After a year of extensive ‘research’ we noticed a trend for locally-focussed and chef-led dining that got some real traction in 2016.
Following the sudden and woeful loss of Brading’s Waxworks restaurant (one of only a few five star reviews from us in 2016) this smart venue has been reborn as Heima, a promising destination for locavore foraged dishes. Meanwhile the Waxworks team has reopened at the Duck, Ryde with a very attractive menu. In Newport the new Hewitt’s is open under the care of alumni from two of our favourite venues, the Bonchurch Inn and Mojac’s.
Special events we’ve enjoyed this year include the Isle of Wight Gin Festival, Open Farm Sunday at Living Larder, and The Art of Food at Quay Arts – the last two involving catering by the unstoppable Robert Thompson team. With the arrival of Thompson’s last year the ante was well and truly upped in Newport. An absolute favourite of ours, Nomad, is an electrifying addition to Newport and Cowes. The chefs’ combined love of exotic ingredients, stimulating food and a tangible passion for their product has made Nomad one of our must-visit restaurants.
East Cowes is making an unexpected leap up the food charts: Prego impressed us with its on-trend interior, decent sourdough pizza and top service. The almost homophonous Prezzo, Newport couldn’t be more different apart from the obvious Mediterranean influence – we were underwhelmed by this new high street chain behemoth.
Down in the Bay area we fell in love again with the English seaside restaurant. Bellamy’s cottage pie, lamb chops, sausage and mash are as intrinsically part of our nation’s food identity as heritage tomatoes and rare breeds. The surprise hit of the year in Sandown is Salty Willy’s. This rustic little shack has tasty fish practically swimming onto its griddle.
We said goodbye to the modest but well-loved Missy J cafe, following the sad death of proprietor Janine Margolias. Elsewhere the veritable Lugley’s brand was finally laid to rest as both Newport and Cowes versions closed and reopened under new names.
Food tourism continues to grow – certainly eating out is a very important part of our own hols. And we believe it’s an area where the Isle of Wight can not only hold its own but really shine.