Dan's Kitchen- St Helens (HR) PC
"Best Restaurant" Award 2013
"Best Bistro Style" Award 2012
I really like consistency. There is nothing more
disappointing than having a great meal one week then taking your friends
back, having raved about it, only to find standards have dropped, chef has
changed, the menu is significantly different. No such thing happens in Dan
Maskell's kitchen. A dish this year of Roast Partridge with boudon noir was
beautifully prepared and came with perfectly cooked vegetables, excellent
black pudding (not the supermarket variety) and the rich sauce reduction.
Dan tries the odd unusual thing which I applaud but not always successful
such as the cold tomato soup with avocado sorbet. Both were good in their
own right but it was a disjointed marriage. I used to make a hugely popular
chilled tomatoes and red capsicum soup Recipe below. when I had my
restaurant. The trick was that it had to be ice, ice cold, very fresh and
I asked him If I could mix up his puddings so that I
ended up with soft wobbly ginger jelly with Rhubarb sorbet. This is an
obvious and well tried combination and it was a joy to eat. But not for long
because the ration was far too small. I like my puds to last more than two
mouth-fulls. Small portions are fin e if it is a taster menu.
Chilled tomato and red
1 kilo sun-ripened tomatoes
2 red capsicums (halved and
2 large onions
2 cloves garlic
1 hpd tspn marigold
Small carton of tomato
juice ( pour the juice into an ice cube tray and freeze)
1 beef tomato
1 small ripe avocado pear
Roughly cut up the onion, tomatoes, capsicum and
garlic. Scoop into a
saucepan and add 1 ltre cold water and the stock.
Bring to almost a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until all the ingredients
and really soft and squidgy.
Liquidise this mixture and pass through a mouli sieve
to remove seeds and skin. Put in a container and chill.
Make the garnish no more than I hour before serving
other wise the avocado with “tarnish”
Peel and deseed the cucumber. Peel and de-seed the
tomato. Remove avocado from its skin. Dice these three ingredients in to
tiny confetti dice and mix together.
To serve. Add the tomato juice to the iced soup
mixture. If too thick add some iced water. Ladel into soup plates or bowls.
Put a spoon of the garnish in the centre. Put 2 or 3 tomato ice cubes around
the bowl and drizzle over some super delicious olive oil. Serve and return
Tel: 01983 872303
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) PC
The food at Burr's suits the surroundings. Is it coincidence that
most of the Island’s best chefs and cooks work in eateries with good atmosphere and setting, be it the décor or the situation. For example, Dan’s Kitchen, Locks Lane,
Shed, The Hut, Beach Hut, Crab Shack, Garden Restaurant, The Bistro, Sarah’s House, and Burs. Are they inspired to produce good food to compliment the venue or are
their surroundings a protraction of their own personality. Burrs is intimate and very French in style. On the menu was skate with butter sauce. I love skate with
beurre blanc and capers but lately I have been cautious. Skate if not super fresh develops an extremely unpleasant taste and smell of ammonia. Burrs version was
competently cooked and tasted fresh. Before that I had the scallops with sweet chilli sauce. Scallops are difficult to cook and timing is of the essence – it is more
a case of setting the protein rather than cooking it. Chef Matt Burr’s timing was immaculate. The raspberry meringue to follow was very nice indeed. Matt has been
running Burrs for getting on for 16 years and added he is not. Food is as good now as it ever was.]
Avoid the table by the door
on a winters night you will be blasted with ice cold air every time the door
Where is it?
East side of Lugley Street 01983 825470
Yarbridge Inn - Sandown
This used to be a pub but it now definitely a
restaurant. I went with the Foody Four. That is me and three other girls who
like to eat good food.
The eating area is small and you are kind of sitting
on top of one another. The food was of a traditional restaurant standard.
i.e good things to eat without the pretensions of fine dining. Duck with
orange sauce, Cottage pie, fillet of beef medallions.,
This is clearly a family run eatery all working
together for the common good.
If someone can come up with something between Pub food
and fine dining they will be ontp a winner I am sure. Dinning Pubs are close
but I am really talking about a restaurant that is in a good venue, is
comfortable, pleasant, attentive, restaurant service with a smile.
Where is it? - At the traffic light
junction to Bembridge and Arreton
NOTE to Diners. Chefs come and go quite a lot on the Island. Which is a shame because an eatery is only as good as its chef. Often
proprietor/chef eateries are a more reliable option. Look out for the PC letters next to a review.
