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


Past Reviews 2019


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


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

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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Thompson's - Newport (HR) PC

Top 5 2017/18

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

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



Locks Lane  - Bembridge (R) PC

Changed handsend of last year. Similar cuisine as before

Where is it - In the village of Bembridge.

01983 875233


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



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





The Red Lion - Freshwater (HR)

Top 5 2017/18

TOP 5 2016/17

It returns after a couple of years in the doldrums as a new chef enlivens this eatery. The funky, misspelled menu has gone. The interior however remains the same. The one major change is that it wants to be a restaurant and not a pub. But it can’t make up its mind whether to offer table service or bar ordering service. I think the eatery prefers the former but the staff are not fully trained to be constantly on the alert.

So, the food. My bet noir regarding risotto was assuaged. I had the tomato and chorizo (fusion?) it was perfectly cooked, rice firm and overall a loose, creamy, texture with an abundance of flavour. Risotto can be boring so flavour has to be nothing less than moreish.

On a later visit I thoroughly enjoyed the pan fried seabass with a giant crab cake and a wonderful tomato, caper and tarragon sauce. The reputation of an eatery can be destroyed in one fell swoop on a head chef’s day off if the second chef is not properly trained. Head chef Dan Mitchel need not worry his second in command did him justice. I am looking forward to a return visit.

Over heard in an Island Pub

"I'm sorry we haven't got Chardonnay, the nearest we have to that is a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc"!!!

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Seaview Hotel  Pub  (HR)

I prefer to eat in the Hotel’s pub, it has more atmosphere. Although the restaurant has lost its blue and is more welcoming.  began with goats cheese salad with beetroot. I have already mentioned it in the Seaview restaurant review but to repeat myself the venison cottage pie was fab-u-lous.

A more recent visit in 2019 was certainly up to scratch. We sat outside on the street side patio watching the walkers go by. The brawn declared the sausage and mash the best he'd had in a long time. Rich gravy, creamy mash, tasty, meaty sausages. I went for the soup ha==and sandwich which was rather nice. The sandwich filling was nice but rather scant. compared to the hunks of bread.

Where is it? Seaview  on the sea front

Taverner's -  Godshill  

Top 5 2017/18

Best Pub award 2014/15 and 2013/14

"Best Pub" Award 2013 and 2012

(This eatery has recently changed hands)

These days wherever you go menus are totally predictable, gourmet burger, slow cooked pork belly (reheated yuk), crab cakes, cod with chorizo, goats cheese with beetroot, sticky toffee, panacotta, brownie and so on. Whilst this is more acceptable in a pub than in a restaurant I expect a higher level of creativity as well as first class cooking in a restaurant.

What makes The Taverner’s exceptional is that Chef Roger does offer the odd run of the Mill dish (oddly he no, longer makes his own burgers but buys in local lamb burgers) the majority of his menu consists of eclectic dishes. Yeh! why waste your time on moulding a burger when there is so much more to be created in the kitchen. Indeed all the so called gourmet burgers that I have eaten this year are only better by a very narrow margin. The Brawn who has got fed up of eating out with me recently told me that he prefers a thin rather that fat home made burger because the beef is browned/charred over a greater area and therefore more tasty. I think he has a point.

I remember that when I ran my restaurant foody magazines were far more sophisticated than the publications of today which have been dummed down.

Where is it? At the Newport side of Godshill Village


Bonchurch Inn - Bonchurch (R) PC

TOP 5 2016/17

TOP 5 2015/16

Joint "Best Pudding of the Year" Award 2014

"Best Pud" Award 2012 now classed a "Little Gem"

What I like about the Bonchurch Inn is that they have a concept and stick to it. They are not influenced by trends and the latest fashion food. They do what they do (Italian inspired cooking) and they do it well. The menu is small, pasta (gluten free available), stone baked pizza ad specials board.

It has changed little over the years. Dark inside with scrubbed floors like a back street Italian bistro. This is its charm. There is a walled courtyard which is the cool an a great place to be on a baking summer’s day. In winter you will find locals huddled around the fire, kegs of beer and ladle loads of nostalgia. It is an Inn for grownups prepared to accept what is on offer.

