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
New entry -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
Heima - Brading
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
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?
Dan's Kitchen- St Helens (R)
"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
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
Back to top
Mojacs - Cowes (HR)
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
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
Tel: 01983 281118
Thompson's - Newport
Top 5 2017/18
TOP 5 2017/18
TOP 5 2015/16
The main storey is Robert Thompson is back in the
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? -
Locks Lane - Bembridge (R)
Changed hand end of last year. Similar cuisine as before
Where is it - In the village of
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
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.
Woods Kitchen- Godshill
(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 comforting.
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..
Tel: 01983 293737
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 (R)
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
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.