We thought you deserved some sort of an explanation.
Q. Who are Matt and Cat?
A. Matt and Cat are a couple of Isle of Wight locals who enjoy the occasional meal out. They claim no better qualifications or experience than this. These reviews are their personal opinions. If you consider that their opinions do not coincide with your own, they would not be at all surprised. For obvious reasons, they don’t want to show pictures of themselves or whatever. This is supposed to be anonymous, see? And if you are looking to find out more about them, check their policy statement first. There’s also a radio interview with John Hannam you can listen to, to see if you recognise their voices or something.
Q. How can I get Matt and Cat to come to my venue?
Q. Who looks at this stuff, anyway?
A. You’d be surprised: we were. If you’re interested in web stats, read on. If not, avert your gaze. Between 4,000-10,000 page views per day by our own server’s stats (it’s quite seasonal, not surprisingly, with a big peak in the summer) are recorded on the website itself. Using more conventional and more reliable Google Analytics the site consistently got between 300-650 absolute unique visitors per day throughout 2013. Visitors almost all come from UK IP addresses, but other than them about 2% come from the US and Canada, 1% come from Germany, and another 1% everywhere else.
Q. What is your relationship with the Isle of Wight County Press?
A. We have long recommended that anyone interested in the Island should read our favourite publication, the Isle of Wight County Press. And as of July 2014 we are now regular columnists, writing a fortnightly review for the printed paper. A longer version appears here on our website after a week. Here are some IWCP special questions and answers:
Does this mean you’re you giving up your website?
No, far from it! Each review we write in the IWCP will have a longer version published on our website the following week; and of course we’ll keep on doing other reviews too.
Does the IWCP dictate what places you review?
No, we’re still as independent as ever: we get to choose which places we review, and we are invited to say what we like! Ooer. As if we wouldn’t.
Does the County Press pay for the food?
No, we’re still going in anonymously, unannounced and personally paying for all the meals that we review. If we go to special events where it isn’t a paid-for review, we’ll make that clear just as we do here on the website.
What venue will be featured in your next review?
Pick up the County Press at your newsagent to see our latest review. Where will be next? There’s only one way to find out!
Q. How does your rating system work?
A. We prefer to rely on our flowery prose, but if you must look at ratings it’s simple enough. At the top of each review you will find the categories to which we allocate the establishment. For example ‘Ryde’, ‘Cafes’, ‘Family friendly’ and so on. Included in here is one of three rating categories: ‘We love!’; ‘We like’; and ‘We don’t like’. Hopefully these are self–explanatory. If a review does not include one of these – and several do not – it means that we either don’t feel strongly one way or the other, can’t make our minds up yet, or that there was some reason why we couldn’t rate the establishment (such as we couldn’t get served). By reading the review you should be in no doubt as to which of these applies.
More recent reviews also have a more conventional star rating, which is displayed at the top of the review. because we didn’t feel like going back to change 500-odd reviews, we’ll probably keep both the ‘we like’ and the stars running simultaneously. It’s worth pointing out that for us, three stars is a decent place that would probably score solid ‘We Like’. So four stars is worth seeking out, and five stars is really exceptional.
Don’t forget, too, that this is an eating out guide, not a directory of tourist attractions. We only rate a venue on how good it is as a place to eat. Just because we don’t like the food doesn’t mean it isn’t great in other respects – plenty of really good pubs and bars, for example, are hardly perfect places for a meal.
Q. How do I get a wrong or out-of-date review or comment changed?
A. You have to wait for us to come back. You can always leave a comment on the blog, too (although if you’reconnected with the establishment please read this advice first). Reviews are regularly updated if they make a return visit, and their opinions do change quite regularly. So keep looking. But be warned, if we gave a real stinker of a review, we ain’t likely to come back soon.
If there’s a major development – such as a place closing down- which you think readers need to know then you can at any time simply add a comment to the review with the information. We review all comments and if we think it is significant enough we may amend the review as necessary.
It is not normally possible to edit comments and we will not usually entertain requests to do so – although there’s nothing to stop you adding another comment to correct your earlier one. In rare circumstances they will think about editing a comment- but not just because you’ve changed your mind. See also our policy on comments.
Q. Do Matt and Cat get paid for this?
A. No way! And we don’t get free meals either. We don’t ask for money from anyone, not you the reader nor the restaurateurs. In fact this enterprise costs us money. We pay for all of this out of the goodness of our big, wholesome hearts. Isn’t that lovely?
Q. Why do Matt and Cat run this website?
A. Good question – actually we’re not entirely sure, but it’s something we enjoy doing. Both Matt and Cat love the Isle of Wight and love to tell people about how great it is here, so perhaps the website is just a way of pointing out some of the really great food you can get on the Island.
One thing we’re not particularly bothered about is promoting businesses. This website is about food and eating out; so even the most splendid small business, run by the most charming young couple, in the most deserving and deprived location will not receive any favourable review unless it also provides decent food and service.
A. Establishments that get a rating of either’We love’ or ‘We like’ are entitled to display, if they so wish, one of our stickers. Some choose to do so and some don’t. That’s all it means. So the sticker indicates quite a range of opinions from ‘we absolutely love this place’ to’ this place isn’t too bad’. It shows that we think the place is worth visiting but is not a guarantee that everything about the place is good. Indeed very few places can get everything right every time. You’ll need to actually read our review to see why we recommend the place – and of course it’s possible we’ve changed our review since we gave the sticker out, too.
So if you’ve had a bad – or a good – experience in a ‘recommended’ place, then your best option is to leave a comment on the review and let everyone else know. Then anyone who pays heed to the sticker and comes to see the review will see your opinion as well as ours. This means the system is self-policing: most places wouldn’t want to advertise a website that is filled with negative opinions about their food.
If you want to get one of these see our special page of information for restaurateurs and proprietors to learn about how they are issued.
Q. Why are your reviews different from the Food Standards Agency star ratings?
A. You will find a link to the government Food Standards Agency’s food hygiene website on the sidebar of every review, where it has been since the scheme was adopted. These scores measure health and safety and hygiene. So it’s worth checking out the FSA website as well as this one if you particularly want to know about food hygiene.The star rating is not a measure of the quality of the restaurant. Often the rating the council gives isn’t the same as the review. This is because unlike the council, Matt and Cat cannot review safety policies and training, nor do they have special access to a venue’s kitchens and non-public areas so can only comment on what they experience as members of the public. The FSA rating is not usually a factor in the reviews because even the cleanest and most highly rated place might be the most uninspiring and serve bland food indifferently.
Q. Are Matt and Cat professionals?
A. You’d be amazed how many irate restaurateurs get on their hind legs and accuse M & C of not being professional. Funnily enough it’s usually the ones who get bad reviews. But guess what, they’re right! Matt and Cat have never owned a restaurant, cooked food for money, been employed in the catering business or won any awards for foodiness. They don’t know the names of many famous chefs nor do they understand about rosettes, stars and ribbons – or much care. They are just people who eat out, and that’s it. Matt once cooked a lettuce and cornflake curry for goodness sake. That’s how much he knows.
Q. Do the pubs and restaurants know you are coming?
A. Absolutely not. Normally, Matt and Cat turn up unannounced, and don’t tell the establishment until after they have gone. They get exactly the same experience as random diners walking in off the street, and yes, they do pay full price too. Otherwise there might be a danger that the establishment might do something different to normal.