I had the meatballs with pasta and they were so robustly good I returned a couple of weeks later in the hope they were still on the menu. I was in luck. My last visit was for crab and prawn risotto. The staff apologised for the delay as it was cooked to order. This explains why it was so good in texture and flavour. Of course I finished with their wonderful Tiramisu which is ten times better than the version sold at Jamie’s in Portsmouth.

There are rules. If you sit in the bar area you will be asked to move, this area is reserved for their regular locals of which there are many and they like to show their appreciation. The kitchen is across the courtyard so if you go when it is raining your meal might arrive wet. You have got to like quirky.

It a hidden gem. Parking is limited and it is tiny inside. More seating outside in the Summer.  But as they say small is beautiful.

Where is it? - From Ventnor to Shanklin turn right towards Bonchurch pond. Drive slowly or you will miss it. it is on the right half way down the hill. If you get to the church you have gone to far.



Off the Rails - Yarmouth (HR)

Top 5 2017/18

TOP 5 FOR 2017/18

TOP 5 FOR 2016/17

I like this eatery, mostly for the venue - opposite a nature reserve, but the food is great too. I always pop in on a casual basis just for coffee, a snack or to meet up with a chum for lunch and a catch up. It’s that sort of place. I normally park on the edge of Yarmouth and walk along the path past the wetlands, binoculars in hand. Last time I spied a family of teal. The time before  bar tailed Godwits.

Yes they do burgers but give that a miss and go for the Railroad Ruben. A toasted ciabatta brimming with slow cooked slices of brisket, dill pickles, celeriac slaw, melted cheese and some sort of wonderful dressing. But the pièce de resistance is their  dessert. So good I went back two weeks later for more. A glass tower, three crystal clear layers, each one filled with some lusciousness. The bottom larger layer was filled with poached plums in some sort of almond alcohol, the next contained a raspberry sorbet on a puddle of mango puree and the top layer was pooled with intensely flavoured purees, mango and raspberry with something tangy and sharp and garnished with a sort of minty crumb. This has got to be this year’s best dessert. Although that is not to say the Mojacs’ raspberry meringue

More than anything I love their attitude towards feeding the children. Don't expect chicken nuggets!!

Tel: 01983 761 600

Where is it - off the beaten track at the former railway station

Beach Hut -Bembridge (HR) PC

TOP 5 for 2015/16

  Best of the Best Award 2013/14

With two eateries to run (The Auctioneer at Brading) I was worried for Emma's consistency. But she has trained her second in command well. her absence was barely noticeable. The hot crab ramekin scented with tarragon, the garlicy crevettes and the rich rustic soup are as good as ever. As usual it looks as good as it tastes

Tel: 07832 874270


The Auctioneer - Brading


Part of a small complex that many moons ago used to be The Brading Wax Works.

There has been a mixture of eateries coming and going at this venue since the Wax Works closed.. Emma (also of the Beach Hut, Bembridge) is now giving it a shot.

What I like about Emma is her massive, unwaning,  enthusiasm and hospitality as well as some jolly good cooking. Her hot crab ramekin is in situe as is her lobster bisque and her magic touches.

From the off you are made to feel very welcome - I am sorry to say such hospitality is sadly lacking in many places on the Island. Clearly Emma can't wait to cook for us and her joy seeps deeply into her fare. Emma is only mildly influenced by current foody fashions. She cooks her own cuisine to her taste.

Food is rustic and tasty served in a cosy setting that has Emma's name written al over it.

Where is it? Brading High St. park in the village car park and walk the few step down to the main entrance.

Tel: 01983 402222


Skin Trade - Newport (R)

Some eateries have a certain charm that captures the imagination. This tiny eatery accessed up Dickensian staircase emerges into a sunny, slightly retro 50’s room. Even the music is nostalgia ridden.

Food is simple, jacket, ciabatta or wrap with choice of interesting fillings. Soup of Day (SOD as they say in the Antipodes). Cakes are their speciality. homemade on the Island – whatever that means - and extremely good. Definitely of the home-made species. At least three are gluten free and one vegan. I particularly enjoyed (on different occasions) lime and coconut and spicy orange and walnut). Coffee has a good smooth flavour.

Gluten free is so “in” there will come a time when “GF” won’t have to be advertised. They taste as good if not better than wheat based cakes. The same can’t be said for GF breads that are on offer in the Supermarkets. It is getting better, but there is still room for improvement.

