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

2017-18 reviews

2018-19 reviews


PC  proprietor/chef

HR  Highly recommended


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

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 seafront

Tel: 01983 855938


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 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) 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


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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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.]

NB - 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


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 better value.

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) 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

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!

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 (R)

Top 5 2017/18

TOP 5 2017/18

TOP 5 2015/16

Sadly  Robert Thompson has deserted the kitchen again.

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? - Opposite Morrison's

01983 526118


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) PC

Changed hands end of last year. Similar cuisine as before

Where is it - In the village of Bembridge.

01983 875233



George Hotel - Yarmouth

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 stock.

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
Tel: 01983 856333


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 fresh bread.

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 enjoyable.

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 berries

6 eggs separated

500ml double Cream

10 oz castor sugar

3 lemons

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 if using.

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

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.

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.

My fondest 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.

It has changed hands several times since then but it now seems to be back in safe hands. Interestingly Woods, albeit with an up-to-date twist is offering the same sort of comforting cuisine.

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 street

Tel: 01983 840909

Prego - East Cowes  (R)  NEW ENTRY

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) PC

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.

Where is it:: 106 High St, Cowes

Tel: 01983 296223


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 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 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) 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