastic, roast beef, gravy, vegetables, brilliant Yorkshire, spectacular roast potatoes, gravy was state of the art as was the horseradish sauce. Puddings, poached pear  and star anis panacotta wobbled its way to the table and intense iced chocolate thingy with passion fruit sauce was a sublime balance of flavours.

Service was traditional, efficient and polite. We liked the new décor too.

Where is it? Yarmouth is so small you will find it on the right as you walk from the Square to the ferry

Locks Lane  - Bembridge (R)

When I hear one of my favourite songs about, sand dunes and salty air and quaint little villages here and there suddenly flat through the air, I begin to pray that the food will be good.

At last ( I make no apologies for sexism) a female chef making her way and putting her cooking skills on the line. We have had an overload of male chefs emulating the TV gang. Now here we have a young woman putting her own take on things. Her background is chalet catering so her influences will be eclectic to say the least.

Her watercress soup would send the Roux Brothers (my influence when I was a chef) reeling in ecstasy. Watercress soup is the most difficult soup to make if you want to get it right and involves a lot of sieving. Hers was perfect with her own added touch of a tiny amount of smoked haddock.

On another visit I had confit of duck leg with a little bowl of potatoes cooked in cream. I felt this dish although perfectly cooked needed a little something else - a sauce maybe. I just know that in time this little eatery will become small and very beautiful.

That's two female cooks in Bembridge making their mark - Bring it on

Where is it - In the village of Bembridge.

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Mojacs - Cowes (HR)

"Best Pudding of the Year" Award 2010 and 2011

2011/12. They still please my  taste buds with good honest flavours. In fact only today 6th January I noticed that they were open for lunch so I popped in for their open omelette topped with crispy bacon, creamy brie and served with pesto. I have to say it is the best thing I have eaten for a long, long time - oops, apart from my own Christmas Dinner which this year was Pheasant Normandy. Their meringue and raspberry pavlova is as good as ever.

2010 - last year I gave them the best pudding award and I am inclined to do the same this year for the same pudding and for the same reason. I will miss out all the superlatives and simply tell you that their soft raspberry meringue offers light sweetness, zingy sharpness and cool creaminess in every mouthful. The lemon tart at the Hambrough was a very close second but I like the robust goodness of Mojaco's pud. The lamb en crouté (posh lamb pie) was full of herby flavours, the duck in orange sauce while not being a true sauce Bigerade was light and zingy. My mate Dorene and I left stuffed and satisfied with good 80's style restaurant food

2009 - Mojac's is a bit of a dark horse. They quietly go about their business of serving extremely competent and tasty dishes. There is a hint of the 1980's restaurant food here. None of the Gordon Ramsey protein with salsa or Heston Blumenthal's  world of let's destroy a traditional dish. Mojac's is serving good honest restaurant food.

Where is it - Top of Shooters Hill Cowes


Royal Hotel - Ventnor (R)

"Best All Rounder" Award 2010, 2011, 2012

2011 - Two visits in on month  plus Sunday lunch earlier in the year can't be bad. We do love to eat in the entrance conservatory so in November Dorene and I  went for a late Birthday lunch. Dorene will soon be the Islands expert on pate - whatever flavour with home made chutney as predictably that is what she will order - she had no complaints with her little kilner jar |(current trend) of chicken parfait. My Gallybagger soufflé was perfectly light. The accompanying sauce a little too sweet. Dorene had and enjoyed the wild mushroom pasta and me the fried skate on a bed of linguine flavoured with crab, mussels, cream and tomato - well executed - but the skate was unnecessary.

Thrice cooked chips are also a current trend so we ordered a portion between us - good.

By the time we had eaten that there was only room for an intensely flavoured vanilla bean ice cream and a very tangy and delicious passion fruit sorbet.

We also decided to have our celebratory Christmas lunch three weeks later. Even better with wild mushroom soup for Dorene and light and fluffy blini with smoked salmon and crème fraiche. Followed by an extremely good and robust braised beef with creamed potato, mixed vegetables and a very sticky and rich reduction sauce. We nearest we got to pudding this time was a glimpse of the menu to see what we were missing

2010 - A constant favourite of mine and all of my friends who I take with me. Along with Goodman's, Chale Stores, The Taverners, the Red Lion, Freshwater and the Bonchurch Inn at we tend to frequent the Royal on a regular basis. I have been into Sunday lunches this year, dragging my maddish mum along with me - not that she objects, her love of eating out is as great as mine. We have eaten so many fab dishes at the Royal they all merge into one wondrous melting pot. Suffice it to say we long for our next return.