They don't serve a perfect cappuccino but the flavour is superb, the best I have tasted on the Island thus far (by the way no one on the Island knows how to make a perfect cappuccino)

Where is it?- St Thomas Square, Newport. Above the fashion shop


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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.

Another note -Cappuccino coffee is the one drink that I get really annoyed about. Most establishments think that as long as it has chocolate sprinkled on the top that is all it requires. Then there are those that think it has to have the froth piled on top like a snow-capped mountain. A real cappuccino is 1/3 coffee, 1/3 milk and 1/3 froth all below the rim of the cup. Milk to the rim is a Latte. A large cappuccino is never served in a mug, that is disgusting. The chocolate topping should be cocoa, not sprinkles and this is why I always ask for my cappuccino without the topping as no one ever seems to use cocoa anymore.

The Smokehouse - Newport (R)

How many ways can you make burger and fries or chips. It’s not rocket science yet the eateries that specialise get it right and the rest tend to miss the mark.

If you remember Hard Times in Shanklin in the late 70's you will recall it was burger in a sesame bun, dill pickle, bacon, cheese, hash browns and plenty of cocktails. It really was the in place to be, busy whatever time of year

Before the beefburger took hold it used to be the hamburger at the local town cafe or the Wimpy bar.

Then Hard Rock arrived in London in the late 70's and with it the burger revolution.

These days a beef burger is serves in a brioche bun and at The Smokehouse comes with lots of tasty options. beware portions are generous so don't go overboard unless you are entering a strong man/woman competition

The Smokehouse offer a good beef burger at a good price and it comes with dirty fries - i.e other things piled on top making it a meal in itself. It is aimed at the young and trendy but all ages gather there especially the children of the 60's. If they put in some proper heating I would go there in the Winter too.

Where is it? Holyrood Street, Newport

Tel:  01983 300470


Harbour Kitchen - Cowes (HR)

I was going to the literary festival. rather than going home from Naturezones - the little chariy I run at Balckwater  decided to go straight to Cowes hand have a bite tyo eat in town. I have been to harbour Kitchen for a coffee so decided to pop in for a burger - burgers are my latest mission. Frankly it was blummin delicious. Real beefy flavour, nicely browned, tasty cheese topping with mayo and special burger sauce dressing etc.Excellent value for money.

I sat outside in semi dark and was amazed how many people passed by that I knew. Even had a chat to a former catering lecturer from the college.

it is again as all burger bars should be young and trendy great for the young and those like me looking for a touch of nostalgia. I have been back twice since.

Where is it? Cowes High Street, opposite The White Stuff

Tel: 01983 297 559

Old Smithy - Godshill (HR) after 20 years at the helm making it her own you could say PC

Top 5 2017/18

TOP 5 FOR 2017/18

TOP 5 FOR 2016/17

TOP 5 FOR 2015/16

"Best Cafe" Award  Award 2011" 2013/14" and 2014/15

Jackie King is indeed Queen of the Kitchen. With a small team of cooks in a tiny kitchen she can cater for 40 coaches, all wanting cream teas plus a car park full of day visitors looking for a toasted sandwich, a jacket potato a cream cake or macaroni  cheese. Not only that it all tastes like top quality home cooking

Chefs who think running a kitchen with a team of other chefs for a few tables could learn a thing or 2 from Jackie

This is old fashioned comfort food. Cheesy macaroni cheese, generously filled jackets and baguettes. Sunday breakfast see the place full of walkers

Strictly catering for the masses with a car park full of coaches it amazes me how Jacky manages in a small kitchen with very little help. But she does. She is a rare caterer and if she ever retires I can see no replacement on the horizon. Jacky does have Neil as second in command and he does not let her down.

Jacky King has been in charge of the kitchen for over 20 years. Her style is good home cooking and top notch baking. This is not a trendy venue - there is no fancy food but what she does she does very well indeed. Talk about a woman multi -tasking.

Jacky and her small team give us the most consistent cafe on the Island and I probably go there more than anywhere else.

Where is it? - You can't miss it. Turn off the main road in Godshill into the large car park on the right if coming from Shanklin.


Bernaise Sauce - In technical terms it is a warm emulsion.

Heat together in a saucepan 3 tbls wine vinegar, a few peppercorns, 1 bay leaf, 1 small chopped shallot, sprig fresh tarragon and sprig fresh chervil. Heat until reduced to 1 tablespoon of vinegar.

