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.
The gravy pooled on the plate; it was not piped, spotted or smeared into a comma.
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.
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.
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.
Archive review: this pop-up is now closed.
Street food, the sort of nosh that you buy from a hatch in a wagon, is so popular that now they're opening restaurants dedicated to it. No, seriously. And, to prove that it's not all fuddy-duddies in faded red trews, the poshest town on the Isle of Wight has a trendsetting bijou pop-up street food parlour right on its high street.
Burrgrills has restaurant prices but it does takeaway, so if you want to stuff your face standing in the street you can. In fact, the venue is so tiny you might have to. But if you can get to sit down at one of those pastel-painted tables inside you should. This is one of the most exciting new things to happen to Isle of Wight food for quite a while.
Matt and Cat don't half bang on about it but for them a significant part of the Island's charm is the steadfast way it refuses to move with the times.
Yes, it is home to some top tech companies, future energy factories and even the electric bicycle has made its way over the Solent. However, there are plenty of places that just shrug their shoulders and give a nonchalant 'meh' to anything new fangled. Including the term 'meh'.
Take Rylstone Gardens. This pretty park at the top of Shanklin Chine has seen its fortunes rise and fall. Alas now the aviary has been decommissioned and the chalet is all but a ruin. However, the toilets remain open and so too do the crazy golf and the tea garden. Which is where Matt and Cat headed after a quick spot of geocaching.
Before they could have lunch, there was the important business of establishing who would pay for it. And, what fairer way to decide than with a game of skill and dexterity? Putters and score cards in hand, Matt and Cat headed to the links for a game of crazy golf; loser buys lunch.