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
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
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
in an Island Pub
"I'm sorry we haven't got
Chardonnay, the nearest we have to that is a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc"!!!
Ocean Deck - Sandown
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
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.
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
TOP 5 2016/17
TOP 5 2015/16
"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
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
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.