In a small bowl beat together 2 egg yolks, a tspn softened butter, pinch salt. Place the bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Beat mixture until slightly thickened. Strain on the reduced vinegar and mix in. Beat in 110gms softened butter take care not to overheat water or sauce will split. Finally stir in a tspn each of freshly chopped tarragon and chopped chervil. Serve with beef steaks, lamb steaks and venison steaks

Tramezzini - Ventnor (R) PC

After a touch of refurb' this tiny eatery now offer evening meals. I am not mad about eating out at night time in the Winter but as soon as Spring arives I shall be there. In the meantime lunches are excellent particularly the risotto so I have no doubt whatsoever that evening grub will be great.

It is difficult to know how a place will turn out. When Adam and his business partner took over what was originally a deli the locals were probably wondering what to expect. Adam (a hidden talent) had already won himself a well deserved reputation for good cooking in Ventnor but how was he going to deliver that in such cramped premises. Well in actual fact he didn't try. He looked at what was available and turned Tramezzini in to a kind of cult sandwich bar. Customers are largely whacky (I am using the original meaning of that word before it came to mean something else!). All ages from 0.7 to 70 years old frequent the place and if you look at them you can be sure they have an interesting story to tell. I have come to know Adam, it is great to engage with someone who understands proper cooking.

Excellent Coffee is served here

Now open in the evenings

Where is it? Ventnor High street, heading towards Shanklin and on the right.


Well Bread - Cowes (R)

A new entry to this guide and a new concept for the Isle of Wight.

Well Bread has a mission statement,  a sort of religious resurrection based upon old fashioned values of honesty and friendship. Basically you order nothing, help yourself and be honest about your consumption when you go to pay.

I was quite excited by the concept and felt as if I was acting in a communal play, a sort of interactive art installation. It may leave some customers feeling uncomfortable but if they stay the course in another way it is confidence building.

Basically Well bread is a bread shop that also sells giant tray bakes cut into good sized wedges. But as well as buying bread you can beak bread with your new found friend on the long scrubbed refectory table. I won't give it all away because this is an eatery to be discovered. Putting it simply it is a DIY cafe that sell fantastic bread. Go, try.

Where is it - Cowes High Street walking towards Bath road


The Beach Shack formerly Devonia Kiosk - Sandown  (HR) PC

Leaps and bounds is how I now describe this great little eatery. Beach Kiosk favourites such as sausage and chips are dwindling in favour of some rather interesting Summer Holiday wonders. Spain? forget it. Stay on the Isle of Wight and frequent this and several other well run summer eateries.

You can still get chips and burgers but why bother when there are more interesting things to chose from.

They are now literally Sky High with a fab upward extension giving even better views over the ocean

They serve the best crab cake I have ever tasted - ever, anywhere in the whole wide world - this alone deserves an award!  Also many wonderful home made soups; including rich mushroom, intense pumpkin with crispy bacon and mozzarella balls.

Island chefs should do themselves a favour and pop along there on a sunny winters day for a warming special.

Where is it? The first kiosk at the beginning of the walk along the revetment to Shanklin.

Tea House  - Ventnor (R)

Tea House offers a very short menu of simple well cooked lunch time dishes. Soup, sandwich, savoury tart, little salad. All very fresh and nicely cooked. You are confronted with an array of home made cakes displayed on the front counter. Staff are relaxed and easy going which makes for a comfortable drop-in.

Tea House: 40 High Street, Ventnor

Tel: 01983 856478

Piano Cafe - Freshwater (R)

Of course this is not a tea house with bone china cups, chintz curtains, and waitresses in black with frilly white aprons. This is the sort of tea house where your would expect to see a coterie of poets huddled in a corner eulogising over the importance of syntax. definitely in keeping being so close to where Tennyson lived.

This year I thoroughly enjoyed there wild mushrooms on toasted ciabatta. There is currently a trend for this dish in several eateries. This was one of the better ones. On another occasion I gave their burger a go. All OK for the price. Now for me there are not many ways that you can improve a burger which is why I rarely order them. But this year I decided to test them where possible. The criteria is as follows....First of all it has to be 100% beef with a touch of seasoning and NO rusk. Nicely browned but not burnt. Bun must be toasted on one side - the inside. 1 lettuce leaf, dill pickle, mayo and mustard mix dressing and maybe a slice of tomato. I am happy for it to come with bought in fries but not if I am paying more than £10.95

Piano Cafe closes during January which probably upsets a lot of people in the West Wight - where else can they go!!. Their menu is simple and uses the freshest ingredients.

