Little Gems





A  seven day eating holiday on the Isle of Wight

2013/14 reviews

2012/13 reviews


PC means proprietor/chef


Old reviews 2014 Reviews

Dan's Kitchen- St Helens (HR) PC

"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. Tel: 01983 872303

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.

Where is it? East side of Lugley Street 01983 825470

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.

George Hotel Bistro - Yarmouth (R)

Despite a change of chef food is still good


Where is it? Yarmouth is so small you will find it on the right as you walk from the Square to the ferry Tel: 01983 760331

Locks Lane  - Bembridge (R) PC

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) PC

"Best Restaurant" Award 2014

Joint "Best Pudding of the Year" Award 2014

"Best Pudding of the Year" Award 2010 and 2011

What I 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 (R)

"Best All Rounder" Award 2010, 2011, 2012

There is a choice of three places to eat in at the Royal. The formal dinning room, the conservatory, my favourite , and the bar, second favourite.  The conservatory was full so I went into the bar. I ordered from the set lunch menu. The tomato salad with cream cheese mousse was thin wedges of three different tomatoes toped with the mousse was more like a cream. I frequently make myself cream cheese and tomato sandwiches so I guessed that this would be a good combination but missing the brown bread. I followed with a tasty Venison pie tasty but as always I needed more of the lovely gravy.

The pudding, Marmalade soufflé. Was extremely good, moist inside. Earl grey ice-cream was interesting.

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

Farringford Garden Restaurant- Freshwater (R)

The centrepiece of this little restaurant is the open fired pizza oven. Not being a lover of pizza I have never tried one but seeing them come out of the oven they look extremely mouth watering. The restaurant looks more like a garden room with ample windows and a nicely decked outside seating area. It is all very welcoming. The menu is short and apart from the pizzas, verging on traditional classic cuisine. I always have a problem with long menus as I am the world’s worst at deciding what to choose.  So I went with my regular dining mate Dorene. For  starters I had Chicken liver parfait. Smooth and creamy with red onion chutney and one slice of melba toast which was nothing like enough for the amount f parfait served. Dorene had the mushroom risotto. Wonderful. Dorene reluctantly let me have a taste. A little bit to the rice a loose creamy texture and it came with a little parmesan crisp. This is competent cooking. We both went for the belly of pork it was perfectly cooked and came with a great sticky gravy. I couldn’t help but feel it needed a little something extra to make the dish exceptional. Maybe little savoury apple and sage tartlets.

The desserts was mango panna cotta with coconut sorbet raspberry sauce and summer fruits. I bit of a mix up a flavours but on an individual level all very nice. Chef Alberto DeSilva is doing good things and I am looking forward to my next visit, maybe I will give the pizza a go.

Where is it? West of Freshwater Bay towards Totland

Seaview Hotel Restaurant - Seaview (R)

I prefer to eat in the Hotel’s pub, it has more atmosphere. I began with goats cheese salad with pickled pear and walnuts- lovely. A change from the current all the rage marriage of beetroot with goats cheese. I can't help thinking it is the only thing they can think of to do with beetroot. I cannot really say it is the  best of marriages and a divorce wouldn’t go amiss. 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.

Where is it - Seaview seafront Tel: 01983 612711

Little Gloster - Gurnard  (R) PC

There are windows everywhere looking west and north so I suspect evening diners will be entertained with some stunning sunsets. With good food it’s win win eatery. My crab bisque was light and smooth. It came with cheese and aioli. Flavours were not as intense as the French version, but nevertheless good enough. My main was their own-made beef burger without the bun so I got some extra summer slaw and green salad. The burger was chunky and cooked pink. It was very tasty. It came with a bowl of bought in French fries. This is my only quibble. When I am paying £14.00 for a burger I don’t expect to be served ready made fries. My dessert of smooth and creamy nougate parfait with pims jelly and a few strawberries was lovely. I liked the little chiffonade of mint but be careful not to let it over power the other flavours.

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

The Pond Cafe - Bonchurch (R)

The Pond has had many chefs pass through it’s kitchens this summer it was the turn of Joe Gould and I have to say I liked it. My chilled broad bean soup with olive oil and goats cheeses and interspersed with tiny petals and leaves was creamy, silky and exemplary.  

