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)
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
Tel: 01983 855938
New entry - 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 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)
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
New entry - 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?
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
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
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)
"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
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
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!
Where is it?
- Top of Shooters Hill Cowes
Tel: 01983 281118
Thompson's - Newport
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)
When I hear one of my favourite
songs about, sand dunes and salty air and quaint little villages here and
there suddenly flat through the air, I begin to pray that the food will be
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
That's two female cooks in
Bembridge making their mark - Bring it on.
Where is it - In the village of
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
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)
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.]
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
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.
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
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 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
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.