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. Ladle 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.
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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