One of the things people frequently say to us apart from “It must be great to get free food all the time!” (we don’t), is “Where is a good seafood/vegetarian restaurant?” As far as we know there isn’t currently an exclusively vegetarian restaurant on the Isle of Wight and we wonder whether there is sufficient demand for such a place. Or is it like Radio Three; nice to know it’s there but nobody actually tunes in. Most venues recognise that there is a demand for meat-free food and will have at least one, and sometimes many more, non-meat dishes. But an entirely vegetarian joint? Maybe the Island isn’t quite ready.
Seafood, it could be argued, is more of a chef specialism than vegetarian cooking. It would be unfair to say that veggie meals are all about what you leave out, rather than put in (although that may be the crux of the matter). Whereas fresh fish has to be appropriately procured and its cooking requires a modicum of skill. Cat once witnessed an appalling abuse of a cod fillet. It was flopped unadorned into a lidded pan and ‘poached’ until the soft flaky meaty had been rendered into something akin to the shape and texture of a sanitary towel. It still makes her eyes roll to this day.
You’d think that the Isle of Wight might take a leaf out of Cornwall’s book and become a haven for a-fish-ionados of seafood. For a ‘plaice’ surrounded by sea, there used to be a notable lack of fish restaurants. However, over the past few years, that has changed. Now the Corner Grill House in Shanklin has entered the fray. Promoting itself as a grill (on a corner) one might assume that its menu is dominated by steak and other red meat. There is certainly a good selection of tempting steaks, including fillet at less than twenty quid – a price we haven’t seen on a local menu for a good while. However, it’s not all about the beef. The Corner Grill House has an unexpectedly comprehensive fish and seafood menu; including traditional favourites like sea bass and whitebait and also slightly less common fish such as sardines, tuna and swordfish.
Matt almost volunteered for the mighty mixed fish grill which, at £25, looked almost too impressive even for him. Instead he chose the slightly more modest mixed fried fish: calamari, whitebait, sardines and prawns. This was exactly as promised – a vast platter bearing more fried fish than Matt could actually eat. With chips, dips, a bowl of roast veg and a token bit of salad; this was seafood at its most basic and satisfying. If the whitebait of was of the orange breaded variety, the calamari was moist and soft, and the sardines were satisfyingly intense and oily, as they should be.
Mixed fried fish £14.95
Seabass fillets £15.95
Cat, at first tempted by the fillet steak, considered the fish menu and all thoughts of red meat went out of her mind. Tuna steak is rather marvellous, a good meaty substitute for your actual cow but, in the end she was lured by the sea bass fillet with lemon, white wine and garlic sauce. This dish was right up Cat’s street; a brace of soft white fillets were enveloped in a tangy lemony sauce, with spinach-wrapped rosemary providing an aromatic accompaniment. It was delicious. If the fish wasn’t enough the vegetables were superior to any that Cat had eaten in a restaurant for a long while. The side dishes were presented pub-style; a bowl of thick-cut chips and the mixed vegetables. The vegetables were firm and had been seared in butter giving the cauliflower, particularly, a slight sweetness that Cat couldn’t get enough of. So much so that she swapped some of her extremely agreeable chips for a delve in Matt’s veg bowl.
…the vegetables were superior to any that Cat had eaten in a restaurant for a long while.
At first glance fifteen quid seemed at the upper end for a fish dish but actually when it arrived and Cat started eating it she realised that it was most definitely worth it. The fish was nicely dressed and the side dishes were also superior to many that she had been served in the past.
The Corner Grill seems to have hit the ground running. This modern venue has been put to good use again, with extremely chummy service and an interesting menu with a pleasing selection of fish and meat. The restaurant should satisfy those who have been asking for a seafood restaurant – but the vegetarians might have a longer wait.
This is the full-length version of a review that was printed in the Isle of Wight County Press
- Pleasing selection of meat and fish
- Excellent vegetables
- Smart venue
- May seem pricey at first, but pretty good value