The Met, Ventnor
The Isle of Wight is delightfully unsophisticated despite the regular and steady influx of DFLs (Down from London), downsizing to experience the mellowness that is Island living (see Guardian article 'Let's Move to Ventnor'). The Island's esplanades are empty of metrosexual man's preening narcissism, his skilfully dishevelled hair refusing to budge an inch in the blustery seaside conditions.
As well as the cosmopolitan man, other urban trends have also remained an abstract concept. Thankfully the Island's streets are not littered with the corpses of recently stabbed youths; celebrity tarts in pink velour tracksuits remain, like their personalities, satisfyingly two-dimensional on the pages of Heat magazine and property prices continue to rise, despite the rest of the world heading for a global economic downturn.
So, it was with some trepidation that Matt and Cat entered Ventnor's Met Bar, imagining it to be populated by zealously groomed young men with bodies hard from their gym workout or orange-hued women with nylon hair cascading down their tattooed backs. Thankfully, they discovered that The Met is a name derived from the eminently respectable Metropole Hotel! Phew!
This cavernous tavern occupies a south-facing corner plot of the new Metropole development, which rose out of the proverbial ashes of the Victorian Metropole Hotel. Although Matt and Cat arrived on a windswept stormy night, it was not hard to imagine the place on a sunny summer's afternoon. In fact, the obliging barman explained that the previous Saturday, which had indeed been a very sunny winter's afternoon, had seen The Met fill up with coffee-drinking locals taking advantage of the clement weather. No such crowds on this January evening though; M and C were the only punters.
The Met cannot boast of being the Island's only tapas bar as there is another one just around the corner in Pier Street. For those unfamiliar with tapas, the menu offers a selection of small dishes of rich Mediterranean food, plus appetizers such as olives and rustic bread.
As M and C's arrival had doubled the population of the establishment, they got the full works from the barman and the chef, both of whom spent some considerable time chatting amiably about the business, the food and places to eat in Ventnor and Ryde. It was an enjoyable and relaxing conversation over the bar, and Matt and Cat, needless to say, were interested to hear a professional's take on rival eateries.
Your reviewers were given a virtual tour around the menu; most dishes were described and alternatives were offered. They were even encouraged not to over-order as tapas can be deceptively filling. Even allowing for the empty restaurant this was pretty good service. With this in mind, they chose two dishes apiece; Cat the lamb meatballs in tomato and basil sauce and chicken satay with peanut sauce; Matt the smoked ham and mushroom frittata and salmon and juniper rolls. They also ordered a bowl of olives stuffed with garlic, a coke and a splendid bottle of Ventnor Brewery Admiral's Ale.
There are plenty of seats in The Met; some by the vast picture windows overlooking the English Channel, others snug in the interior of the bar and yet more on a dais. This is where Cat chose to sit as it suited her regal pretensions. The chairs and tables were satisfyingly solid, hard-wearing leather and wood. The walls of the bar were plainly rendered but with rustic brick detailing and the piped music was an eclectic mix of progressive jazz, torch songs and what sounded like a theramin! A very nice environment for a laid-back evening meal.
Matt and Cat carried their drinks to the table and the tapas was delivered shortly after - five dishes of different but complimentary food. Matt and Cat's first experience of tapas was in Portsmouth, and they thought it overpriced nonsense. The Met, by contrast, provided decent-sized portions. There certainly seemed a lot more food than can be had at La Tasca in Portsmouth where £3 buys you a couple of olives and an anchovy. Cat was particularly taken with the lamb meatballs. They were very tender, not at all fatty or gristly and had a good lamby taste. The thick tomato and basil sauce deserved to be mopped up with some bread but she made do with scooping it up on the frittatas, which was very dense, if slightly rubbery. Matt found the salmon rolls reminiscent of rollmop herring, and in no need of the extra lemon slices that were provided. The salmon looked interesting and there was a generous amount. Cat thought she had discovered a fish scale, but it turned out to be a piece of chopped bay leaf - there was quite a bit in this dish which may have added aroma but was alarmingly crunchy.
The chicken satay was the only disappointment as the meaty sticks were just like the ones in the supermarket. They were very resistant to being removed from the wooden skewers and had to be eaten like meatsicles. However they were redeemed by the peanut sauce which was lovely and smooth and went well with the lamb as well as the chicken. There was plenty of fresh lettuce and two pert strawberries finished off the garnish.
As Matt and Cat paid up and fought against the wind (!) on their way back to the car, they reflected on another good tapas meal in Ventnor. Strange that there are only two tapas bars on the Island, and they are within spitting distance of each other, and both pretty good. Matt and Cat wondered if The Met would be so accommodating on a busy summer's day when the DFLs are cruising in their droves, checking their reflections in the big picture windows, sunglasses perched in top of their well-coiffured heads, braying into their telephones. Perhaps they'll make a return visit to find out.
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Categories: We like, Restaurants, Ventnor area, Podcasts, Tapas
11 comments (newest first)
I’ve noticed that the pretentions of Island towns to some kind of sophistication can be directly correlated to the level of availability of a good bowl of soup. Newport, known for hot dinners, is fairly brimming with venues offering fresh, wholesome and tasty soups. Ryde, famed for its pride, is a different matter, being something of a soup desert.