The confit of corn fed chicken that followed chicken was moist and came with a reduction sauce reminiscent of the older Roux brothers cuisine.

My only complaint was that the vanilla scented nectarin, salted caramel ice cream, rum jelly and croissant pudding decked with pansies was far to small – it is so frustrating to only get a torturous nibble of such wonderful flavours.

Where is it? opposite the Pond at Bonchurch Tel: 01983 855666

Hambrough Hotel -Ventnor (R) PC

"Best Fine Dining" Award 2010, 2011,2012

I was served a freebie crab bisque with a swirl of truffle oil and a confetti of lumpfish roe, while I waited for my starter. The starter was a sort of shredded ham salad with an egg yolk covered in breadcrumbs and deep fried.- very clever. My main course of pheasant came with mussels and a scattering of bits and pieces. The pheasant breast was rolled into a cylinder and BBQ’ued. It was perfectly pink but seriously lacked any of the gaminess a ‘fine’ diner would expect. The mussels married perfectly with the pheasant.

Dessert sounded wonderful. Orange cake with macerated orange segments, coconut sorbet and a dab of orange coulis the size of a 10p piece.

The only problem with the Hamborough is that portions are so small, in some cases micro managed, that the food has filtered down my throat before my taste buds got a look in.  

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.

Tel: 01983 752700

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)

Beginning of 2013 brings yet another new chef. Oliver, who has travelled the world and come back with big ideas about wild mushrooms. Scary or what? I love the flavour of ceps, morels and girroles and frequently use them (the dried variety) to add extra umph to a mushroom soup. I have not yet tried his cuisine but watch this space.

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.

Hillside Bistro - Ventnor (R)

An off -shoot from Hillside Hotel and restaurant this charming bistro has regularly changing decor as it patronises local artists. The open plan kitchen is always a challenge for the chef and the beady eyed customer. I like the fact they work with the seasons and use local ingredients. My lamb hot pot with layers of sliced potatoes was flavourful. Now, you might think it is easy to make a slow cooked casserole. Cut it all up put it in a pot add water slide in oven on a low heat and forget about it. Wrong! To make sure the meat keeps its flavour and at the same time be meltingly tender is heading towards rocket science. Judgement lies in the type of meat, the cut of meat, the size it is diced into. The next consideration is the oven temperature. All this has to add up to a dish where the meat is soft and the flavour is still in the meat and has not escaped into the liquid. Hillside Bistros'  version was cooked to perfection. The meat was a man sized portion and to my mind needed more vegetables. The hot pot was topped with some herby breadcrumbs and browned under the grill before serving. Pudding was a creamy brûlée with a thin caramel veil. There were a couple of slivers of orange peel at the bottom of the pot and it was garnished with mandarin segments. The accompanying shortbread was buttery and, well, short. To make the presentation perfect I would have cut the segments out of the whole peeled orange so that there was no pith around them.

Where is it - Top of Pier Street, Ventnor. Tel: 01983 853334


Beach Hut -Bembridge (HR) PC

  Best of the Best Award 2013/14

 This little eatery goes from strength to strength. The fact that it is so busy is testament in itself. The words fresh, zingy, passion, alive, respect come to mind when I eat here. Emma’s respect for the ingredients she uses is apparent and hard to find in a chef. Her creamy crab ramekin is just the ticket and seems to have become a trade-mark dish. She is very keen to support special diets lactose free, gluten free, vegetarians. And her Mediterranean flavours are something she has made her own. Dorene and I ordered a collection of dishes. A deep fried chickpea mixture,  and absolutely wonderful fresh mackerel fingers. Salads are super fresh and feed the eye before the taste buds take over. Emma’s husband compliments her cooking wonderfully with kind and attentive service. What a team.

Tel: 07832 127737

Quay Arts Café -  Newport (HR)

"Best Cafe" Award 2014"  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.  Outside 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

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The Hut - Colwell Bay (R) New

 Formerly called Barefoot on the Beach is under new ownership. As far as venues go this ticks all the boxes for romantic holiday eatery. On the beach, trendy décor, scrubbed tables, decking, minimalist décor. The menu is small which I like – it reduces the risk of poor cooking. So my stuffed aubergine with feta and tomatoes was very tasty but one half of aubergine did not make a main course. The dessert of rose jelly, poached strawberries and apple sorbet was excellent and moreish. All very summery. Slow service let the side down. I waited 18 minutes before I got the menu and offer of a dink and a further 10 minutes before they took my order. In fact waiting staff seemed somewhat chaotic and lacked co-ordination.