Where is it? Drive west along the Ventnor Esplanade up the steep hill, turn left and there you are

Farringford Garden Restaurant- Freshwater (R)

It is always good to support an eatery that shows promise and the chef at the Farringford is making good headway. No longer can we eat in the famous home of Lord Tennyson, the alternative is a smart garden room with pleasant atmosphere. Our meal was mostly highs with a few lows. The Roast sirloin was over done but the accompaniments were well done. The belly pork came as a huge slab of meat but the grain mustard sauce that accompanied it was delightful. The starter of spiced mackerel with horseradish potatoes was exceptionally good and the piccalilli that came with the  pork and ham  hock terrine was the best ever. This is a place to watch and encourage.

Where is it? West of Freshwater Bay towards Totland


Hambrough Hotel - Ventnor (HR)

"Best Fine Dining" Award 2010, 2011,2012

2011 - Fine Dining is not for everyone. It's a bit like telling someone to buy a Kandinsky painting when they'd really prefer a Constable.

Fine Dining is about showmanship, about a chef turning a range of ingredients  into a complex and complimentary collection of morsels and presenting them to the discerning diner. The best chefs manage to combine technique and flavour as one perfect and memorable melody. Of course the chef who chooses this style of cooking is really putting his neck on the line. Judgement is far more ruthless when only excellence is allowed.

You will pay a lot of money for not a lot of food.  You are ( or should be) paying for a culinary  experience that is like no other.

So, I was looking forward to my experience as was my jeweller friend Nina Bulley. Our meal began with a couple of freebie "sweeteners" which was  a strong reminder of my own days as a chef. The first was exceptional, savoury proffiterole filled with a light cream cheese and served warm,  followed by a mini foamy, delicately flavoured celeriac soup. 

I began my experience with a simple quail salad - quail pink and juicy - and Nina had a medley of seafood that looked very much like a rock pool and tasted delicately of the sea. My main was creamy textured and again pink, calves liver, just as it should be with whipped and light mashed potato and a few runner beans - I have to say that the way I prepare my runners is better. The gravy was  a light reduction of stock. Nina ordered the squid stuffed with a capsicum concoction and professed t to  be tasting delicious. Nina's brulée desert was silky smooth and my blueberry and white chocolate cheesecake was again delicately flavoured.

For a smoker delicate flavours can come across as bland, fortunately I do not smoke but I still like and expect intense flavours that excite the palate.  Apart from the squid and the proffiterole, everything was rather delicate.

Where is it? park on the sea front, walk up to the Winter Gardens and cross over the road. Turn left up the little lane and it is on your right overlooking the sea.

Priory Bay Hotel - Seaview (R)

End of 2011 brings yet another new chef. He happens to have flown over form the Hamborough so we should have high hopes. Maddish Mum and I went for Christmas Eve lunch. It was busy and warm-full with holiday guests adding to the atmosphere. Like the current Hambrough, flavours are on the delicate side. The partridge, chicken liver and pear terrine was succulent but overpowered by the accompanying chutney. I really liked the caper berry sauce with the warm salmon which came the size of a canapé. One tip though, it came with braised fennel which was a good match, except I was expecting a nice slice of whole fennel not the bit I would normally chop off and throw away. Again the mains of slow cooked pork and the Bouillabaisse took on delicate rather than robust flavours. The chocolate tort was in fact chocolate pie the accompanying cherry sorbet was excellent, full of depth and flavour. This is a chef worth encouraging and I look forward to him making his own statement on the food he offers.

2010 brings another new chef tries out his style at the Priory. The result is lots of plusses. The butternut squash risotto was perfection. Firm rice in a tasty kind of loose sauce - as it should be. The lamb  dish and the duck dish were full of flavour. All the dishes are home made and the vegetables from the kitchen garden. The crème brulée was also perfect. Unfortunately the overly ambitious apple dumplings with chocolate sauce didn't quite work out. - I would have preferred cool cream or ice-cream and smaller doughnuts.

I discovered that the new chef is Spanish which may explain the miniscule amount of vegetables.

