There was a time when a ‘pop-up restaurant’ on the Isle of Wight was a phenomenon which drew naive provincial diners like moths to...

There was a time when a ‘pop-up restaurant’ on the Isle of Wight was a phenomenon which drew naive provincial diners like moths to a cosmopolitan flame.

Catch, Yarmouth

It was beyond exciting when a new one ‘popped up’. Tickets would sell within moments. But it didn’t take too long for even hicks to discover that pop-ups, like all other restaurants, vary in quality. Matt and Cat have been to some fantastic pop-ups, and – occasionally – the contrary. This summer Matt and Cat thought the trope must have reached its nadir when they saw a street-vending wagon with ‘pop-up burger restaurant’ written on it. But despite its ubiquity, they can’t deny that the pop-up concept still has a slight atmosphere of fun and mystery about it that is oddly alluring.

So when Twitter correspondent @iowjobs drew their attention to Yarmouth’s new pop-up fish and chip emporium, they paid attention. Catch is the on-trend name of this stylish installation that is trading for the summer from the yard of Yarmouth Institute, prominently located right by the town’s main car park. And on the evening Matt and Cat visited, it seemed to be doing brisk trade.

The pop-up concept still has a slight atmosphere of fun and mystery about it that is oddly alluring.

A temporary fish and chip shack had been erected at the back of the courtyard, and in front, picnic tables were filled with families getting down to some fried food. Matt and Cat bagged a table and went to inspect the menu chalked up by the hatch. It was all very well-presented, with the chip shanty fetchingly clad in driftwood-style timber, lively blue-painted tables, lobster pots hung enticingly on the walls and generally no effort spared in making it look like a very classy chippy.

Fabulous Fish Box. Catch, Yarmouth

The menu was, unexpectedly, quite reasonably priced, with basic fish and chips for only £6.95 – although there was also an impressive-sounding lobster and chips for £19.95. Matt and Cat were tempted by the Fabulous Fish Box – described as “A bit of everything if you can’t decide: battered fish, fish fingers, fish cake and posh chips.” This chippy was also licenced, so Matt enjoyed a bottle of local Yates Undercliff Experience ale, whilst Cat chose a bottle of Fentiman’s Curiosity Cola.

The fish box came neatly parcelled in cardboard. Matt had prudently ordered an extra portion of chips, which came wrapped, wonderfully, in old pages of the Isle of Wight County Press. The diners retreated to their jolly blue fish motif table and began the unboxing. Inside the fish box was a single portion of fried fish, two fish nuggets, a fishcake and some chips. A little pot of tartare sauce and a big chunk of lemon was included. Not a bad haul. Matt and Cat were keen to dig in.

Matt and Cat’s bill
Fab fish box £11.95
Bag of chips £2
Yates ale £3.50
Cola £1.50

The chips were first to be sampled. Billed as ‘proper posh twice-cooked chips’ it was clear that these were not meant to be proletariat potatoes – this was high end stuff. If so, Matt and Cat would readily have chosen improper, working-class chips. To their surprise the chips were pale, lifeless and sadly tasteless. Even the County Press was unable to breathe any hint of sophistication into them.

On to the fish. The menu promised ‘south coast’ fish, which isn’t necessarily the same as local fish. But at least they told you what the fish of the day was, and it wasn’t cod for once – it was hake. A reasonable portion of the hake was inside the batter, although getting at it proved to be tricky. Tiny wooden forks were provided, but the batter was overcooked into impenetrability, or so undercooked as to be almost too soggy to remove. How this was achieved simultaneously on the same fish was something of a mystery. Matt, tired of watching Cat’s useless little fork skid repeatedly off the batter, grabbed the fish and ripped it into pieces. Luckily, once the mechanics of accessing it were mastered, the fish inside turned out fairly well. The fish fingers, or nuggets, were cute little bits of fish which seemed like a pretty good idea. Fish and chip shops should consider serving these little morsels more often – they’d be great for younger children, although these particular ones were pretty bony for tiny mouths. Nonetheless they were fun to dip into the tartare sauce, which was a nice and possibly custom-made mix including olives.

