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)
Adam and his team of chefs are
producing some very nice dishes.
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 condition. 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 slither of Italy. I have admired Adam’s cuisine for many years.
I like his down to earth approach of using current modern influences.
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 being drier it was 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 tiny passion fruit panna cotta with
raspberry sorbet and a shard of meringue. The latter was not necessary. I
have been back since.
Where is it: Ventnor
Tel: 01983 855938
Red Duster -
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 wearing 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
The Duck - Ryde (R)
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,
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
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
Back to top
Burrs - Newport (R)
The food at Burr's suits the
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.]
NB - Avoid the table by the door
on a winters night you will be blasted with ice cold air every time the door
Where is it?
East side of Lugley Street
Basque Kitchen - Cowes
Loved their Tapas good flavours
that did'nt all taste the same.
The Brawn and I also gave the 1KG
rib eye steak for 2 a go on a second visit, but I think the T Bone would be
We loved the Spanish style decor
and sat outside at the back of the eatery.
Where is it: D Shepards Wharf, Medina R, Cowes
Mojacs - Cowes (HR)
TOP 5 2017/18
Top 5 2016/17
TOP 5 2015/16
"Best Restaurant" Award 2015 and 2014
"Best Pudding of the Year" Award 2014
"Best Pudding of the Year" Award 2010 and
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
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!
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.
Where is it? - Top of Shooters Hill Cowes
Thompson's - Newport
Top 5 2017/18
TOP 5 2017/18
TOP 5 2015/16
Sadly Robert Thompson has deserted the kitchen
It is noticeable.
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 alcohol 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 . PS I found a bottle of
the cordial in Waitrose for £23.00. Yes I did treat myself.
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.
Where is it? -
Call it What you Want - Cowes
Pop up eateries are clearly in
vogue and commercially for the proprietor an excellent idea.
Call it What you what is the third
reincarnation of this venue
in only a few years.
Menu is small with a Deep South
American twist. Jambalaya, Ruben Sandwich, Chowder. All that is missing is
Sloppy Joe. They offer a quirky close knit atmosphere. Although you are
paying you are treated like friends and guests.
Food can be rich. The chowder is
very creamy. Rice dishes are full of flavour.
Locks Lane - Bembridge (R)
Changed hands end of last year. Similar cuisine as before
Where is it -
In the village of Bembridge.
To be honest I have not eaten there since Robert Thompson
returned as I guess executive chef. But Brawn and I called in just for a pot
of coffee this summer. It was fantastic. Worth a visit just for the coffee. I will be
reviewing in the New Year
Hambrough - (HR) Ventnor|
So many chefs have passed through the Hambrough
kitchen. So it was only when they put a deal on the Price is Wight that I
decided to give it another try.
This time I went with
friend Sue. Sue is an excellent cook and has the most amazing taste-buds. Give
her a dish and she can easily analyze the ingredients.
Sue's twice baked souffle
brings back memories of my "Lugley" Days. in the 80's. It was a regular on my
menu. 30 years on it has become one of the latest trends. Funny how long it
takes for chefs creations reach the mainstream. I remember sticky toffee
pudding. Created by the late Francis Coulson at the Sharrow Bay Hotel in the
Lake district. I was serving it 30 years ago so it must have been created by
Francis Coulson 40 years ago.
Anyway the Hambrough's version was
different to mine but rather nice all the same.
I went for the seared tuna with a
blink of wasabi mayonnaise. Now raw tuna is pretty tasteless - it''s all about
purity of the ingredient. So do you have a strong flavoured sauce to compensate
or a bland sauce so as not to overpower? Personally I think something like
fresh tomato or a fresh cucumber sauce would work - again looking towards purity
of ingredients. But if you are serving a sauce remember it is part of the food
not garnish. I wonder where the tuna came from?
My main was extremely tasty. Confit
of Duck leg on very flavoursome lentils. The duck leg was falling off the bone
and flavoursome so I guess it was properly cooked in duck fat and not water
The point of confit is to keep the
flavours of the meat intact -hence simmering in duck fat. If you simmer meat in
water/stock the flavour of the meat seeps out into the liquid - know your
science. Hence tasteless
meat and flavoursome stocks. This is why the stock has to be massively reduced
and reintegrated with the meat, Lesson ends.
The star of the show was the
chocolate sorbet. Divine, divine, divine.
Where is it:
Hambrough Rd, Ventnor, Isle Of Wight PO38 1SQ
Band Stand (R) - Sandown
I am disinclined to read other peoples reviews because they tend to be
subjective and use generalisations. However, a picture speaks a thousand words.
I will occasionally look at images of food on Tripadvisor to see if I want
to risk my hard earned money.
.I spied a delicious looking crab sandwich on the band stand page which did
indeed make my mouth water. It was my turn to chose our weekly lunch date venue
and I was desperate to find an eatery that could turn out a decent crab
sandwich. (I have been served some hugely disappointing crab sandwiches
this year at places, renowned hotels, where you would expect much better) After
all we are an island that specialises in sea food. Not only was it as good as
the picture it was better. Ultra fresh crab, well seasoned and flowing out of
I am not a great lover of dessert, preferring savoury food but the coffee and
cinnamon parfait sounded different and worth a go. It turned out to be a
wonderful flavour combination.
The Brawn went for the lamb rump with vegetables and gravy which he said was
I will return for a casual coffee and the parfait next time I am in Sandown,
Where is it - Culver Parade, Sandown
Tel: 01983 406875
A sweet iced parfait is a sort of ice-cream. But is
really a frozen mousse that is usually turned out and served with fruit, cream
and a sauce etc. It needs to have enough sugar in the recipe to ensure it is not
rock hard when served. Alcohol also prevents over freezing.