Back to top
Mojacs - Cowes (HR)
"Best Restaurant" Award 2015 and 2014
"Best Pudding of the Year" Award 2014
"Best Pudding of the Year" Award 2010 and
Basically I have never eaten a single thing at Mojacs
that I have not enjoyed. This is not a chef that caters for fashion. He
knows what tastes good, he knows how to cook it. I guess he eats his own
like about chef Mark Baldwin’s cuisine is that it is grounded. Sound
unpretentious dishes that consider what the diner would enjoy eating. The
melt in the mouth pork belly was served with a little pork fillet, I have
also eaten Duck breast that came with confit of duck leg. The confit was
similar to a dish I had in France some years ago. It was all beautifully
cooked and served with a perfect sauce reduction.
I had to have my
favourite pudding which was raspberry meringue this and the tiramisu at the
Bonchurch Inn are still my top Island eatery puddings. Interestingly, this
year, I have noticed several other eateries putting raspberry meringue on
their menu. None of which have been a patch on Mojacs. Marks is a meringue
like no other - on the Island.
Mark has been the
chef/proprietor of Mojacs for over 15 years and jaded he is not. The years
have have shown that the more you do the better you get.
Where is it?
- Top of Shooters Hill Cowes Tel: 01983 281118
Royal Hotel - Ventnor
They are definitely back on track. Their menu is small
and relatively safe apart from the chef’s obsession with.soufflés. On the
starters there is a Gallybagger soufflé. I have had it with a cheeses sauce
delicious and on another occasion with a cauliflower puree. The former being
superior. Then there is the pudding course. I have had an amazing,
fantastic, raspberry soufflé with intense raspberry sorbet and recently a
great, tangy cranberry soufflé with pistachio ice-cream and gingerbread
sauce. Although tasting good the pistachio ice cream and gingerbread sauce
did not marry well with the soufflé. Maybe an orange sorbet would have been
a better accompaniment. What is so good about these soufflés is that they
don’t taste eggy and I reckon there is more egg white than egg yolk in them.
Years ago I used to make a hot apple soufflé that I
turned out of the mould before serving and accompanied it with a blackberry
sauce. It had no egg yolk in it at all and never failed.
The menu doesn’t change that often and we the Foodie
Five were offered virtually the same choice in December as we were offered
in October. In October I had the Belly of Pork (what ever happened to pork
fillet and pork loin). Ok so they are more difficult to cook than re-heated
belly but I think it’s time to move on or perhaps back to the future. Anyway
it was delicious. I also had a pigeon kebab with a parsnip puree. It was so
good that we decided to book up for our Christmas do.
A few days later I was there again for a wedding
anniversary meal. Cauliflower soup with a seafood cream and lightly diced
scallops – fab. Followed by the best Roast beef meal I have had in years.
Beef good and medium rare, a small piece of braised brisket, crispy roast
potatoes, a great selection of vegetables and good flavoured gravy. In
contrast the meal was rustic compared to the delicacy of the evening food.
The dessert was a deconstructed trifle. I am not a great fan of
de-constructions they are normally a disaster with the body of the dishes
flavour lost in the scatterings. This again did not taste of trifle.
Nevertheless, as a dessert it was superb particularly the jelly. A plate of
the jelly with fresh fruit and cream would have been spectacular. There is a
saying “Keep it simple stupid” and all the best eateries do.
Where is it? Drive west along the
Ventnor Esplanade up the steep hill, turn left and there you are
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
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
That's two female cooks in
Bembridge making their mark - Bring it on.
Where is it - In the village of
Thompsons - Newport (HR)
TOP 5 2015/16
For those of you that don’t already know this, fine
dining is not about going out for a meal it more of a theatrical experience.
Many years ago I ate at the Sharrow Bay Hotel in Cumbria when Francis
Coulson was at the helm. At the end of the meal the chefs paraded out of the
kitchen into the dining room to take a bow. Thompson is not so pretentious
but the food is of the sort that warrants it.
