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


PC means proprietor/chef


Links:- and Hewitt's Restaurant





Comment - I have a simple benchmark. One of my favourite lunch time meals is a toasted cheese and tomato sandwich on brown bread. It is simple unsophisticated meal lovely melty strong cheddar cheese captured between crisp crunchy toast garnished with juicy lightly dressed salad. So when I am eating in an eatery offering something somewhat more sophisticated I ask myself does this taste as good as or better than my toasted cheese sandwich?

New entry- Smoking Lobster - Ventnor (HR) PC

This eatery on Ventnor Seafront has been through many guises. To now with a massive revamp. Basically the place has been de-scaled, gutted and marinated into a pristine white. The only colour you will see is the hue of the sea and sky through the window morphing from cool greys to aqua blues.

The menu is mostly fish, touched with flavours of Asia bonded with a touch of Italy. I have admired Adam’s cuisine for many years. I like his down to earth approach of using current modern influences in a down to earth way –It all makes sense.

Ventnor being a sort of fishing village fresh fish makes sense. I ordered the seafood risotto. It was a very tasty thing albeit not strictly a risotto but being drier, more of a pilaff. It was brimming with clams, haddock, topped with a crispy topped, moist slightly pink in the middle chunk of salmon. Quite delicious.

I also dived into the passion fruit pannacotta with raspberry sorbet and a shard of meringue. The latter was not necessary. I have been back since.

Where is it: Ventnor seafront

Tel: 01983 855938


New entry - Red Duster - Cowes (R) PC

I have no idea what a dinning room of an Edwardian sailing ship looks like but when I entered the Red Duster I felt as if I should be wear ing a pinched waist full length dress with leg of mutton sleeves and a boater style hat. A Red Duster or Red Ensign is a Royal Navy flag originated in the 17th century. In 1707 the flag was adopted by civil merchant and passenger ships. It’s a great name for an eatery in Cowes.

Dishes are well cooked and unpretentious, Chef Neil likes to present an eclectic menu with interesting touches.

Confit of duck tart topped with soft red oniond and balsamic dressing. Crips short pastry, rich and moreish filling. My pan fried sea bass came with lovely pea an potato croquette with an interesting warm salsa Verdi. I loved the pudding a simple baked apple with a walnut and maple syrup sauce and walnut ice cream.

The whole meal was carefully cooked, full of flavour and great value for money. I paid a second visit few weeks later and standards and consistency were right up there. Here is a classic example of an eatery with a plan and makes it work.

Where is it? - 37 High St, Cowes

Tel: 01983 290311


New entry -The Duck - Ryde (R) PC

Two visits in less than a month is saying something for me, although one of the visits was planned by others.

Charlie and his family have turned The Duck into a bright and airy restaurant which has a truly cheering factor.

The menu is not too large – good start. I hate a long menu a) because it is difficult to maintain quality and freshness and b) It takes me ages to choose what I want. A small menu is easy because like most people I have certain foods that I always go for, duck, game, cod, crab, mackerel.

There is an element of creativity interspersed with traditional. I chose my first course based on the fact it seemed like an unusual combination and had the be tried. The seafood soup had an excellent flavour and creamy texture it came with breaded, crispy whitebait. It was an inspired pairing. The rump of lamb main course was pretty traditional and well executed. Desserts are typical brulee, brownie etc but presented in an very pretty and tempting way.

Where is it? - Ryde seafront going towards Seaview. On the corner opposite the boating lake.

Tel: 01983 613925

New entry - Heima - Brading PC

I detected an edge of old fashioned catering here. My starter of sweetcorn velotue soup was strictly Escoffier. My main course of Brill fillet was nicely cooked and presented on a bed of courgette spaghetti with a Romano oil.  All very traditional 1970/80's style of cooking.

Flavours were delicate and light.

Where is it - Brading where the old Wax Works Museum used to be. I wonder what happened to all the wax models?

Tel: 01983 404090

The Grill – Cowes (R)

An unusual sounding menu always interests me. Will it work, are the cooking skill going to live up to their dreams and inventions. I went on my own. Eating alone is something I do a lot on when working on the mainland.

