Fighting Cocks, Arreton Fighting Cocks, Arreton
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Fighting Cocks, Arreton

Island roads are different, so the apologetic sign once declared to visitors disembarking from the ferry. They sure are.

Mini mixed grill

Some Isle of Wight roads are in a deplorable state; Cat’s car recently sustained enough damage to require the replacement of two wheels and a hubcap as she inadvertently drove through a pothole in the West Wight. Conversely, in Ryde the streets are all shiny and new – really, really new – rapidly resurfaced in time for the first leg of the Pearl Izumi Tour Series cycle event.

In due course we are assured that all of the rotten roads will have been given a Ryde street-style makeover. For example, throughout the first half of 2015 the navvies at Island Roads were busy reconstructing the main road through Arreton. And the engineers were not just undertaking the lipstick-on-a-pig model of road repairs, but full blown reconstruction – in a Michael Jackson’s face kind of way.

This sort of major construction work can’t really go ahead without some disruption, but how much impact did it have on the local businesses? Matt and Cat headed to the valley to find out.

Matt and Cat’s bill
Lightbite fisherman’s pie £7.95
Mini mixed grill £16.95
Apple pie £4.95
Cheesecake £4.95
Total £34.80
Just look at the picture! Look at it! That’s a *mini* mixed grill!
Fish pie

Approaching the Fighting Cocks from the Sandown side of Arreton and Matt and Cat were pleased to find that getting there was no trouble. There were seats outside with a view of the lively play area, but it was one of those days that looked warmer than it actually was so they found themselves out of the breeze, at a table in the sunny family room.

Cheesecake

The Fighting Cocks has a well-earned reputation as a consistently good venue, with family-pleasing facilities and food served all day. Many’s the evening M&C have spent there in the company of their friends, birthday partying, scoffing steaks or judging a contender in the (infrequently held) Isle of Wight national dish contest.

Matt’s dish of choice at the Fighting Cocks is the sizzling fajitas, but this time he noticed with interest that the massive mixed grill is now offered as a ‘mini mixed grill’ option so he thought he’d give that a go, washed down with a pint of Yates’. When it arrived the dish was almost imperceptibly smaller than the classic mixed grill offering, with plenty of chips, a single colossal mushroom, and splendidly tender and moist meat of every description. Just look at the picture! Look at it! That’s a *mini* mixed grill! Just up Matt’s (resurfaced) street.

Cat likes to pretend that she has a small appetite. This, of course, is nonsense but Matt lets her kid herself. And so too does the Fighting Cocks. If you’re looking for pub grub without the pub grub calories then, like Cat, you can choose from the ‘Light Bite’ menu. Cleverly, the kitchen accommodates those with smaller capacity stomachs and also those with smaller capacity purses, with its value-tastic light bite range. But calorie counters beware! Cat’s portion of fish pie was pretty generous – if this is the small version what must the grown-ups one be like? As she scooped the pie out of its casserole dish, Cat was amazed how much pinky salmon, plus chunks of white and smoked fish had been squeezed under the mash and cheesy topping. It’s hard to go wrong with fish pie; sure a pea or two might have added a bit of colour but there was dill to give the pie’s soft filling a suggestion of green. The fish pie was traditionally creamy and piping hot; the mash was tufted and browned and it slipped down very satisfactorily, with bread and butter and a small undressed salad.

Kidding themselves that they weren’t full after their generous ‘light bites’, Matt and Cat reached for the pudding menu. For Matt, a beautifully presented tasty strawberry and white chocolate cheesecake. For Cat of the allegedly small appetite, a hearty apple pie with a nice short crust and a lake of smooth yellow custard. There was so much of this delicious classic hot pie that Matt was worried he wouldn’t get a taste. Eventually cat’s manners won through, and he got the last spoonful of the cinnamony pie as Cat retired defeated, but happy.

The Fighting Cocks is a reliable favorite of Matt and Cat. It understands its family market well, with dishes for all tastes and sizes of appetites, including children’s menu, an interesting vegetarian selection and, of course, the light bites. For such a vast pub, the service is always friendly and quick, the food good value and of a consistent and reliable quality.

A shorter version of this review appeared in print in the Isle of Wight County Press. The review was written before the road reopened.

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