I went for lunch on my birthday. So it was a special
occasion meal which is what it will be for most people. As you walk in it
has a bistro rather restaurant atmosphere. All hard surfaces with a buzzy
The food was without doubt good. My starter of wild
mushroom risotto was bordering on perfect Italiano. The Cauliflower velouté
with some sort of foam was indeed brilliant with the true flavour of
cauliflower and stock to the fore. We both went for the venison with
oysters, a few leaves and a driddle of red wine reduction . The trouble with
fine dining is you never get enough of the stuff (sauce) that brings the
dish together. Part of the joy of eating is to be able to savour the food.
With taste buds seperated between sweet and salt on different sides of the
tongue and things on the plate the size of a sixpence much of this joy is
going to be missed. Thompson mostly avoids this issue and if a reduction is
sticky and intense you don’t mind the minute quantity. I would have liked
mine a little stickier. The venison was cooked to total perfection, the
oyster were warmed just enough to set the protein.. The venison was the most
expensive dish on the menu with indeed the most expensive ingredients used ,
but I felt it was lacking things like game chips or a little potato fondant
or a small spoon of braised savoy cabbage or perhaps a puree of celeriac. It
would only have cost Robert a few pence more and would have given the dish
substance. I am of course nit-picking.
My chum had the rum baba dessert which was somewhat
“off piste”.In that it was a rather generous rustic concoction served with a
flourish. A reasonably sized sweet savarin bun arrived on a bed of citrus
fruit segments. The waiter then cut the bun almost in half and piped cream
down the cut. He then poured white rum all over it. It was wow. I asked for
ice cream. Two tiny quennells, one of which was bee pollen flavoured a sort
of tangy honey taste and was indeed nectar of the gods
I worry for Robert. He has passion and ambition. I
only hope there are enough Island residents and visitors willing to
regularly pay his prices. Lunch is cheaper with a less sophisticated menu.
Where is it? -
Olivo - Newport (R)
The menu has changed and
it is smaller. What I like about Olivio is there is always a generous number
of waiting staff who are there to serve with a smile and are not hiding in
the kitchen. My Christmas lunch with Jeweller Nina Bully was so tasty
neither of us offered a taste of each others. I ordered the calves liver
with mash and crispy pancetta. It was divine. The sauce to die for. Nina had
a similar view about the chicken skewers she ordered. I frequently pop into
Olivo for a soup. They know how to make soup taste good.
Where is it? -
St Thomas Square Newport.
Bistro - Ventnor (R)
Ownership has changed but the chef hasn't.
This is excellent news. Him and his wife are now working extended hours to
make their eatery work. Breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner. I popped in for a
pudding and coffee while shopping. Glazed soft meringue with forest fruit
compote and creme anglaise. the compote was more of a sweet conserve than a
compote. The meringue was just how I like it and the creme anglaise light
and fresh. I will be reporting on lunch very shortly.
Where is it - Top of Pier Street,
Ventnor. Tel: 01983 853334
Little Gloster - Gurnard
What makes a gourmet burger? Is it the quality of the
bun, the freshness of the salad, the juicy beef patty that has not been
cooked to death but has a nice char grill flavour. Is it the variety of
tomato, the dill pickle. Is it dressed with bought in or home-made mayo and
American mustard. Is the bun toasted or soggy. Are the accompanying chips
skinny, thick, bought in or home-made. Or is it just the fact you are being
charged more for less. The problem with skinny fries is they go cold quick
and it is a French concept as is the brioche bun. In a desperate attempt to
justify the high cost of a gourmet burger it is has to be de-Americanised
and Frenchified. I also think it is an attempt to attract off the street
punters into what is essentially a high end restaurant, or is it the
recognition that having money does not guarantee good taste so giv-em a
The Little Gloster has a little menu selection. I like
this. Large menu choices fill me with dread. How long has the food been
hanging around? is it pre- made, frozen then re-heated? Is the eatery so
busy that there is a quick turnover of food so a large menu of fresh food
can be carried?
The disadvantage of a small
menu is choice is limited (not a problem I suffer) so you need to like most
things or be prepared to try something new. A slight downside is that their
small menu rarely changes.
is it? - Gurnard seafront, opposite the posh shanty town
Off the Rails - Yarmouth (HR)
TOP 5 FOR 2016/17
I like this eatery, mostly for the venue - opposite a
nature reserve, but the food is pretty good too. I always pop in on a casual
basis just for coffee, a snack or to meet up with a chum for lunch and a
catch up. It’s that sort of place. I normally park on the edge of Yarmouth
and walk along the path past the wetlands, binoculars in hand. Last time I
spied a family of teal. The time before bar tailed Godwits.
