The Coast Bar, in the trendy heart of Cowes, is unquestionably one of the most popular places in the town.
Both the previous times M&C dined at Coast it left something to be desired, and the venue felt the rough edge of Matt and Cat’s virtual pen. However, M&C are not a couple to hold a grudge, so one quiet autumn afternoon they returned to the Shooters Hill restaurant in search of a light lunch.
Shimmying past some yachtsters at the bar, Matt and Cat were guided by a lively waitress to a table at the back. Unprompted she offered a carafe of chilled water, which M&C sipped to the sounds of light jazz music as they looked at the menu. Being a Tuesday in November, many other venues in Cowes were closed; but even though it was late in the afternoon it was good to see Coast still offering a full menu, including wood-fired pizza.
A bit like brioche buns, pulled meats and chips in a bucket, the wood-fired pizza oven is an enduring trend. On the Isle of Wight there are several wood-fired ovens, including one in the fabulous Wildwood Pizza van and another at Ryde’s Blaze restaurant. Coast’s investment in a wood-fired pizza oven was a canny move and one which necessitated the extension of the bar into the neighbouring premises, creating a large and relaxing daytime eatery.
Mushrooms on toast & fried duck’s egg £6.75
Fish and chips £12.50
Mushroom and Prosciutto pizza £10.50
Having given their order, M&C considered the venue. Despite the lateness of the hour – it was way beyond lunch time but a bit too early for cocktails and dinner – the restaurant was far from empty. As well as the locals at the bar, there was a young couple with a pushchair, a lady having coffee and a local businessman entertaining a small party at a nearby table. You get the idea; Coast during the day is a very egalitarian place.
The Quay Arts has turned Cat’s head several times with its outstanding portobello mushroom and Stilton rarebit on toasted granary bread. Urban Dinner and Isobel Cafe also do a decent scrambled eggs and mushroom on toast so – can you see where this is going yet? – Cat insisted on having Coast’s starter of mushrooms on toast with a fried duck’s egg. The perfectly-cooked egg wibbled slightly on top of its mushroomy nest, served on the ubiquitous brioche. Cream masala sauce soaked pleasingly into the bun and the dish was garnished with tangy baby shoots and punctuated with salt crystals. Delish!
Matt chose Coast’s ‘Proper Fish and Chips’ for his main course, and he was delighted with the way it looked. His beer-battered south coast cod perched on the chips in a metal frying basket. This construction lay on an actual piece of newsprint (the safely uncontroversial Independent) under which was a wooden platter. A charred lemon was a great-looking topping, and a little pot of excellent home-made ‘Tom’s tartare’ completed the dish. The food itself tasted decent enough, although not quite up to the level of the presentation; the chips being standard catering fries and the fish’s batter being a bit greasier than one might have hoped. And – breaking news – the chips were not in a bucket! Yes, trend-spotters, there’s no doubt that Coast is at the forefront of dining fashion, with its bare-brick walls, upcycled chapel chairs and stripped floorboards having predated the adoption of similar styles across the Island by a couple of years. This precociousness extends to food too, and so judging by the latest at Coast, Matt and Cat confidently predict the demise of the tiny galvanised chip-receptacle.
Cat deliberately chose pizza along with Matt’s fish. One of their previous complaints about Coast was its double menu system; pizzas and other mains used to be created in separate kitchens, and came with the warning that they could arrive at separate times. It was a disappointing arrangement that valued the convenience of the establishment above that of its customers – but this foolishness has been swept away and there is now a single menu. Matt and Cat’s mains arrived promptly and simultaneously. A vast and desirable improvement.
Also vast and desirable was Cat’s wood-fired garlic and thyme slow-roasted mushroom pizza. With its gratifyingly-irregular shape and random air pockets, the dough had clearly been hand-manipulated in the artisan way. It was a handsome, generously-topped beast of a pizza with prosciutto cotto, tomato and gently melting mascarpone and mozzarella. Cat drove her pizza wheel through it, dividing it into manageable triangles, and tucked in. The garlic and thyme was barely perceptible, and the dish benefited from the addition of a little salt which pepped up the flavour considerably. The generosity of the toppings and the creamy dollops of mascarpone couldn’t be faulted though.
Coast is clearly an extremely popular venue, particularly with the night time crowd. Having had comments about the timing of their last visit – which was during during Cowes Week – Matt and Cat chose to go at one of the quietest points in the year for their follow-up. They really enjoyed their lunch at Coast; it was much more relaxing and laid-back than the noisy and dark dinner that they had experienced before. Daytime service was particularly commendable; the staff were attentive, bringing extra cutlery without prompting and making polite enquiries at appropriate intervals. Coast has a reputation as a great spot for an evening drink. Matt and Cat would say that a leisurely lunchtime is probably the best way to enjoy the food.
A shorter version of this review appeared in print in the Isle of Wight County Press.
- Relaxing and laid-back venue, particularly for lunch.
- Attentive staff.
- Very popular venue for an evening drink - or two!
- Food itself tasted decent enough, although not quite up to the level of the presentation.