The Pond Cafe - Bonchurch (R)

This is not a cafe but a restaurant. I like the venue and the cooking is more than competent but, what you get on the plate is rarely what is advertised on the menu. For instance I went with gourmet chum Dorene. To start, we ordered grilled mackerel on toast with olives, very nice but no olives. I ordered chicken liver salad with watercress and ciabbata. It came as Chicken livers on toast with no watercress and no dressing on the leaves that did turn up, it did not constitute a salad. One of the main courses was advertised as slow roast belly of pork with squid, it came with mussels. We decided not to risk pudding. previously I have ordered sticky toffee pudding with whisky sauce and what arrived was a dry piece of sponge with ice cream. I was told they had run out of Whisky sauce. I rarely make comments about price but this was double anywhere else apart from the Hamborough

Where is it? opposite the Pond at Bonchurch

Olivo - Newport (R)

2012 - Ditto

2011 - I have watched Olivo over the years and have enjoyed many dishes in the process. They normally excel at soups and puddings but I have also enjoyed their main courses. In fact this year I was fed my favourite fish dish of the year. Occasionally they get it wrong for instance Minestrones soup that wasn't, French onion soup that was oddly white and creamy albeit tasting delicious. I would give the confit of lamb a miss - they need to check their recipe, but apart from that I have enjoyed many of their  dishes.

I used to see this eatery as a cafe/bar and indeed it does serve sandwiches, wraps, pasta and pizza but the main dishes are definitely restaurant standard.

Earlier in the year  maddish Mum and me possibly joining her in the maddish stakes had a superb Sunday Lunch. Everything we had tasted good from to creamy smoked haddock soup to the potato galette with pesto, from the roast leg of lamb with fresh vegetables and good jus to the belly pork on a big pile of perfectly cooked spinach. We only had room left for one pudding to share, we had the special and special it was - poached pear, chocolate ice cream, baked ricotta lemon cake wit the poaches pear syrup. It was one of those made in heaven combinations.

I recommend that you stick to the pasta dishes, daily specials and puds.

Where is it? - St Thomas Square Newport.

Seaview Hotel Restaurant - Seaview (R)

I have mixed feelings about this place. Quality of cooking can be a bit up and down. Recently I went with my chum Dorene, we have been eating out together for over 30 years and have eaten in many of the Countries best. My a starter of lobster risotto topped with truffle foam was in fact, divine. A nice bit to the rice  and a loose wet texture - this is important as risotto will continue to cook and thicken as you are eating it. I thoroughly enjoyed my Confit of Duck leg which was full of flavour but the panna-cotta dessert was too firm - Chefs need to be brave and reduce the amount of gelatine if they want to achieve that silky smooth wobble.

Where is it - Seaview seafront

Little Gloster - Gurnard NEW (R)

Fantastic venue with huge picture windows, makes you feel almost light headed. Small menu of fresh ingredients. Good Homemade burger, Tasty smoked haddock soup, I would prefer mine to be more grownup,  rustic and chunky - but good nevertheless. Superb coffee.

Watch this space

Where is it? - Gurnard seafront, opposite the posh shanty town

Hillside Bistro - Ventnor (R)

Another new entry to the guide this year and one that shows real promise. Modern easy living deco with local, regularly changing well chosen, modern art on the wall (hope they can keep that up).

I like the atmosphere and the service is friendly and helpful. I have been three times this year, with maddish Mum for an excellent Sunday Lunch, with Dorene who had a good cut of lamb with pesto and well cooked vegetables while I had Hake in an unusual tarragon cream sauce served with fennel and asparagus. Both tarragon and fennel have a delicate annis flavour which goes well with the asparagus and amazingly well with the hake which was cooked to perfection. An intelligent marriage of flavours.

Dessert menu like the rest is short. We shared a simple, not overly sweet dessert of poached peach with raspberry sauce and vanilla ice cream. It sounds easy but you would be surprised how easy it it to get this simple dish so very wrong.

Where is it - Ventnor, in the town, on the right, as you drive down towards the sea front





Why do some eateries refuse to take credit/debit cards if a customer spends less than £5 in some cases £10. It's is a kind of punishment for not spending enough. In some cases they even make a profit on this customer by making a surcharge of £1.00. When all cards are based on around 1.5 %- 2% interest The charge say on a cup of coffee of £2.25 of a pound is a bit steep. I very rarely have cash on me so often where I eat lunch is dependent upon who will fine me for not spending enough. With an increasing number of solo diners it's about time these places reassessed their customer service policy.

NB. I have frequently walked out of a place after ordering soup and being told that instead of £4.25 it will cost me £5.25 if I pay by card - so, they lost a customer

Padmore Lodge, Beatrice Avenue, East Cowes, Isle of Wight, PO32 6LP