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

The Green - St Helen's (R) PC

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.

Shed – Bembridge (R)

I was told that the chef makes everything himself and if the spicy tomato soups was anything to go by he makes it all extremely well. Most of the small menu consists of tapas style dishes with more substantial mains on the specials board. They also offer a frozen dish take–away menu and I have to say the dishes on this menu sounded more interesting. The Chef ,who  wishes to remain anonymous ,has been with them since the beginning and long may he stay as I am looking forward to sampling more of the menu.

Tel: 01983 873555

Where is it? Bembridge High Street

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.

Old Smithy - Godshill (HR) after 20 years at the helm making it her own you could say PC

"Best Cafe" Award 2013/14"

"Best Cafe" Award 2011"

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 anywhere else.

I wrote the review below 4 years ago and nothing has changed - that's consistency for you.

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.

Chessell Pottery Barn  - Chessell (HR)

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

This is definitely a cup of tea and piece of cake stop – or rather scone stop. As well as an interesting range of cakes and pastries the scones are not to be missed. I loved the summer fruit scone. And amazingly, as such a thing is rare on the Isle of Wight, a perfect cappuccino with just the right amount of froth, milk and coffee. They also serve gluten free scones for which there is a growing market.

They serve 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.

They also serve simple savoury dishes such as soup and local cheese ploughman's.

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) PC

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 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 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 what the WGFG is all about.

Excellent 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.

At Sarah's House - (HR) Ventnor PC

The most wonderful ginger cake, moist, gingery and full of oomph. Coffee is excellent unlike most places on the Island.  Sarah started off with beautiful cup cakes – proper cup cakes with a buttery crumb, before extending into the premises next door. Her repertoire has extended and if  I Iived in Ventnor or even near Ventnor I would be there virtually every day for coffee and cake. Although I do manage a trip to Ventnor at least twice a month. Fantastic coffee especially the "Flat white". I have been reliably informed that in the new year you will sees soups and quiche on the menu.

Kings Manor Farm shop and cafe - (R )Freshwater

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) PC

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 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) PC

 I love the Crab Shed.  Everything is so, so fresh. Simple dishes are well thought out. Even the side salad is an exercise in perfection. Fresh green leaves (nothing too fancy just excellent quality, few rings of onion, grated parmesan and most important of all a well balanced vinaigrette dressing.  My favourite is the pan fried mackerel fillets served with sauté potatoes, the tossed green salad with the addition of some crispy bacon bits. Their crab pasties are kept to perfection in a  temperature controlled oven.

They don’t do puddings just a traditional Victoria sponge. The cake crumb is open textures and moist – no packet mix here. It tastes of butter and fresh eggs. There is just the right proportion of butter cream to jam.

 Alternatively, after lunch, take a stroll along the path to Cove where they sell our wonderful Minghella ice cream and yet more top quality home made cakes. This little eatery is run by the Wheeler family. Young Mrs Wheeler runs the eatery while her Husband goes out in his boat to get the fish. Can it get any better?

The Beach Shack formerly Devonia Kiosk - Sandown PC

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 (R)

Chefs tend to change frequently here so it isn't the easiest place to review. Currently...

There aren’t many places on the Island that serve a decent cup of coffee. No one seems to know how to do a cappuccino (it’s a third, a third, a third all below the rim of the cup. A bit of foam floating on the top does not make a cappuccino it makes a poor latte.) So, I often pop in just for a coffee. This time it was a splendid summers day encouraging me to linger and tempting me to order the soup – they are good at soups. This time it was a robust, rustic flavourful mushroom followed by the chewy, oaty, lemon cake bar. Another favourite of mine.

