Matt and Cat\'s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide
This is an archive review. La Scala has now closed.  Matt spent his formative years in Sandown, pottering on the beach, playing on the...

This is an archive review. La Scala has now closed. 

Matt spent his formative years in Sandown, pottering on the beach, playing on the railway and trotting up and down the High Street. Much has changed in Sandown since those days… but much has not. Matt can’t quite remember if it had the same name, but certainly La Scala was one of the very few up-market eating-places in Sandown all those years ago: as it remains now.

La Scala, Sandown

Intriguingly, all that can be seen of La Scala from the High Street is the eponymous staircase leading down to the cellar in which the restaurant is located. Matt and Cat made the journey down those stairs, wondering what they’d find below.

In the cellar is a chaotic but highly characterful little establishment. It bears the marks of many years of extensions, alterations and partial refurbishments. Indeed a prominent sign touts the benefits of the latest improvements: air conditioning, new carpets et al. – the effect rather spoilt by the date on the bottom of the sign: 2002. Undeterred, Matt and Cat pushed open the heavy wooden door and wandered into the labyrinthine interior. No human life could be seen, although flickering tea-lights lit all the tables, and a big fish-tank set into the wall bubbled merrily. Your reviewers wandered around, moving from one little room to another until eventually, in an inner sanctum they discovered a young lady sheltering behind a tiny bar. Even then, she seemed reluctant to speak or emerge from her shelter until Matt and Cat were obliged to actually ask for a table – at which point she gave in to the inevitable and started acting like a courteous, if timid, host. Perhaps some unknown protocol had been breached, because M&C were politely but firmly escorted through the empty restaurant to a minuscule table right next to the toilets.

However, what a restaurant. In one antechamber an indoor waterfall was on show – with an underfloor pond. In another room there was a further fish tank, and in a third chamber a wall of raffia-clad bottles demonstrated the real retro nostalgic Italian restaurant chic which La Scala seems to exhibit unashamedly. Every available niche was filled with a melange of interesting pictures, tat and souvenirs. A massive wooden pipe on the mantel opposite Matt and Cat looked like something to be smoked by a giant, whilst a curious relief work depicting Don Quixote loomed over their table. Similar odd ornaments were scattered throughout, giving a quaint and quite homely air – although definitely one with a feel of the last century.

Chicken Provençale, La Scala
Matt and Cat’s bill
Bistecca Alla Forestiera £16.75
Chicken Provençale £12.50
2 x veg & potatoes £5.50
Chocolate sundae £4.75
Bistecca Alla 'Forestiera', La Scala

The menu proved to be substantial, and although certainly Italian at heart, it also featured English dishes such as Prawn Cocktail ‘Mary Rose’(sic), the decidedly Gallic Escargots Parisienne, and even Chicken Stir Fry. Matt chose from the La Scala Specialities, selecting Bistecca Alla ‘Forestiera’, sirloin steak with mushroom and red wine sauce. Cat was unable to resist the Breast of Chicken Provençale. The quiet waitress took the order without comment and was about to depart when Cat made a further enquiry – what did these meals come with? It transpired that they came with garnish. Was there anything else? Apparently not. A sinking feeling came across your reviewers – this was another one of those places that charge for vegetables separately. This deplorable practice, once common, is now thankfully almost extinct on the Island.

…this was another one of those places that charge for vegetables separately. This deplorable practice, once common, is now thankfully almost extinct on the Island.

Indeed at the last place where Matt and Cat remarked on it, the excellent Yelfs of Ryde, the manager personally commented on the review and said he’d change the policy. So, taking a deep breath, M&C ordered a plate of vegetables and potatoes of the day each. It was fortunate that Cat’s timely question had revealed this shortfall in the order – perhaps some of the sting in this transaction might have been reduced had the waitress actively pointed out that they had ordered only half a meal, and made some suggestions to amend it.

Nevertheless, the meals showed up soon enough, and proved to be extremely good. Matt’s Bistecca was just about rare enough, and was a mighty slab of tasty meat. It was well-prepared; flavoursome and with no chewy edges. The dark and powerful Forestiere sauce was a good accompaniment, although the salad garnish had a few decidedly soggy leaves in it. Matt was very glad he’d ordered the veg though, as without this the dish would have been little but a hunk of meat – delicious, but hardly a meal by itself.

Cat’s enjoyably light chicken Provençale was a sizeable double-breast (with no bones) moistened by a delightful sauce with whole cherry tomatoes. The tender meat was dressed with shavings of tangy Parmesan. And, in true Italian restaurant style, a giant pepper mill was wielded above Matt and Cat’s plates by the mousy waitress, who may have wobbled as she tried to manipulate the colossal condiment container.

Feeling heartened by the excellent main course, Matt and Cat decided to stretch to a dessert. However, they should have known what to expect immediately the menu arrived. Here’s a rule of thumb: never trust a dessert menu that is illustrated with photographs. But, lulled by the quality of the previous dishes, M & C decided on what appeared to be a chocolate sundae: described as ice cream with ‘liquid chocolate’. This proved to be something that any beach café could have done for half the price, and in many cases bettered: it was nothing more than vanilla ice-cream, squirty cream and standard chocolate sauce. Admittedly there was plenty of it, and even with two spoons it was more than the two diners could manage between them. But classy? No.