Their new menus sported the favourites, burgers and
ciabattas but I went for the chilli beans with rice and soured cream. The
flavour was fulsome and moreish. I would have enjoyed a fractionally larger
portion; it certainly left me wanting more. I have also, this year, enjoyed
their properly cooked risotto, the Luggage burger and soup, but the pièce de
resistance was their new dessert. So good I went back two weeks later for
more. A glass tower, three crystal clear layers, each one filled with some
lusciousness. The bottom larger layer was filled with poached plums in some
sort of almond alcohol, the next contained a raspberry sorbet on a puddle of
mango puree and the top layer was pooled with intensely flavoured purees,
mango and raspberry with something tangy and sharp and garnished with a sort
of minty crumb. This has got to be this year’s best dessert. Although that
is not to say the Mojacs’ raspberry meringue and Bonchurch Inn’s Tiramisu
are rated any less.
01983 761 600
Where is it - off the beaten track at
the former railway station
Beach Hut -Bembridge (HR)
TOP 5 for 2015/16
Best of the Best Award 2013/14
Emma and Jon took a back seat this year due to the
arrival of her first baby – congratulations both. It is a brave person that
passes their well-earned reputation into the hands of others. Emma had
nothing to fear. Her back-up did not let her down. In fact we didn't notice
any difference in the quality of the food.. Emma specialises in
freshness. Her food is alive and effervescent just like her. Her staff
clearly love her are proud of her food and it shows in their service. Dishes
are mostly seasonal seafood. I am only sad that she cannot find the time
make her own puddings. Even if it is only a couple well executed creations.
I used to serve a fresh fruit salad in half a scooped out charentais melon
topped with meringue and grilled. Simple and delicious.
See last years review for more information
Skin Trade - Newport (R)
Some eateries have a certain charm that captures the
imagination. This tiny eatery accessed up Dickensian staircase emerges into
a sunny, slightly retro 50’s room. Even the music is nostalgia ridden.
Food is simple, jacket, ciabatta or wrap with choice
of interesting fillings. Soup of Day (SOD as they say in the Antipodes).
Cakes are homemade on the Island – whatever that means - and extremely good.
Definitely of the home-made species. At least three are gluten free and one
vegan. I particularly enjoyed (on different occasions) lime and coconut and
spicy orange and walnut). Coffee has a good smooth flavour.
Gluten free is so “in” there will come a time when
“GF” won’t have to be advertised. They taste as good if not better than
wheat based cakes. The same can’t be said for GF breads that are on offer in
the Supermarkets. It is getting better, but there is still room for
Where is it?- St Thomas Square, Newport. Above the fashion shop
Deli on the Green
Polish chef Peter Kwaitkowsvi.has become a
Going back to the scotch eggs, the sausage meat has
a herby Mediterranean flavour and, this is so exciting for me, The yolk of
the egg is still runny. And going against British tradition they are served
The Cow Co - Tapnell Farm
Hands up if you can remember Hard Times in Shanklin?
It was the Island’s answer to the then ground breaking Hard Rock Cafe in
London. It was the gourmet answer to the Burger with traditional sesame bun
and hash browns.
Posh burgers have been back for quite a few years
namely in restaurants trying to appeal to the common man (that’s me by the
way) and pubs trying to add value. Cow Co specialises in beef. The clue’s in
the name. The menu is small – tick. They use local beef – tick, Service is
excellent – tick. (I arrived seconds after they had taken an order from a
table of 20. But they got me in quick and delivered my burger pronto so that
I didn’t have to wait while the big table was cooked for. When you
specialise in burgers at a price they need to be good. The smoky one that I
ordered had masses of potential. It came with the now trendy brioche bun –
un-toasted - no tick, the dill pickle mayonnaise was inspired and delicious
the meat patty was the thickness of two thin ones stuck together. The whole
stack would have been delicious but for one thing. I guess the chef had
thought ahead- knowing there was a large table booked.Tthe burgers had been
cooked in advance and put in an warmer. So, rather than being freshly cooked
and juicy the patty was on the dry side. I forgive them this if was a
temporary solution for an unusually busy situation. As I said at the
beginning it was potentially a great burger. My crème brulee was very good
and was served with a buttery shortbread and red berry compote that as more
like a conserve, Its flavour was lifted with the touch of cinnamon. A
compote which is more like a fruit stew would have been better, conserve is
They have only been open for 6 months so it is early
days and they have made a good start. The restaurant has been well designed,
modern rustic barn set up with great views over the Solent.