Under all this was lurking the solitary fishcake – and it was probably hiding for a reason. Its breadcrumb coating had soaked up the copious grease from the other items; inside, it seemed to have little to do with fish, and quite a lot to do with potato. Although it wasn’t entirely devoid of taste, if there was any fish in it Matt and Cat struggled to detect it.

The rain began to spot on the ground as Matt and Cat gathered their newspaper and fish box to pop in the customised bins made of piles of old tyres. Some napkins to wipe off the grease might have been welcome, but there were none. Cat would have definitely preferred to have something resembling cutlery too, as her attempts to manipulate the food with the meagre tools provided were forking useless. The wooden prongs would have been satisfactory for chips alone but were no good for eating the rest of the meal if you didn’t want to use your hands.

The duo wandered back into the town with a feeling of disquiet. They felt that Catch, with its stylish look and cheeky menu, had overpromised and underdelivered. Even though the price had been good their meals had been unsatisfying, and they were seized with the knowledge that some of the Island’s best fish and chips were just a few minutes’ drive away at Rainbow Fish Bar, Freshwater. If they’d gone that extra mile they might have had to do without the carefully-crafted Catch experience, beer and a fish box, but by crikey they’d have had some decent fish and chips.
Catch, Yarmouth

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  • Kevin

    20th August 2016 #1 Author

    I think perhaps I visited at the same time as Matt & Cat?! Not impressed! Expensive for portion size & quality not great.

    Reply

  • Theresa

    3rd April 2013 #2 Author

    Very surprised at Matt and Cats review. Catch had the best fish and chips in West Wight anyway and I dont often say that. Excellent quality fish and well cooked and excellent chips. Excellent idea to serve the wedges of lemon and tartare sauce. Living here we mussed a good fish and chip shop – neither the Rainbow Fish and Chip shop nor Totties at Totland are a patch on Catch – both have poor quality fish and rubbish chips.

    Reply

  • Sean

    21st September 2012 #3 Author

    I thought taking foreign pasties INTO the West Country was a hang-able offence!

    Reply

  • Bill Murray

    20th September 2012 #4 Author

    Great fish and chips last night from Catch, took two Crab Pasties home to Devon to eat tonight, really tasty we need them down here! Yes it was dry and sunny didn’t have to wait for long, menu interesting, I reckon that Hake tastes better than Cod or Haddock. Well done chaps, such an enjoyable experience for the two of us.

    Reply

  • Becky Haydock

    17th September 2012 #5 Author

    Saw Catch, parked up the camper and ordered fish, chips, crab cakes and mushy peas – to take out to Compton. Loved waiting in the sunshine for them whilst sitting on a bench. Read the menu and was surprised by the amount of choice there was – much better than any fish and chip shop on the high street.

    The food was delicious and made our day after a hard week at work.

    Reply

  • Warwick

    17th September 2012 #6 Author

    I noticed Catch as we parked across the road prior to returning on the ferry. My other half (not being a great f&c lover) went into the town while I ordered “medium fish & chips” which they class as a ‘nemo’ portion. I only had to wait 5 minutes for it to cook and was happy with the quality and presentation – lots of flavour, chips good too and the tartare sauce and slice of lemon was a nice touch. I had no trouble using the wooden fork (it’s all in the wrist action) and was quite satisfied. A paper tissue would have been appreciated though … 8/10

    Reply

  • MN

    10th September 2012 #7 Author

    Sorry to say we visited on Saturday night and waited 45 minutes (after being told it would be 15) for our fish box. We were by then running late for our ferry. We decided to quickly walk over and eat it by the water, only to discover there was no cutlery provided. So I walked all the way back and was told they only had chip forks. After my insistence I was given two spoons to eat our crab cakes with coleslaw and a large piece of fish?! The fish was nice, but we were dissapointed with the whole experience. Other customers were getting very annoyed. One man had only ordered a bag of chips and had waited the same amount of time as us! Such a shame as they had it all set up so nicely, and then didn’t deliver.

