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

2018-19 reviews


PC  proprietor/chef

HR  Highly recommended


Links:- and Hewitt's Restaurant


Cafes and Cafe Bars

Off the Rails - Yarmouth (HR)

Top 5 2017/18

TOP 5 FOR 2017/18

TOP 5 FOR 2016/17

I like this eatery, mostly for the venue - opposite a nature reserve, but the food is great 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.

Yes they do burgers but give that a miss and go for the Railroad Ruben. A toasted ciabatta brimming with slow cooked slices of brisket, dill pickles, celeriac slaw, melted cheese and some sort of wonderful dressing. But the pièce de resistance is their  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 is no longer good - it is still brilliant

More than anything I love their attitude towards feeding the children. Don't expect chicken nuggets!!

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

With two eateries to run (The Auctioneer at Brading) I was worried for Emma's consistency. But she has trained her second in command well. her absence was barely noticeable. The hot crab ramekin scented with tarragon, the garlicy crevettes and the rich rustic soup are as good as ever. As usual it looks as good as it tastes

Tel: 07832 874270


The Auctioneer - Brading


Part of a small complex that many moons ago used to be The Brading Wax Works.

There has been a mixture of eateries coming and going at this venue since the Wax Works closed.. Emma (also of the Beach Hut, Bembridge) is now giving it a shot.

What I like about Emma is her massive, unwaning,  enthusiasm and hospitality as well as some jolly good cooking. Her hot crab ramekin is in situe as is her lobster bisque and her magic touches.

From the off you are made to feel very welcome - I am sorry to say such hospitality is sadly lacking in many places on the Island. Clearly Emma can't wait to cook for us and her joy seeps deeply into her fare. Emma is only mildly influenced by current foody fashions. She cooks her own cuisine to her taste.

Food is rustic and tasty served in a cosy setting that has Emma's name written al over it.

Emma also runs the Beach Hut in Bembridge.

Where is it? Brading High St. park in the village car park and walk the few step down to the main entrance.

Tel: 01983 402222


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 their speciality. 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.

They don't serve a perfect cappuccino but the flavour is superb, the best I have tasted on the Island thus far (by the way no one on the Island knows how to make a perfect cappuccino)

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


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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.

NO 64 - Ryde

They say they serve Breakfast and Lunch but I would call it all day Brunch. Most dishes have an egg or two. This is what I mean when an eatery ignores the publics basic menu demands and sets out to be different. Not only that they are busy so breaking the mould is clearly a success story.

They ladies that run No 64 are of the "cheeky brand" in the nicest possible way. I noticed on both of my visits that they have a massive regular clientele. Portion sizes can be a little erratic but hey ho they don't charge the earth.

Where is it: 64, George Street, Ryde.


Harbour Kitchen - Cowes (HR)

TOP 3 2019/20

I was going to the literary festival. Rather than going home from Naturezones - the little charity I run at Blackwater  I decided to go straight to Cowes and have a bite to eat in town. I have been to Harbour Kitchen for a coffee so decided to pop in for a burger - burgers are my latest mission -I am not actually a fan of burgers.  Frankly it was bloomin delicious. Real beefy flavour, nicely browned, tasty cheese topping with mayo and special burger sauce dressing etc. Excellent value for money.

I sat outside in semi dark and was amazed how many people passed by that I knew. Even had a chat to a former catering lecturer from the college.

It is as all burger bars should be young and trendy great for the young and those like me looking for a touch of nostalgia. I have been back twice since. Indeed with the Brawn who dived into  the cajun chicken burger. He professed it to be the best he had ever had.

Where is it? Cowes High Street, opposite The White Stuff

Tel: 01983 297 559

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

Top 5 2017/18

TOP 5 FOR 2017/18

TOP 5 FOR 2016/17

TOP 5 FOR 2015/16

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

Jackie King is indeed Queen of the Kitchen. With a small team of cooks in a tiny kitchen she can cater for 40 coaches, all wanting cream teas plus a car park full of day visitors looking for a toasted sandwich, a jacket potato a cream cake or macaroni  cheese. Not only that it all tastes like top quality home cooking

Chefs who think running a kitchen with a team of other chefs for a few tables could learn a thing or 2 from Jackie

This is old fashioned comfort food. Cheesy macaroni cheese, generously filled jackets and baguettes. Sunday breakfast see the place full of walkers

Strictly 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 does have Neil as second in command and he does not let her down.

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. Talk about a woman multi -tasking.

Jacky and her small team give us the most consistent cafe on the Island and I probably go there more than anywhere else.

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.