So, La Scala proved to be an interesting evening. Worth the visit for the splendid and intriguing venue alone, but cheap it was not, and with the surprise of the separate vegetable charge this put it up into the top priced meals on the Island. For this outlay, Matt and Cat would have expected some pretty good service – and whilst it was efficient and courteous, La Scala didn’t fully deliver on that front. The food was great in parts, but couldn’t keep up a consistent quality. Nevertheless, given the lack of much competition in Sandown, La Scala certainly keeps its crown as one of the few better-class establishments in the town.

This is an archive review. La Scala has now closed. 

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  • NB

    30th April 2011 #1 Author

    Taken here as a treat last month by my husband! Wow what a treat! I ate in my coat, although the only other table asked for some heating on!
    the waitress started our services by listing over 5 things they didn’t have this evening!
    Was disappointed with the menu, meat with an array of sauces or simple pub menu pastas. Both my husband and I choose fillet steaks, olives to start and a £20 bottle of Pinot noir. It beginnings… The wine was freezing cold, not good! Still no bowl of olives and were told there are actually no fillet steaks (my husbands ready to walk) I persuaded him we’d have the dishes we’d chosen but with sirloin instead, still no olives. 15mins after we’d changed to sirloin our olives turned up. ONE hour later with a very embarrassed apology from the waitress our food arrived, well the way the sauce was described was no way what had landed in front of me, it was basically a thin gravy tasting of jarred mixed herbs, although my husband and I ordered very different sounding dishes, you could actually not taste the difference. I did not eat my med-rare ordered steak, that was so over done it was near black. I couldn’t see the waitress to tell her about the steak. Offered a free pre frozen crusty roll as way of compensation of, waiting time, lack of menu, rubbish meal. I was not impressed!
    I’m not really sure what the owner is playing at, it certainly isn’t an Italian, very old fashioned menu, lack of stock tells me to shorten the menu, oh and get some heaters!

    Reply

  • Looby

    28th June 2010 #2 Author

    Mother in Laws birthday last Saturday, taken to La Scala by her Hubby ended up leaving and eating at the Chinese, ordered at 20.00 wine arrived. 15 mins later melon starter arrived. 20.45 no sign of the main course, staff leaning on the bar laughing other customers also waiting, waiting staff called over, no apology just a shrug of the shoulders 21.00 still nothing asked for the bill and left
    What a shame they were hardly busy seems they dont want the custom..by the way the Chinese was apparently fab

    Reply

  • jo and Rory Monck

    16th May 2010 #3 Author

    We absolutely love La Scala and everyone in it, we have never had a bad meal and are greeted with friendship and feel thoroughly looked after every time we go, next time is my birthday! We highly recommend the place to everyone we know.

    Reply

    • roger phillips

      11th November 2016 #4 Author

      Dear Jo & Rory, I am the proud owner of the Dell Quay Ranger, “TASHONA” whose first owner was Cdr. P.V.Monck. Would that be your father Rory, by any chance? I would love to hear from you if I am right as we are restoring TASHONA and any history would be nice. My late father in law, P.Allan Charlesworth, was the founder of the Dell Quay group so we have some affiliation. My number is 01243-641433, and email rogerphillips22@yahoo.com
      I look forward;

      Reply

  • Anon

    4th March 2010 #5 Author

    We ate here for our 3 year anniversary, and we loved it. Its not the cheapest place on earth, but it was so nice to relax somewhere with a good meal (we both had pasta of some sort, as I recall) and a pleasant atmosphere.. (quite different from the pub scene we are used to). I plan on returning here for our 10th anniversary, in 2013 if its still there.

    Reply

  • D

    9th November 2009 #6 Author

    This is going to be a short comment as I chose not to use this restaurant after my first outing a couple of years ago. They seem to suffer from a lack of decision. They don’t kno if their food is British, Italian, Spanish, French, etc so they put it all on there. It’s impossible for them to produce such a large menu from fresh ingredients so it’s inevitable that there’s gonna be some cr*p on there – the dish of button mushrooms floating in cream stands out in the memory as does the surprisingly large bill for food nowhere near as good as the stuff that comes out of my kitchen. Unless it’s changed hands in the last 2 years, avoid.

    Reply

  • roger and linda davis

    19th April 2009 #7 Author

    we found sandown a rather tired resort needing a lot of tlc. La scala was a definate oasis. a great meal at reasonable prices

    Reply

  • wayne

    12th July 2008 #8 Author

    unfortunately lugleys in newport also charges for veg and potatoes too adds almost a fiver to an already expensive menu.

    Matt & Cat respond: thanks for the warning. We don’t mind at all occasionally paying top whack for very good food and service – but diners must know what to expect. Pricing veg separately is, at heart, a con-trick. Its purpose is to get you in the door and sat down expecting to pay a certain amount, and then either get some extra money out of you, or oblige you to have an inadequate meal. We also think that the choice of accompaniment is an important part of the meal, and one which is better made by the chef than the diner.

    Reply

  • For this review only!-Anonymous

    8th July 2008 #9 Author

    Accustomed as we were to paying extra for veggies and spuds here, we gave up our regular dining, when ‘Aunt Bessies Roast potatoes’ were served……..uurgh!

    Reply

  • The Wildlife Gardener

    2nd July 2008 #10 Author

    I hope the Mary Rose sauce didn’t come back up again……

    Reply