Little Gems





Recipes and tips

A  seven day eating holiday on the Isle of Wight

2013/14 reviews

2012/13 reviews

2015-16 reviews


PC means proprietor/chef


Cafes and Cafe Bars

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

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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.



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