I ordered the citrus cured mackerel with cucumber, soft cheese, horseradish cream and chargrilled orange. There was a time when dishes on menus had names. Trout Cleopatra, Tornedo Rossini, Coq au vin. Now days we get a list of ingredients, cooking method, allergy potentials all but its weights and measures. My mackerel had great potential but the miniscule portion of mackerel (not the most expensive of ingredients was over-run with too much of the cheese. Get the balance right and this is a great dish.

My main of hay smoked and char-grilled venison with red cabbage puree (excellent) wild mushrooms (not so wild) parsnip puree and a superb sauce reduction was all very good.

The dessert really hit the spot. White chocolate ice cream, generous chocolate truffle, chocolate soil, pistachios and popcorn. The later was a distraction and not really necessary.

The Drill is looking to be a fine dining restaurant. Many people see this as morsels on a plate for vast sums of money and that is indeed what it is. Good fine dining must have strong, intense flavours otherwise the morsels will have whizzed past your taste buds before you know it. Fine dining needs substance as well as style.

Dan's Kitchen- St Helens (R) 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 mouthfulls. Small portions are fine if it is a taster menu.

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


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 2017/18

Top 5 2016/17

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

One way to tell whether an eatery serves good food is when a breakaway chef rides off the back of it. A sort of back handed compliment. In the world of advertising a company will pay substantially for a celebrity to promote its products - giving it their seal of approval. However, in the world of eateries to boast that you worked in a famous Michelin starred restaurant or some other acclaimed local eatery comes, bizarrely, for free. Unfortunately such behaviour could damage their mentor by stealing trade or destroying their mentor’s reputation with poor cooking. Fortunately the public are fast learners. On a more serious level there is the issue of intellectual property theft.

I have been following Mojacs for several years and have never been disappointed. It is hard to believe that an eatery can get even better but the chef at Mojacs is constantly honing his skills. Keeping up with the latest foody fashion but making it their own. Fine dining with gusto.

On my last visit with my chum Dorene we both went for the mushroom and butter bean soup. Silky smooth, tasty and stock rich.

I then enjoyed the pink duck breast with a confit of duck leg, roast potatoes and a red berry sauce. This is the first confit of duck leg that I have eaten on the Island (I have tried many) that has been cooked correctly.

The legs should be slowly stewed in duck or goose fat that has been flavoured with mace, juniper berries, thyme, garlic and bay leaf until it virtually falls off the bone. It can then be left on the bone and grilled until the skin is crispy. If I was making a dish with it I would take it off the bone, press it into a metal, bottomless ring, pour over some thick reduction, top with a creamy layer of mashed potato, parsnip or celeriac and grill until brown. Or, wrap it in flaky pastry and make a mini pie to accompany the duck breast. I used to serve both versions at Lugley's in Wootton some 25 years ago.

Dorene had the slow braised beef with superb potato mash; it was simply flavour rich and unctuous.

Unfortunately I am stuck on their raspberry meringue. Many Island eateries have started to produce raspberry meringue in recent years but none have come up to that of Mojacs. It’s not just about meringue, it’s their meringue!

Where is it? - Top of Shooters Hill Cowes

Tel: 01983 281118

Thompson's - Newport (HR) PC

TOP 5 2017/18

TOP 5 2015/16

The main storey is Robert Thompson is back in the kitchen..

I never talk about drinks because the WGFG is all about the food but I must make an exception. I had never heard of it until I popped into Thompson's for a bar snack one Saturday lunchtime. I was given the none alchohol drinks menu and saw a small range of cocktails that really grabbed my attention. The description included words like herbs and seeds. I chose one that sounded light and fresh with the main ingredient of Seedlip Garden 108. It is the best drink I have ever had. It was very expensive. I googled it with the intention of buying a bottle of the cordial and discovered why the cocktail was so pricey. Having said that I am looking forward to drinking the cocktail again – very soon .