Where is it?
Off the central road towards the West Wight
Mess - Canteen and Bar
- Cowes (R)
The menu sections are prefixed with the word Messy, and messy it is. The
interior is shabby, shabby chic complete with "Design Challenge"
ideas. Dark and mysterious. Possibly the quirkiest place on the Island. The
lists of things they sell are squashed onto blackboards. Big on breakfast
dishes, burgers and then there are a few specials. No puds, not even a tub
of ice-cream. Apparently the kitchen is too small. My pot chicken pie was
superb in flavour, herby, creamy with masses of black pepper. I didn't get
the pot pie bit. By and large it was a chicken casserole on a soup plate
topped with a pre-cooked circle of puff pastry, accompanied with a potato
cake. My only criticism was the plate it was served on was stone cold.
On a previous
visit I had a very nice Eggs Benedict with rosemary fries (posh ham egg and
Where is it? 63 High Street, Cowes
Back to top
NOTE to Diners. Chefs come and go quite a lot on the Island. Which is a
shame because an eatery is only as good as its chef. Often proprietor/chef
eateries are a more reliable option. Look out for the
PC letters next to a
Another note -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.
Old Smithy - Godshill (HR) after 20
years at the helm making it her own you could say
TOP 5 FOR 2016/17
TOP 5 FOR 2015/16
"Best Cafe" Award Award
2011" 2013/14" and 2014/15
catering for the masses with a car park full of coaches it amazes me how
Jacky manages in a small kitchen with very little help. But she does. She is
a rare caterer and if she ever retires I can see no replacement on the
Jacky King has
been in charge of the kitchen for over 20 years. Her style is good home
cooking and top notch baking. This is not a trendy venue - there is no fancy
food but what she does she does very well indeed - with very little help.
Talk about a woman multi -tasking.
She gives us
the most consistent cafe on the Island and I probably go there more than
I wrote the
review below 4 years ago and nothing has changed - that's consistency for
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
Chessell Pottery Barn
- Chessell (HR)
Best Cream tea award for several years now. classed as a
The cook - who used to work at the Royal Hotel is
certainly putting her mark on the place. The display of cakes makes you want
to buy something. She keeps it simple but good. I particularly liked the
summer fruit scones. Everything is super fresh and any left over scones are
sold in bags the next day for people to take home and toast.
They have now opened an excellent coffee shop in
Yarmouth. More on that later.
the best cream tea 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.
serve simple savoury dishes such as soup and local cheese ploughman's.
Where is it?
On the middle road to Freshwater just past Calbourne
The Winter Gardens - Ventnor
Travelling through a chequered history of
concessions, town council run, then concessions it is now run by the group
that owns the Pond and the Hambrough. The view from this venue is panoramic
and worth a beer or coffee just for that. The chef currently in place is
enthusiastic and likes rustic dishes. I have enjoyed large opne caped
mushrooms stuffed with peppers and baked with salad and most recently ham
hock terrine with a very good broccoli piccallili relish and toasted brioche
bread. The eatery shows promise.
I used to make a ham and
parsley terrine and served it with salsa Verdi. Recipe
In a pan
put ham, peeled onion/s, couple of cloves, 4 cloves of garlic, bay leaf and
large bottle of cider. Bring to the boil, skim the scum off the surface.
Lower the heat and simmer until the ham falls apart. Strain the ham through
a sieve reserving the liquid. Make the liquid up to ½ litre with water. Put
this liquid in a saucepan with eggshell and egg white. Whisk to make a foamy
egg white filter. Bring the liquid slowly to the boil then reduce the heat
and gently simmer until the liquid is clear. Strain through muslin and while
still hot melt in a leaf of gelatine.
Mash the warm ham with a fork.
Finely chop a bunch of parsley.
In a terrine layer the ham with the
chopped parsley and scatter with a few green peppercorns in brine. Pour the
liquid over the ham and put to set.
blender put, bunch of parsley, a tablespoon of capers, 4 anchovy fillets and
2 tbls of good olive oil. Blend to a puree. Serve with a slice of Ham
Bread - Cowes (R)
A new entry
to this guide and a new concept for the Isle of Wight.