    Reply

  • DH

    4th September 2012 #8 Author

    We visited Catch when they first ‘popped up’ and we go return on a regular basis – it’s a bit of a drive from Newport to get your tea but it’s worth it. Yes, it’s a little more expensive than Rainbow Fish and Chips down the road but the Catch quality is fantastic. Crab Pasty and Chips, yum! The fish is fresh and cooked perfectly and their chips are some of the best I’ve experienced on the Island.

    Reply

  • GT

    1st September 2012 #9 Author

    Well well well, this is very interesting, either all of the above posters are friends of Catch or Matt & Cat need to revisit! As for my opinion…. I am a northern guy… I love my fish and chips…. And I find it very, I say again, VERY hard to find great fish and chips down south…. Now that may not sit well with most, however in my opinion it’s true…. So when I visited Catch the other day…. AFTER reading this review I really wondered what the outcome was going to be…..

    I can say without fear of contradiction…. Matt… Cat…. I love your reviews… But you got this one TOTALLY wrong!

    Great great texture & taste to both the fish and chips… Love the menu…. Shall be returning as long as it’s open… Well done Catch… You’ve probably converted a thoroughbred northerner!

    Reply

  • sue r

    24th August 2012 #10 Author

    We live in Yarmouth tried their take away fish (hake) & chips only once, delicious. We shall be returning often.

    Reply

  • Nikki

    22nd August 2012 #11 Author

    I, like many others on this site, am shocked by this review. Every time I have been the food has been lovely and I have never had any cause for complaint. I have been to Catch 4 times and I will definitely be going back.

    Reply

  • laura oliphant

    22nd August 2012 #12 Author

    I love fish and chips and this was up there with the best. Unfortunately Matt and Cat must have visited on an off day because we have never been disappointed. Also sure the issues will have been addressed. Shame it’s a pop up, would love it to be there for good!

    Reply

  • mike

    21st August 2012 #13 Author

    Having purchased and consumeed a crab patty and fries, I found them to be delicious so I was surprised at the review slamming the food. Sadly one suspects that these so called “reviewers” have a different agenda to normal people. The Catch food was very good, very tasty and as I said delicious. I have no connection with the proprietors, simply a satisfied customer.

    Reply

  • Humpington

    21st August 2012 #14 Author

    I literally choked on my moustache at this review. The food at Catch is quite simply the finest it is possible to obtain in this part of Yarmouth. I scoff at those who have only been there once, three times, four times or even six times. I have been there eight times now and always had the most exquisite dishes. I have actually been fasting this week in anticipation of it reopening. It’s food like this that makes us remember why we once had an empire. I have no connection with Catch. Nor have my friends.

    Reply

  • GC

    21st August 2012 #15 Author

    Totally surprised by this review – it must have been a bad day as I’ve been there six times now and always had the freshest beautifully cooked fish, amazing crab cakes and crab pasties. Definitely worth another visit M&C.

    Reply

  • scs

    21st August 2012 #16 Author

    We’ve had the yummiest food at Catch – we’ve been back four times now and we’ve merrily sampled much on the menu and have enjoyed all we have tried. Great idea, great food.

    Reply

  • Tigger two

    21st August 2012 #17 Author

    I have visited on 3 occasions so far and have never been dissapointed! The Lime and Chilli colslaw is lovely and twin that taste with the Crab Pasty you cant go wrong…..Chips were good too.

    Reply

  • Si

    21st August 2012 #18 Author

    HAKE ! , Fantastic , At last someone serving something other than Cod or Haddock ( see todays papers saying we now have to import these fish types cos we have already exceeded this years quota ) ,Know of any other fish&chip shops that sell different types ? . .

    Reply