 They tend to change they way they do things. Today they were offering a choice of waitress service or counter-service. Knowing what I know I opted for counter-service. To do waitress service successfully you need plenty of staff who are on the ball all of the time. Particularly if customers are on a lunch break, or have popped in on their way to somewhere else or are in a rush. Keep them waiting and you have lost a future customer. (Olivo in Newport are very good at slick service – economically it is good too as cafes need to resell tables.) I suspect the idea was to alleviate the long queues that frequently form while the coffee is being made for each individual customer. Oddly, I was told to go to my table and they would bring my coffee over to me. Oddly, because the person behind me who insisted on waiting got their coffee first! Oh well you win some and lose some. It’s a bit like standing at a supermarket checkout. Do you stay in a long queue or move to the checkout that has just opened only to be kept waiting because the two in front of you have masses of shopping, the cashier is under age and there is alcohol in the trolley, they have a wad of coupons and their purse is buried at the bottom of their handbag! You just can’t win. 

On another visit in the Autumn I enjoyed mushrooms stuffed with tomatoes that had some sparkles of added flavours. It came with those little French fries which you have to eat first before they go cold.

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

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.

Taverner's -  Godshill (HR) PC

Best Pub award 2013/14

"Best Pub" Award 2013 and 2012

Roger, the chef patron of the Taverner's has consistently produced interesting and well executed dishes of food. In fact I tend to eat there m ore than anywhere else on the Island. This summer I sat in the beer garden and had a simple snack of sauté of soft Herring roes. The fact that it came cooked to a creamy consistency enriched with butter, fresh herbs and garlic raised above the level of simple. I used to love their little pork pies and miss the fact they are no longer on the menu, I also miss their homemade limburgers – they were delicious. I had the venison this Christmas and it was cooked perfectly, nice and pink with a true wildness in the flavour.

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

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 chips. Brill.

Where is it? At the Newport side of Godshill Village

Red Lion - Freshwater (R)

 Sadly they have abandoned their mad spellings on the daily specials board. A tradition the Red Lion has been known for, for many years. But then it could have proven too confusing for foreign visitors. The cooking here is as good as ever. Consistency is always a winner.  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  (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.

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)

Part of the internal competition  with the other four pubs in the group the Boat House is looking good. The cooking here remains consistently good. Overlooking the Solent it is not unusual to see a ship container or cruiser mooching by. There are several little rooms to choose from. A cosy nook or the main bar area. On a recent visit I had creamy smoked mackerel pate, Confit of Duck leg and poached meringue with vanilla anglaise

Used to be know as the Battery Inn. and is somewhat different now.

Where is it? Just past Puckpool and just before the old toll road towards Seaview Tel: 01983 810616

New Inn - Shalfleet (R)

It is official. I have been told that there is an air of competition between the chefs that cook at the other pubs in the group. Long may it last

The New Inn has been serving seafood as its mainstay for over 30 years.  In fact I can remember them lauding the fact they used local ingredients years before it became trendy to do so.

Recent visits have been pleasurable excellent soup. I often judge an eatery by it soup. There is the chef/cook who makes soup and then there is the other kind who purees yesterdays left over vegetables and call it vegetable soup.

Where is it? By the traffic lights at Shalfleet

Salty's - Yarmouth (R)

 The setting is a sort of converted posh boat shed. Is it a bar at ground level and restaurant in the loft.  It is rather trendy and food is not overly fussy. Pub grub with finesses. My bouillabaisse was enjoyable and contained a good selection of fish as well as tomatoes and fennel. I felt it would have been raised to another level with a touch of garlic, but this is not a criticism just a suggestion.

Where is it? virtually next to the ferry terminal

Bonchurch Inn - Bonchurch (HR) PC

Joint "Best Pudding of the Year" Award 2014

"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.

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. This along with  the raspberry meringue at Mojacs are my two top puddings.

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 dishes are rushed over in the rain.

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



Little Gems

Gluten Free - Little Quiche, cakes, scones and lots more. Not only looking after your diet but making it all taste good too. Twins Gluten Free. farmers markets in Newport on Friday and Ryde on Saturday.

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, Godshill. 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 golden ones. At various places when in season

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

Sparkle Cake - End of the Line cafe - Freshwater

Fresh Game - Farmer Jacks, Arreton

Famous Five food, ham sandwiches etc - Warren Farm, Alum Bay. 

Sparkle cake -and a cup of tea - End of Line Cafe, Freshwater

Chocolate cake and lemon tart - Thorntons Newport

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

Homemade cakes with a cup of tea - Thompson's Garden Centre



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