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
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
a touch of refurb' this tiny eatery now offer evening meals. I am not mad
about eating out at night time in the Winter but as soon as Spring, springs
I shall be there. In the meantime lunches are excellent particularly the
risotto so I have no doubt whatsoever that evening grub will be great.
It is difficult
to know how a place will turn out. When Adam and his business partner took
over what was originally a deli the locals were probably wondering what to
expect. Adam (a hidden talent) had already won himself a well deserved
reputation for good cooking in Ventnor but how was he going to deliver that
in such cramped premises. Well in actual fact he didn't try. He looked at
what was available and turned Trameziini in to a kind of cult sandwich bar.
Customers are largely whacky (I am using the originals meaning of that word
before it came to mean something else!). All ages from 0.7 to 70 years old
frequent the place and if you look at them you can be sure they have an
interesting story to tell. I have come to know Adam, it is great to engage
with someone who understands proper cooking. So, when I tell him he is
underselling himself when he calls his divine little savoury tarts quiche he
argues back. "Well that is what they are, quiche. Crisp pastry case with a
creamy eggy custard filling enhanced with magical flavours" (Recently
olives, fennel, black mustard seeds, tomato and other delights inside a
delicious pastry case).
"Yes I know
Adam but the general public associate the word quiche with soggy, fatty
pastry and overcooked bland flavoured custard with a scattering of broccoli
or leeks or something".
"But Angela I
am showing my customers what a real quiche should be like besides they are
used to me calling it quiche".
How can I argue
that when it is what the WGFG is all about.
Coffee is served here
By the way they
do outside catering and provide amazing canapes
Where is it? Ventnor High street,
heading towards Shanklin and on the right.
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
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.
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 brûlée 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)
Simplicity always works providing the ingredients are well chosen and of top
quality. Small menus always work and means specials really are specials and
not an attempt t get rid of yesterday’s left overs. The Crab Shack serves
the best green salad anywhere on the Island. It is dressed delicately the
leaves are fresh and juicy not prickly with rocket and it is lifted with a
few circles of wafer thin red onion. It accompanies super fresh fish
(usually mackerel) and seafood (lobster and crab) and crab pasties. No puds
just ice cream and excellent homemade Victoria sandwich. One of my favourite
places. I often walk to Steephill Cove from Ventnor car park. I’m ready for
my lunch by the time I get there.
Read last years review for more...
Cove - Steephill Cove
A small café in Steephill Cove serving nothing more
than ice cream, cake and coffee. So if you don’t want Victoria Sponge pop
along to Cove for coffee and cake or vanilla ice-cream and coffee
The Beach Shack formerly Devonia
Kiosk - Sandown
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
extended their "specials menu as a result of the success of their crab cakes
have they extended their specials they have extended their seating area into
a holiday-mode seafront cafe . Great place to sit on rainy days watching
the waves lashing the beach
should do themselves a favour and pop along there on a sunny winters day for
a warming special.
it? The first kiosk at the
beginning of the walk along the revetment to Shanklin.
Quarr Abbey Tea Shop (R)
I am amazed they manage consistency. Since opening
there has been many changes of chef yet the food remains consistently good.
The menu is a boring read, paninis, ciabattas, soup, a few specials. But the
cooking and presentation raises it the food to a higher level. They buy in
their cakes but they are very good. I particularly like the chewy lemon bar
and the special Quarr cake which is like a simnel cake. Soups are hearty
and flavoursome. I refuse the bread so they give me a few chips instead.
This winter I had the baked camembert with a dressed side salad and again
with French fries instead of bread – a very posh sort of cheesy chips.
The waitress service has gone much to my relief
Please read previous reviews for more...
Where is it - In the grounds of Quarr Abbey which is between Wootton and
Cooking tip - Beef burgers cooked rare or medium
rare should be put into an oven (150-80c) to warm through. The length of
time depends upon the thickness but generally peaking a home made burger
will be thicker than a bought in one and its edges will be curved rather
than straight. Then remove from the oven and cooked on a hot heat either in
a pan, clean griddle - that has no residual black bits - or under a hot
Wax Works Cafe - Brading (R)
We all love sunshine. It
lifts the spirits no end and this eatery is well positioned to get the sun
for most of the day.