Piano Cafe: Gate Lane, Freshwater, just past the church with the thatch roof

Tel: 472874

Steephill Cove   is a dream holiday destination for alfresco eating and a cool windy August deters no-one. I have to say that I could spend almost my entire summer eating in this little gem of a place. Coffee and cake, crab sandwich, lobster salad, grilled mackerel.

The Boat House - Steephill Cove (R) PC

My first visit here was over 8 years ago. I fell in love with it. The venue alone filled me with happiness and ephemeral joy to be remembered like a holiday romance. In 2010 the concept is exactly the same. With fresh seafood from boat to table on a daily basis, now as it was then. People ask me why I have given cafe with a small menu offering the most basic of cooking a Highly Recommended award. They have a mission and they deliver it - it's as simple as that.

Imagine the tropics, imagine alfresco eating under the gentle shade of a palm-fringed veranda and you have The Boat House. What a joy, what bliss. What pleasure and how clever to think of planting a piece of the South Sea Islands on our own Wighty shores.

Wooden slatted floors, canvas roof, directors' chairs, bits of old rope twisted around driftwood rails. Stones off the beach, trellis walls and trees growing through the floor contrast with damask napkins and large glass goblets for the delicious house wine.

The menu is basically salad, salad and salad. I had the seafood platter with an almost perfectly cooked lobster. A crab shell-filled with hand-picked succulent brown and white crab meat and a dozen shell on prawns resting on a large bed of salad. The seafood was incredibly fresh. The only thing missing was a dollop of genuine homemade mayonnaise.

Desserts are homemade. My raspberry brûlée was completely wrong in terms of it being made to an accurate recipe, however it was divine in its own special way.

Where is it? . Proceeding by car from Ventnor, the lane leading to Steephill Cove is 50yds short of the Ventnor Botanic Gardens. Cars cannot descend to the cove, but parking is available on the main road; or park at the top Ventnor esplanade car park and take the cliff walk. Approx 30 minutes.

Tel: 852747

Crab Shed - Steephill Cove (HR) PC

Simplicity always works providing the ingredients are well chosen and of top quality. Small menus always work and means specials really are specials and not an attempt t get rid of yesterday’s left-overs. The Crab Shack serves the best green salad anywhere on the Island. It is dressed delicately the leaves are fresh and juicy not prickly with rocket and it is lifted with a few circles of wafer thin red onion. It accompanies super fresh fish (usually mackerel) and seafood (lobster and crab) and crab pasties. No puds just ice cream and excellent homemade Victoria sandwich. One of my favourite places. I often walk to Steephill Cove from Ventnor car park. I’m ready for my lunch by the time I get there.

Tel: 01983 855819

Cove - Steephill Cove

A small café in Steephill Cove serving nothing more than ice cream, cake and coffee. So if you don’t want Victoria Sponge pop along to Cove for coffee and cake or vanilla ice-cream and coffee -(deconstructed affrogato)

Quarr Abbey Tea Shop (R)

I am amazed they manage consistency. Since opening there has been many changes of chef yet the food remains consistently good. The menu is a boring read, paninis, ciabattas, soup, a few specials. But the cooking and presentation raises it the food to a higher level. They buy in their cakes but they are very good. I particularly like the chewy lemon bar and the special Quarr cake which is like a simnel cake. Soups are hearty and flavoursome. I refuse the bread so they give me a few chips instead. This winter I had the baked camembert with a dressed side salad and again with French fries instead of bread – a very posh sort of cheesy chips.

The waitress service has gone much to my relief

Please read previous reviews for more...

01983 898543

Where is it - In the grounds of Quarr Abbey which is between Wootton and Ryde

Cooking tip - Beef burgers cooked rare or medium rare should be put into an oven (150-80c) to warm through. The length of time depends upon the thickness but generally peaking a home made burger will be thicker than a bought in one and its edges will be curved rather than straight. Then remove from the oven and cooked on a hot heat either in a pan, clean griddle - that has no residual black bits - or under a hot grill.

This also applies to rare and blue steak



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