Lemon parfait with summer
6 eggs separated
500ml double Cream
10 oz castor sugar
1tbls limoncella or
cointreau or gin (optional)
Whisk half the sugar and egg yolks over a bowl of
gently simmering water. Until thick and creamy. Finely grate the rind of 2
lemons and add to egg yolk mixture.
Whisk in the juice of the three lemons add the alcohol
Whisk cream to a little more than floppy texture and
fold into cold egg yolk mixture.
Whisk egg white until stiff and fold into mixture
Line a terrine or individual moulds with cling. Spoon
in the mousse. Cover and freeze.
To serve: turn out the terrine and cut into
slices/wedges with sharp, firm knife. Serve with summer berries and fresh
Raspberry coulis - a
coulis is not a jam
Make a simple clear sugar syrup with 150 ml water and 2
hpd tbls sugar. Add a punnet of fresh raspberries to the boiling syrup and
add a squeeze fresh lemon juice. Remove from the heat almost immediately. It is
important that the fruit is only just heated through not cooked. This is not a
thick syrup or jam
Sieve out the pips, chill and serve.
will only keep for a couple of days in the fridge.
Coast - Cowes (R)
It wasn't until the current
proprietors took over and created Coast with a mega face changing refurb' that
this venue finally took off as a popular, trendy eatery.
The menu is a little more
interesting than most. Soups are full of flavour. I have enjoyed the chicken
wrapped in ham served in a soup plate with a garlic and wild mushroom - very
creamy- sauce. It had lots of flavour. The smoked haddock croquettes are also a
nice starter .
Pizzas are big and thin crusted and
seem to be the mainstay. Cooked to order in their "wood" fired oven. This sort
of pizza seems to be all the rage - everywhere. I am not a good judge of pizza -
not really my kind of food. But when I was in New Zealand what struck me was the
extraordinary amount of topping they put on their pizzas - more like a meal on a
pastry plate - which makes UK versions look rather mean.
(R) NEW ENTRY (R)
"Woods at the
Essex" as I explain to my friends. It has been known as The Essex for more than
50 years. In fact I recall that it was originally called Essex Cottage
before it was re-branded as The Essex. In the 80's it was a typical steak
Dianne, chicken chasseur, duck a la orange sort of place. desserts were from the
trolley, candle flickering brightly in a bottle. All very civilised and
memory was a night out with with hubby, mum and her partner. The meal came with
a stainless steel bowl of vegetables. The bowl was very hot so I a grabbed a
paper napkin while I offered them around. Quite casually my husband said "my
wife seems to be on fire" as unperturbed he carried on eating. The dangling
napkin had brushed against the candle and went up in flames. What I remember was
how calm they all were as I put the dish down, rolled up the napkin to
doubt the mini blaze. it was as if nothing had happened.
has changed hands several times since then but it now seems to be back in safe
Woods, albeit with an up-to-date twist is offering the same sort of comforting
Fish and chips were perfectly
OK. That said no eatery can produce really good fish and chips unless it is a
dedicated fish and chip shop, and even then there is good and bad.
I called in one lunch time and
asked if they had a toasted cheese and tomato sandwich. Of Course said the very
friendly front of house. I sat at the back near the garden. Started to read the
menu while I waited and noted that toasted cheese and tomato sandwich was not on
the menu. NOW THAT IS WHAT I CALL GOOD SERVICE. No pretension or arrogance, just
a willingness to please.
Where s it? Godshill, High
Tel: 01983 840909
Prego - East Cowes (R)
First it gets Waitrose, now it has
Preggo. East Cowes is coming up in the world. The interior of this Italian
eatery makes you feel as if you are somewhere on the South Bank. Somewhere
between Waterloo and Tate Modern. Food is mainly pizza and pasta. Not really my
kind of food - not enough vegetables for me. However, I have thoroughly enjoyed
the Calazone small version, the tiramisu and the very tasty meatballs.
Service is extremely friendly
Where is it?
Castle Street. Right at the bottom of York Road..
Murray's Fish Restaurant - Cowes (R)
Typical in every sense of the word.
It has welcoming fish restaurant decor, plenty of fish based dishes on the menu.
It all comes with very good service.
I went with a chum with a deal
voucher. WE could have anything off the menu but had to pay a little extra if we
ordered steak. Fair enough.
Food had a 1980's feel about it
which for me was nostalgic and comforting. Crab pate tasted fresh, the Fish pie
was excellent, full of flavour with creamy potato topping and came with nicely
cooked vegetables. The restaurant was full.
What amazed me was that a young lad
did all the service on his own in an extremely efficient and pleasant way. And
the cook was his grandmother, who also did some serving. This duo deserve an
award for being calm and efficient n the face of adversity.
is it:: 106 High St, Cowes
Seaview Hotel - Seaview (R)
TOP 5 2017/18
Liam has left and
there is a new head chef in place. I have not yet visited.
Where is it? - Seaview
Royal Hotel - Ventnor
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 of 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
Bistro - Ventnor (HR)
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
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.
is it? - Gurnard seafront, opposite the posh shanty town
tomato and red capsicum soup
capsicums (halved and seeds remove
1 hpd tspn
marigold vegetable stock
carton of tomato juice ( pour the juice into an ice cube tray and freeze)
ripe avocado pear
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
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.