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A  seven day eating holiday on the Isle of Wight

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Pubs

The Red Lion - Freshwater (HR)

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.

Taverner's -  Godshill (HR) PC

Best Pub award 2014/15 and 2013/14

"Best Pub" Award 2013 and 2012

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.

Roger subscribes to an Australian Gourmet magazine and leaves them lying around for obsessed people like me to read while I am eating one of his creations. You always know a good chef/cook when they say I read a cookery book like it is a novel. It suspect Roger does just that.

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

He is a lateral thinker. For instance, he won't serve run of the mill food like cheesy chips. So what does he do? He combines the idea of baked camembert in a box - only he used the isle of Wight cheese and serves it hot and melty as a dip with his chips. Brill.

His Christmas pudding cheesecake was interesting, I loved it and had one very similar at the New Inn, They called theirs mince pie cheese cake which came with chocolate flakes, a choclolate whirly wafer and ice cream

Where is it? At the Newport side of Godshill Village

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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Ocean Deck - Sandown (R) PC

It probably doesn’t matter what I have to say about the Ocean Deck. They are in one of the busiest holiday resorts on the island and are no doubt rushed off their feet and make a buck or two. But I would just like to say how nice it is that Sandown now has another eatery that is worthy of a mention in this guide. I went with a friend who also likes nice food and we had a fantastic cottage pie. The mash was smooth and creamy and the mince layer was rich, meaty and not hidden under a blanket of overblown gravy. One of the best cottage pies I have had in years. I went back a week later and had the pan fried sea bream on a bed of seafood risotto. The bream was nicely cooked and the risotto very tasty albeit it on the stodgy side.

A risotto should be slightly soup like and the rice cooked through but still with some bite. Too many eateries pre-cook risotto and re-heat it. It is bound to become stodgy.

I have big issues with risotto and I have begun to order it wherever I go on a quest for the chef/cook who knows how to make it. At another eatery that I went to I was served risotto that tasted of vinegar. I asked the chef if he had put vinegar in it. He looked at me as if I was nuts - of course not he was thinking. Then he told me he had added sweet pickled onions. This chef was totally unaware that sweet pickled anything has vinegar in it.

If you are going to make risotto you have to have the time to pay it constant undying attention. Measurement are generally imprecise and it is literally a play-it-by-ear - so to speak dish. Soften finely chopped onions in olive oil. Add the Arborio rice and gently and briefly fry in the oil then slowly add the stock and if using, white wine, stirring constantly like you would a fresh egg custard, add more liquid as required until the rice is just cooked and the dish is like a thick soup. Stir in cream or parmesan for a creamy texture and serve immediately.

Where is it - Sandown seafront

Seaview Hotel  Pub  (R)

I prefer to eat in the Hotel’s pub, it has more atmosphere. I began with goats cheese salad with beetroot. It is currently all the rage to marry goats cheese with beetroot. I cannot really say it is the  best of marriages and a divorce wouldn’t go amiss. I can think of many better liaison such as, medjool dates, ripe pears, leeks, My confit of Duck leg with a cassoulet of butter beans was extremely tasty with good rustic flavours. The crème brûlée was as it should be creamy custard with light crisp burnt sugar toping the rhubarb compote was an excellent addition.

Comment

A recent February 2015 pub meal in the West Wight consisted of overcooked haddock with the scales still on it. Stodgy crab and pea risotto. A prawn and crab cocktail with one lettuce leaf three spots of "from the bottle" prawn cocktail sauce no bigger than a pound coin each topped with half a cherry tomato and two tiny bits of crusty bread. My ice cream had virtually melted by the time it got to the table and the waiter did not know a) what the pie of the day was, b) what flavour the soup of the day was or c) what flavour of the cheesecake was. His excuse was he had just had a baby and it was his first day back to work

Bonchurch Inn - Bonchurch (HR) 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.

 

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 1.5 %- 2% 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 - so, they lost a customer

Padmore Lodge, Beatrice Avenue, East Cowes, Isle of Wight, PO32 6LP

email: angela.hewitt@btclick.com

 Links:-www.WightCOW.co.uk   www.angelahewitt.co.uk    www.naturezones.org.uk  www.angelahewittdesigns.co.uk   www.plantnative.org.uk  www.Lugleys.co.uk   www.bornfree.org.uk