When  an eatery has a reputation for being too expensive for the average pocket of a foodie, like me who is not rich, but eating out is their hobby they will go for the lunch menu which is normally cheaper. This is their first adventure into a fine dinning restaurant and it has to be a good experience if the eatery wants them to return for the higher priced a la carte menu. The risk with fine dinning is that because portions are miniscule if the flavours are not an instant "hit" all is lost. It is one thing to be eat with ones eyes but  My job is to see through that and test for taste.

This year I have popped in for bar snacks. I have thoroughly enjoyed the rabbit skewer marinated in buttermilk and grilled and an intense chocolate delice was wonderful. Desserts is something that Robert Thompson excels at.

I would love to be a regular customer at Thompson's. It is the only place on the Island where you can try the latest food fads and ingredients cooked with skill but because of this guide I have to spread the money load.

Where is it? - Opposite Morrison's

01983 526118


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 float 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.

01983 875233


Blacksmiths Arms - Calbourne

Does anyone know what a public house is anymore? These days you walk in and are asked if you have booked a table. The food has become the main event. There are still a few places where there is room for a non-diner such as The Taverners in Godshill. I don’t like to book a table at lunchtime or in the evening unless it is a restaurant. I like to make last minute decisions.

The Blacksmith Arms is one such place where you need to book.

Table service is a bit chaotic but they get there in the end. My starter was pigeon salad with blackpudding. Two of my favourite ingredients. I followed this with chicken with green risotto. The chicken was cooked with care and juicy. No room for dessert.

Where is it?- The middle road from Newport to Calbourme

Tel: 01983 529263

Burrs - Newport (R) PC

The food at Burr's suits the surroundings.  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

Tel: 01983 825470






Seaview Hotel - Seaview (HR)

TOP 5 2017/18

Have you ever wondered why traditionally, apple sauce accompanies pork, mint sauce lamb, horseradish beef, Juniper berries venison and cranberries turkey? Well, it is historical and we need to go back to the days of traditional farming when pigs were let to browse wind falls in the apple orchard, when sheep foraged wild mint in streams, when cows grazed horseradish in old meads/meadows, deer grazed juniper bushes on Scottish moorlands and turkey’s grazed the cranberry bushes on the plains of America.

A chef/cook of a good fine dining meal restaurant will have a clear understanding of ingredients and how they connect together.

Liam, young 21 yr old Head Chef of the Seaview hotel has made great strides in this direction. His food was surprising in that as a young chef I expected weird and not always wonderful modern concoctions – fusion gone mad. So I was delighted to be served modern British cuisine that was full of flavour and that made sense.

I began my meal with Smoked Haddock scotch egg on a bed of curried onions and with a smooth, bright green coriander sauce – most of the ingredients of a Smoked Haddock kedgeree. The quails egg was still runny in the middle. An accomplishment in itself. It was flavourful and light. My chum Dorene chose the goats cheese soufflè with watercress sauce. Again good basic cooking skills were used to produce a perfect dish.

My main course was the best of the year. Roe Deer noisettes - pink, with a mini suet pudding – wonderful, accompanied with a sticky sauce, crisp parsnips, kale and rich buttery potatoes.

Dorene chose the Loin of Pork with melt in the mouth braised cheek, black pudding croquette, apple sauce and thin slices of turnip. Perfect.

We shared a silky smooth crème brulee that was topped with a wafer thin burnt sugar crisp. I sense that Liam he is doing more than earning a living he is living out a passion.

Where is it? - Seaview High St.

Tel: 612711


Royal Hotel - Ventnor (R)

Always a stalwart in the world of eating out. They excel at souffle's both sweet and savoury. Main courses are cooked with precision. I was on one occasion served a rather weird tomato tart with spiced pear and pesto sauce but in 20 years if eating good food at the Royal I put it down to a flirtation with experimentation.

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

Tel: 01983 852186f


Olivo - Newport (R)

The menu has changed and it is smaller. What I like about Olivo 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. Tel:01983 611118

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 crème anglaise. the compote was more of a sweet conserve than a compote. The meringue was just how I like it and the crème 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. 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  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 small 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.


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

01983 298776


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. Ladle into soup plates or bowls. Put a spoon of the garnish in the centre. Put 2 or 3 tomato ice cubes around the bowl and drizzle over some super delicious olive oil. Serve and return for seconds.


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