A chilly Saturday night, and a stillness settled over the West Wight. Having ventured deep into the countryside where the Island’s famed dark skies reveal their celestial secrets, we drew up in Shalfleet. We need not have feared: even if the streets were quiet there was at least one place where the lights were on and a decent supper appeared to be on offer. We took our friends to the New Inn and settled in the cosy pub for dinner.
The New Inn is focussed very much on food, but still retains a recognisable bar, with draught ales and, to Matt’s pleasure, Rosie’s Pig cider on tap too. The barman enthusiastically encouraged us to sample his wares before choosing, and displayed a commendable knowledge of the products.
Beer-battered black pudding bon bons was a starter that caught Matt’s eye. Came for the alliteration; stayed for the delicious pork-based delicacies. Served with lashings of sweet mango puree, these little morsels were unusual and very moreish. Cat shared a pot of whitebait with a friend – this was not quite so original, being the standard orange-breadcrumbed whitebait, but came with freshly-dressed rocket and some tiny tomatoes. Thankfully the business of breading starters has moved beyond those terrible little grease-bombs of the late twentieth century. You remember? Breadcrumb casings and inside, the remnants of a button mushroom cooked nearly to oblivion. Luckily the New Inn whitebait was far better than those degenerate archetypes – inside each crispy shell was a succulent little fish, waiting to be dunked into gentle mayo and paprika dip.
The ten-ounce rump steak came with ‘all the trimmings’. Trimmings, eh? Rarely spotted outside of a roast dinner. Matt was eager to ascertain just what might comprise trimmings here. And if that involved eating steak, so much the better. As it turned out, trimmings were chips, half a tomato, one mushroom, and three onion rings cooked to within a moment of inedibility. The tomato was better, and the mushroom was the best of the lot, being a big, juicy portobello with some genuine flavour to it. The chips were above average, and might even have been made in-house. And so to the meat, the critical test. This was not too bad at all, being a good piece of meat well-seared on the outside and juicy on the inside, with just the hint of red that a medium steak demands.
Black pudding £6.50
Fish and chips (small) £8.45
10oz rump steak £16.95
As is becoming the norm, some of the dishes were offered in standard or ‘light-bite’ sizes. Regular readers will know that this is a particularly desirable option for Cat. Not because she’s practicing a self-punishing calorie-restricted diet nor, thankfully, that she is on a tight budget. No, a smaller main means room for a pudding. The local-ale-battered fish and chips were served with skin-on chips and a commendably coarse-chopped tartare. Both the batter and chips were oilier than she would’ve like but the fish itself was suitably hot and flaky.
Dessert time, and the unchallenging pub grub menu was at its best. Matt’s crumble of the day was a hearty apple and berry dish with a pot of hot vanilla-laced crème anglaise. This was the perfect dish to finish the evening. Cat was even more impressed by her chocolate brownie with salted caramel ice cream and forest berries. The cake was heavenly; one of the best brownies Cat has eaten for a long time. Crusty topped, with an almost fondanty centre which gently oozed its way out of the sides with a little gentle pressure from Cat’s dessert fork. But never mind the texture, what of the taste? A whole dish of the acidic berries would’ve caused Cat’s cheeks to implode from mouth-sucking, but combined with the sweet brownie and the salty hits from the ice cream, it was exquisite.
The New Inn is a busy tourist destination in summer, but when we visited in the depths of winter it felt like a quiet but comfortable and welcoming local pub, with a pretty decent menu. The cosy old inn is characterful, and service was exemplary from friendly, attentive and well-informed staff. The food varied from just about acceptable – those burnt onion rings – to the sublime: the superlative chocolate brownie. Add in real ale and cider on draught, and the delightful rural village location; and we’re happy to recommend the New Inn for an enjoyable evening out.
This is the full length version of the review which was first published in the Isle of Wight County Press
- Cosy country pub
- Excellent service
- Great fish and seafood focus
- Variable standard of food
- Very, very busy at peak times