Bernaise Sauce - In technical terms it is a warm emulsion.

Heat together in a saucepan 3 tbls wine vinegar, a few peppercorns, 1 bay leaf, 1 small chopped shallot, sprig fresh tarragon and sprig fresh chervil. Heat until reduced to 1 tablespoon of vinegar.

In a small bowl beat together 2 egg yolks, a tspn softened butter, pinch salt. Place the bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Beat mixture until slightly thickened. Strain on the reduced vinegar and mix in. Beat in 110gms softened butter take care not to overheat water or sauce will split. Finally stir in a tspn each of freshly chopped tarragon and chopped chervil. Serve with beef steaks, lamb steaks and venison steaks

Tramezzini - Ventnor (R) 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 arrives 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.

Adam has moved on from his cult sandwich bar to a menu that is a more restaurant format.

.Customers are still largely whacky (I am using the original 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 and it is great to engage with someone who understands proper cooking.

Excellent Coffee is served here

Now open in the evenings

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


Ingredients can vary. But paella will always be a slightly fluffy dish - unlike risotto which is stirred to extract the starch to make a sticky, creamy dish. Paella will be flavoured with saffron - a pretty crucial ingredient. It is nearly always a mixture of fish and meat. Shellfish, cod, hake, chicken and/or some sort of sausage or ham - although chorizo can be overpowering and herbs, usually parsley.

Then there will be onions, capsicums, chopped tomatoes, peas, garlic. Paella Bomba rice - not arborio. Vegetable stock and oil for pre-pan frying the shellfish, fish, meat, onions, peppers. Fry to brown one ingredient at a time and put to one side. To the same pan add the rice, chopped tomato, saffron garlic. Add stock simmer for 5-10 mins. Add rest of ingredients. Stir carefully to amalgamate everything then leave to simmer very gently until stock is absorbed. DO NOT STIR AS YOU WOULD A RISOTTO. This is not a sticky dish or indeed a watery one.

The Smokehouse - Newport

How many ways can you make burger and fries or chips. It’s not rocket science yet the eateries that specialise get it right and the rest tend to miss the mark.

If you remember Hard Times in Shanklin in the late 70's you will recall it was burger in a sesame bun, dill pickle, bacon, cheese, hash browns and plenty of cocktails. It really was the in place to be, busy whatever time of year

Before the beefburger took hold it used to be the hamburger at the local town cafe or the Wimpy bar.

Then Hard Rock arrived in London in the late 70's and with it the burger revolution.

The Smokehouse offer a good beefy beef burger at a good price and it comes with dirty fries - i.e other things piled on top making it a meal in itself. It is aimed at the young and trendy but all ages gather there especially the children of the 60's. If they put in some proper heating I would go there in the Winter too.

Where is it? Holyrood Street, Newport

Tel:  01983 300470

The Beach Shack formerly Devonia Kiosk - Sandown  (HR) PC

Leaps and bounds is how I now describe this great little eatery. Beach Kiosk favourites such as sausage and chips are dwindling in favour of some rather interesting Summer Holiday wonders. Spain? forget it. Stay on the Isle of Wight and frequent this and several other well run summer eateries.

You can still get chips and burgers but why bother when there are more interesting things to chose from.

They are now literally Sky High with a fab upward extension giving even better views over the ocean

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.

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.

Piano Cafe - Freshwater (R)

Of course this is not a tea house with bone china cups, chintz curtains, and waitresses in black with frilly white aprons. This is the sort of tea house where your would expect to see a coterie of poets huddled in a corner eulogising over the importance of syntax. definitely in keeping being so close to where Tennyson lived.

This year I thoroughly enjoyed there wild mushrooms on toasted ciabatta. There is currently a trend for this dish in several eateries. This was one of the better ones. On another occasion I gave their burger a go. All OK for the price. Now for me there are not many ways that you can improve a burger which is why I rarely order them. But this year I decided to test them where possible. The criteria is as follows....First of all it has to be 100% beef with a touch of seasoning and NO rusk. Nicely browned but not burnt. Bun must be toasted on one side - the inside. 1 lettuce leaf, dill pickle, mayo and mustard mix dressing and maybe a slice of tomato. I am happy for it to come with bought in fries but not if I am paying more than £10.95

Piano Cafe closes during January which probably upsets a lot of people in the West Wight - where else can they go!!. Their menu is simple and uses the freshest ingredients.

Piano Cafe: Gate Lane, Freshwater, just past the church with the thatch roof

Tel: 472874

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 (R) 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? . 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.

Tel: 852747

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.

Tel: 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 affrogato)

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



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