Little Gems





Recipes and tips

A  seven day eating holiday on the Isle of Wight

2013/14 reviews

2012/13 reviews

2015-16 reviews

2016/17 reviews

2017-18 reviews


PC means proprietor/chef


Links:- and Hewitt's Restaurant


Past Reviews 2016-17

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 strongly flavoured.

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 capsicum soup

1 kilo sun-ripened tomatoes

2 red capsicums (halved and seeds remove

2 large onions

2 cloves garlic

1 hpd tspn marigold vegetable stock

Small carton of tomato juice ( pour the juice into an ice cube tray and freeze)


¼ cucumber

1 beef tomato

1 small ripe avocado pear

Olive oil


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 for seconds.

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 opens

Where is it? East side of Lugley Street 01983 825470

Yarbridge Inn - Sandown PC


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.

01983 405585


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) PC

TOP 5 2015/16

"Best Restaurant" Award 2015 and 2014

Joint "Best Pudding of the Year" Award 2014

"Best Pudding of the Year" Award 2010 and 2011

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 food.

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)

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.

01983 852186


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

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.

01983 875233

Where is it - In the village of Bembridge.



Thompsons - Newport (HR) PC

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 tone.

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.

01983 526118

Where is it? - Opposite Morrison's

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) PC

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  (R) PC

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 burger.

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.

01983 298776

.Where 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.

Tel: 01983 761 600

Where is it - off the beaten track at the former railway station

Beach Hut -Bembridge (HR) PC

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

Tel: 07832 127737

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 improvement.

Where is it?- St Thomas Square, Newport. Above the fashion shop


Deli on the Green - Chale

 Polish chef Peter Kwaitkowsvi.has become a constant.

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 warm. Fantastic!

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 for bread.

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.

01983 758725

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 chips).

Where is it? 63 High Street, Cowes


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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.

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 PC

TOP 5 FOR 2016/17

TOP 5 FOR 2015/16

"Best Cafe" Award  Award 2011" 2013/14" and 2014/15

Striclty 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 horizon.

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"

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.

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

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 follows.

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.

Salsa Verdi

In a 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 terrine.

Well Bread - Cowes (R)

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 (HR) PC

After 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.

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.


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

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

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...

01983 855819

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 -(deconstructed affogato)

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

Not only 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

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 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...

01983 898543

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

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 grill.

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 soon.

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 (HR) PC

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 chips. Brill.

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 Godshill Village

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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Ocean Deck - Sandown (R) PC

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

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.


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 (HR) PC

TOP 5 2016/17

TOP 5 2015/16

Joint "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 specials board.

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 beautiful.

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.



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 0.58 - 1.5 %  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

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