Harbour Kitchen

So it looks as though the cronut has passed the Isle of Wight by.

The biggest culinary fad of 2013 disappeared before we even had time to pretend to be interested. How about the slider burger? Briefly in fashion some time around last Christmas, it's probably no disaster that the Island never took to these midget burgers. And really, it's no surprise. Small burgers? What's the point of that? That isn't really how burgers work. Successful burgers tend to be large, impressive-looking, and modified with various additions to give taste, texture, and above all, loads of unctuous fat. Does anyone sell a diet burger? No. Nor are they likely to. Nobody goes to buy a burger and kids themself they are on a diet. And that's why we love burgers: they are unapologetically big, brash and meaty.

An unexpected big hit in Newport last year was the Smokehouse Burger Co. Serving up the kind of simple hipster burger and brioche combo that has filled every cafe in Brighton and Shoreditch, it successfully deployed that particular trend to the Island. So it's probably no surprise that the clever folk behind the Coast Bar have taken a variation on the same formula to Cowes with similar results. Matt and Cat have no fear of the burger, and one busy weekend they went to sample what is touted as "Beer, Burgers, Bourbon" at The Harbour Kitchen.

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 Published: 22nd September 2015
Categories: We like, Cowes & East Cowes

Thompson's, Newport

Well, what do you know - the boy has done it again. He's only gone and opened a restaurant right in the middle of Newport.

What, Newport? Seriously, the place where there are two Wetherspoons? That's the one. Not only that, but in a former cafe overlooking the bus station. Robert Thompson is the former Michelin-starred chef who could have taken his pick of jobs on the mainland, or gone off to cater on some superyacht. But instead he has laid his roots down on the Isle of Wight.

Thompson's in Newport is the hottest joint on the Island right now. The eponymous chef is a celebrated face locally, and his talent has gained national attention. Followers of Robert Thompson may have eaten at the Hambrough, the Pond or The George. In any of those venues, in the past diners will have experienced great attention to detail, fiddly dishes with tufts, foams and gratings, and this complex style is still conspicuous in the food at Robert's new restaurant.

What Robert has noticeably dispensed with is the support of a patron. Traditionally high-end venues have a silent - or not so silent - backer, bankrolling the talent and sometimes calling the shots. Robert has deliberately stepped away from this formula and is going it alone. Well, not quite. He has a loyal band in the kitchen who are as committed to delivering fabulous food as they are to the restaurant's proprietor. And it shows. Unlike the hushed temple to food that Matt and Cat experienced at one-Michelin starred restaurant the Hambrough, Thompson's is a far livelier place. Gone are the whispered tones of the waiting staff. The blank-windowed and corporate Isla's at The George has been swapped for a corner plot with views over a bustling town centre.

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 Published: 7th September 2015
Categories: Restaurants, We love!, Newport, Local produce

Planet Buffet, Shanklin

The all-you-can-eat buffet is a curious animal. Almost an equivalent of the popular Sunday carvery - but without the vast sweaty bird - the nature of the buffet system is to prioritise quantity over quality.


In places like Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth where you have huge crowds of hungry diners all day, every day, this could be a reasonable business model. But in a quiet, traditional seaside town it's a courageous enterprise. The opening of Planet Buffet in Shanklin's High Street this summer was just such a venture - offering dozens of dishes from around the world, all at one price. It's a similar setup to the Asia Fusion restaurant which is an established feature in the former Lake Working Men's Club; when Matt and Cat visited they were favourably impressed. Would Planet Buffet prove to be a similar success? Matt rounded up one hungry teenager, and Cat enlisted an enthusiastic colleague, thus a party of four set out to put Planet Buffet to the test.

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Ganders, St Helens

The gravy pooled on the plate; it was not piped, spotted or smeared into a comma.

Fish cakes

There was no danger at all of bread appearing in a cloth cap, nor vegetables in a flowerpot. Even chips in a bucket seemed a little unlikely. Nothing was deconstructed - on the contrary, all the food was assembled with care and skill. If the absence of trendy menu-baiting features appeals to you, you'll probably enjoy Ganders.

The whole dish burst (metaphorically) into life with a thick, sticky sherry sauce with caramelised onion.

Some canny friends of Matt and Cat invited them to St Helen's to try out the village's long-established restaurant. It was a warm, sunny evening when M&C strolled across the wide village green. They were welcomed into the little venue and settled into a bright corner, with views across the grass to the distant downs.

The menu tempted the party with its talk of prime steak, rich Goddard's ale sauce, and East End liquor - and that was just one dish. Also attractive was the prix fixe deal at only 21.95 for three courses. However Matt and Cat hadn't been invited to Ganders for that - no, wine was chosen and the full menu was considered.

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 Published: 31st August 2015
Categories: Restaurants, We love!, Bembridge and St Helens, Local produce

Ponda Rosa, Ryde

A pensioner, a teenager and a toddler walk into a pub and demand lunch. As much as this may sound like the beginning of a joke it is, in fact, a scenario played out every Sunday at Ryde's Ponda Rosa. And, unlike some venues which choose to make things a bit awkward for the old and partially deaf by playing conversation-squelchingly loud music, or being ill-equipped to accommodate the extremely young who need their own tiny thrones, the Ponda Rosa welcomes all comers.

This was certainly the experience of Matt and Cat one drizzly summer Sunday. Having built up an appetite whooshing down Union Street on the fabulousness that was Ryde Slide, Cat, with Matt and her octogenarian father in tow, left the hubbub of Ryde Leisure Strip and headed to the town's deep south and the mock-Tyrolean roadhouse the Ponda Rosa.

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 Published: 9th August 2015
Categories: We like, Restaurants, Family friendly, Ryde, Carveries

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