Some of you may remember the
Wax Works Museum where you waked in a spooky, crooked path around the
building viewing the works. Now ti is opened out and I found it difficult to
place where everything used to be. The atmosphere no longer has spooks and
today it is warm and welcoming.
The menu is short - a good
sign. I also like a short menu because I am the worlds worst at choosing
what I want to eat. Unfortunately I liked just about everything on the menu
so back to square one. In the end I chose grilled gammon with buttery
spinach and potato mash, mustard sauce and a poached egg. The pyramid
arrived and it looked immensely edible. The poached egg was perfectly
cooked, the gammon was moist and not salty, the spinach buttery, the mustard
sauce wasn't "flaky", the mash could have been creamier and fluffier
but overall an very pleasant dish. My pudding of mango and passion fruit
pavlova had masses of potential , beautifully presented, loosely whipped
cream and delicious slightly cooked fruits, but the meringue was too chewy
and difficult to eat. (This normally happens when the meringue has been
cooked too quickly and has not been allowed to dry out in the centre.) I
like a tiny bit of chewiness in the centre but not for the entire meringue
to be chewy. it might be a simple case of getting to know your oven.
Huh ho, they have risotto on
the menu!! As well as other nice things that I want to try so I will be back
Where it is - Brading High Street,
where the wax work museum used to be. Pay Car Park near by and if you spend
over £5 you get the parking fee back.
The Red Lion - Freshwater (HR)
TOP 5 2016/17
It returns after a couple of years in the doldrums as
a new chef enlivens this eatery. The funky, misspelled menu has gone. The
interior however remains the same. The one major change is that it wants to
be a restaurant and not a pub. But it can’t make up its mind whether to
offer table service or bar ordering service. I think the eatery prefers the
former but the staff are not fully trained to be constantly on the alert.
So, the food. My bet noir regarding risotto was
assuaged. I had the tomato and chorizo (fusion?) it was perfectly cooked,
rice firm and overall a loose, creamy, texture with an abundance of flavour.
Risotto can be boring so flavour has to be nothing less than moreish.
On a later visit I thoroughly enjoyed the pan fried
seabass with a giant crab cake and a wonderful tomato, caper and tarragon
sauce. The reputation of an eatery can be destroyed in one fell swoop on a
head chef’s day off if the second chef is not properly trained. Head chef
Dan Mitchel need not worry his second in command did him justice. I am
looking forward to a return visit.
Taverner's - Godshill
Best Pub award 2014/15 and 2013/14
"Best Pub" Award 2013 and 2012
These days wherever you go menus are totally
predictable, gourmet burger, slow cooked pork belly (reheated yuk), crab
cakes, cod with chorizo, goats cheese with beetroot, sticky toffee,
panacotta, brownie and so on. Whilst this is more acceptable in a pub than
in a restaurant
I expect a higher level of creativity as well as first
class cooking in a restaurant.
What makes The Taverner’s exceptional is that Chef
Roger does offer the odd run of the Mill dish (oddly he no, longer makes his
own burgers but buys in local lamb burgers) the majority of his menu
consists of eclectic dishes. Yeh! why waste your time on moulding a burger
when there is so much more to be created in the kitchen. Indeed all the so
called gourmet burgers that I have eaten this year are only better by a very
narrow margin. The Brawn who has got fed up of eating out with me recently
told me that he prefers a thin rather that fat home made burger because the
beef is browned/charred over a greater area and therefore more tasty. I
think he has a point.
Roger subscribes to an Australian Gourmet magazine and
leaves them lying around for obsessed people like me to read while I am
eating one of his creations. You always know a good chef/cook when they say
I read a cookery book like it is a novel. It suspect Roger does just that.
I remember that when I ran my restaurant foody
magazines were far more sophisticated than the publications of today which
have dumbed down.
He is a lateral thinker. For
instance, he won't serve run of the mill food like cheesy 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
His Christmas pudding cheesecake
was interesting, I loved it and had one very similar at the New Inn, They
called theirs mince pie cheese cake which came with chocolate flakes, a
choclolate whirly wafer and ice cream
Where is it? At the Newport side of
in an Island Pub
"I'm sorry we haven't got
Chardonnay, the nearest we have to that is a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc"!!!