As for the pulsating hub of Island cuisine - where else but Ventnor - I was imagining choosing from all sorts of innovative and inventive new soup approaches. So I prepared for my Sunday lunchtime visit with some glee. Sadly it was not to be, as the pulsating new venues in the town centre were either not open, had no soup on the go, or offered it only as a prelude to a pricey and elaborate main course.
So it was down to a windswept seafront, and to the Met Bar. Previous visits had featured great coffee and super cakes, so hopes were high when leek and potato soup was spotted at the top of the specials board. After a friendly welcome my drink and cutlery arrived promptly, so all looked set for a great lunchtime treat.
Sadly, the promise was far from fulfilled. What arrived at the table had the consitency of a sauce rather than a soup. It appeared to have been thickened by an agent such as cornflour, rather than the sheer volume of hearty veg. A skin that rapidly spread across the surface seemed to confirm this, as did the presence of multiple small lumps of non-veg material. It also had a curious lack of flavour, despite the copious amounts of green specks present, presumably something herbal.
The visit was further spoiled by a procession of canine visitors, brought in by customers who were in no way discouraged from doing this by the staff. Surely if dogs are welcome there should be a sign outside to warn the unsuspecting general public?
Overall a disappointing visit. It’s a real shame as the setting is superb, and I would really like to see this place doing well.
This place is wonderful. We have only been on the island four months and have returned four times, and we have never had a bad meal here. The venison is a favorite of myself and my wife and the coffee is the best we’ve had on the island. Keep up the good work Met bar.
Another Late Lunch here and suitably impressed by the food and service, until it all got a bit twitchy by the front of house man at about three o’clock, who was clearly in abit of a rush to get home on his split. Superb location on a bright wintery day. The chef behind the bar proudly displaying his Brakes Bros supplied Whites was a little upsetting ’til we realised the menu and/or literature does not pertain to be anything else. Unlike many island food establishments who amazingly have fresh local crab in Januray and the such like.
Had a lovely evening here last night me singing and Jim playing the piano.
Lovely atmosphere and the food looked yummy as it whisked past me!
Lovely place for a drink…but tapas?…their interpretation of tapas is simply small portions of anything…and no great quality…very disapointing.
Looks a bit cavernous from outside. But the service is attentive and the food good value. We must go again, and again.
Went to the Met for lunch today, still our favourite place for reasonable prices, great selection of tapas and small dishes, always served piping hot, and attentive staff.
It was jammed again, as always, but they have got this place right, with nice decor, fabulous views, and its about time that Matt and cat went back and paid it a visit. definitely should be a top 5 eating out destination on the IOW>
Absolutely love this place! Have been there on several different
occasions and its been great for an evening meal, a leisurely
lunch or just coffee and cake. Really relaxed atmosphere, great
service and fabulous food and choice of drinks. A great place to
while away a few hours watching the sea.
Stuffed Baby Pumpkins- Mwah!
The met was a nice enough bar for a drink, although going during the season, I was served by a baby faced teenager who didn’t know how to make a pimms, and had to painfully watch him slowly chop up one strawberry then a lemon with a blunt knife on a dirty worktop because he cannot find the board. 2 G&Ts and pimms took took 10mins to be made, but I didn’t have the heart to have a go as he really was trying, I blame the management for shoddy training.
As for the food, I am surprised by the above reviews, I’ve never heard of chinese spare ribs, garlic mushrooms and other questionable dishes served as authentic Tapas. I know they don’t have a kitchen and all foods come from the spyglass, but it really looked like someone just popped to sommerfields for microwaved meals. Quality was shoddy for the price they were charging, and it would be an insult to compare it to el toro contento up the high street, shame they can’t swap locations!
Good for a nice view and cold drink (just don’t watch them prepare it) but that’s about it.
As a surprise for my fiance’s 40th birthday I organised a lovely romantic week end on the IOW. On the saturday evening we decided to go out for a dinner and after a little walk on the esplanade we opted for the MET bar. First impression was jazzy, welcoming and cosy. We first ordered a mix of breads with a mediterranean mix of olives, sun dried tomatoes, peppers, cheese and capres, with that, I enjoyed a glass of Chilean Merlot while Peter had a beer.
These starters were delicious, dipping the bread in the rich flavoured oils was a pleasure and the vegetables took us straight to Spain. For our mains we decided to go for the lamb meat balls, the paella, and the mussels. After such a start we were just hoping that the mains would be as tasty and after a very short waiting time and an excellent service we were litteraly trying to figure out which one of the 3 dishes was the best, all were full of flavour, cooked perfectly and delicious. Surprisingly after only these few dishes we were full but there is always a little space for a naughty dessert. Peter had the apple and caramel crumble while I had some ice cream and again, we were not disappointed.
In summary, next time we come to the IOW we will go back to the MET but this time to try other tapas, this is one of the best dinners we had in a long time. Thank you to the chef and staff for giving us such a memorable evening. Peter and Virginie.