Ocean Deck - Sandown
It probably doesn’t matter what I have to say about the
Ocean Deck. They are in one of the busiest holiday resorts on the island and
are no doubt rushed off their feet and make a buck or two. But I would just
like to say how nice it is that Sandown now has another eatery that is
worthy of a mention in this guide. I went with a friend who also likes nice
food and we had a fantastic cottage pie. The mash was smooth and creamy and
the mince layer was rich, meaty and not hidden under a blanket of overblown
gravy. One of the best cottage pies I have had in years. I went back a week
later and had the pan fried sea bream on a bed of seafood risotto. The bream
was nicely cooked and the risotto very tasty albeit it on the stodgy side.
A risotto should be slightly soup like and the rice
cooked through but still with some bite. Too many eateries pre-cook risotto
and re-heat it. It is bound to become stodgy.
I have big issues with risotto and I have begun to
order it wherever I go on a quest for the chef/cook who knows how to make
it. At another eatery that I went to I was served risotto that tasted of
vinegar. I asked the chef if he had put vinegar in it. He looked at me as if
I was nuts - of course not he was thinking. Then he told me he had added
sweet pickled onions. This chef was totally unaware that sweet pickled
anything has vinegar in it.
If you are going to make risotto you have to have the
time to pay it constant undying attention. Measurement are generally
imprecise and it is literally a play-it-by-ear - so to speak dish. Soften
finely chopped onions in olive oil. Add the Arborio rice and gently and
briefly fry in the oil then slowly add the stock and if using, white wine,
stirring constantly like you would a fresh egg custard, add more liquid as
required until the rice is just cooked and the dish is like a thick soup.
Stir in cream or parmesan for a creamy texture and serve immediately.
Where is it - Sandown seafront
Hotel Pub (R)
I prefer to eat in the
Hotel’s pub, it has more atmosphere. I began with goats cheese salad with
beetroot. It is currently all the rage to marry goats cheese with beetroot.
I cannot really say it is the best of marriages and a divorce wouldn’t
go amiss. I can think of many better liaison such as, medjool dates, ripe
pears, leeks, My confit of Duck leg with a cassoulet of butter beans was
extremely tasty with good rustic flavours. The crème brûlée was as it should
be creamy custard with light crisp burnt sugar toping the rhubarb compote
was an excellent addition.
A recent February 2015 pub meal
in the West Wight consisted of overcooked haddock with the scales still on
it. Stodgy crab and pea risotto. A prawn and crab cocktail with one lettuce
leaf three spots of "from the bottle" prawn cocktail sauce no bigger than a
pound coin each topped with half a cherry tomato and two tiny bits of crusty
bread. My ice cream had virtually melted by the time it got to the table and
the waiter did not know a) what the pie of the day was, b) what flavour the
soup of the day was or c) what flavour of the cheesecake was. His excuse was
he had just had a baby and it was his first day back to work
Bonchurch Inn - Bonchurch
TOP 5 2016/17
TOP 5 2015/16
"Best Pudding of the Year" Award 2014
"Best Pud" Award 2012 now classed a "Little Gem"
What I like about the Bonchurch Inn is that they have a
concept and stick to it. They are not influenced by trends and the latest
fashion food. They do what they do (Italian inspired cooking) and they do it
well. The menu is small, pasta (gluten free available), stone baked pizza ad
It has changed little over the years. Dark inside with
scrubbed floors like a back street Italian bistro. This is its charm. There
is a walled courtyard which is the cool an a great place to be on a baking
summer’s day. In winter you will find locals huddled around the fire, kegs
of beer and ladle loads of nostalgia. It is an Inn for grownups prepared to
accept what is on offer.
I had the meatballs with pasta and they were so
robustly good I returned a couple of weeks later in the hope they were still
on the menu. I was in luck. My last visit was for crab and prawn risotto.
The staff apologised for the delay as it was cooked to order. This explains
why it was so good in texture and flavour. Of course I finished with their
wonderful Tiramisu which is ten times better than the version sold at
Jamie’s in Portsmouth.
There are rules. If you sit in the bar area you will
be asked to move, this area is reserved for their regular locals of which
there are many and they like to show their appreciation. The kitchen is
across the courtyard so if you go when it is raining your meal might arrive
wet. You have got to like quirky.
It a hidden gem. Parking is limited and it is tiny
inside. More seating outside in the Summer. But as they say small is
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.