Oh, it had to happen. Just when Matt and Cat thought they had redeemed themselves in the eyes of the Cowes cognoscenti with their favourable Mojac's review, they've gone and eaten in the town again - and they're going to have to be brutally frank. But before any more money is spent on private investigators and solicitors' threatening letters, first a pre-emptive strike.
See, kind folk of Cowes: one of M&C's favourite places ever to eat is in your town, the exquisite Red Duster. And only a few weeks ago, they were raving about the great food at Mojac's, before that the comfortable New Holmwood Hotel; and, oh, the list goes on. Matt and Cat really like most places they eat at Cowes, but not without question, and they'll still keep on telling you when they don't.
Matt and Cat met a bunch of Twitter-using pals at The Coast, a trendy Shooters Hill bar. It was a clean and stylish venue with plain brick walls, stripped floors and unadorned wooden tables giving it a classy, urban chic. There was also a curious surfeit of stairs leading up and down to other floors; the metal steps offering more than a hint of marine engineering. It was a jolly, lively place, with plenty of patrons drinking and eating. Leaving the others to sort themselves out, Matt got the drinks in for himself and Cat, and was a bit startled to be charged £4.40 for a pint of cider and a glass of tap water with lime cordial.
Stilton burger £10.95
Stilton burger £10.95
Pint cider & glass water/cordial £4.40
Menus with a range of seafood, burgers and salad were passed around the table; on the specials board were a few nibbles and tempting main courses. A whole load of sharing platters testified to the nature of The Coast as a sociable place; and, when the waiter arrived to take their orders, several of M&C's companions chose this communal option.
Because the group had an array of nibbles, starters, sharing platters and mains, the delivery of the food was a bit spasmodic. First to arrive was a platter of oven baked Camembert with red onion chutney, dressed baby leaves and warm French baguette to dunk. This proved to be pretty good, and Matt was delighted to be offered a bit of the warm Camembert rind to chew on. Really, how can anyone leave that? It's the best bit. Also in the first tranche of dishes came some dusted calamari with lemon and garlic dipping sauce. What the 'dust' was was never fully explained, but the recipient was displeased with the squid inside it. It's not unusual for seafood to be overcooked into rubberiness, but in this instance, as the disgruntled diner demonstrated by rapping the offending item on the plate - some of the calamari were actually roasted into rigidity. Not a promising start.
Passing over such temptations as smoked haddock and pea risotto topped with wild rocket leaves, lemon wedge and shavings of Parmesan; moules frites or the interestingly-spelt smoked salmon "ceaser" salad, Matt and Cat unusually both chose the same dish from the 'Steaks and Gourmet Burgers' section: the Coast Stilton Burger. This was described as Aberdeen Angus beef burger topped with Stilton, sticky red onion chutney and a beer battered onion ring, served with frites and baby mixed leaves. As the others enjoyed their sharing platters, or rapped a tattoo on their plate with a solidified invertebrate, Matt and Cat patiently waited for their dinners.
There then followed a very long pause. Luckily the dining party was getting pretty lively, so gossip and posturing diverted their attention from their empty stomachs. But even so, by the time Coast began to wheel out the rest of the food some of the diners were starting to show impatience.
As well as the tardiness of the service, the food was feebly delivered. The youngsters staffing the place were incapable of asserting themselves over the loud music and chatter resonating in Coast. The waitress stood, plates in hand, mouthing the names of dishes, not even trying to make herself heard. Waiting staff have a pretty tough job at the best of times; on their feet dealing with sometimes rude and impatient customers in a stressy environment. But frontline staff need to engage with their charges. The job is not just about the delivery of food - otherwise we'd all just put a coin in a slot and wait for our dinners to appear down the chute. Eventually Cat came to the waitress's assistance. It's not often that Cat raises her demure voice, but when she does, people listen - or at least jump. "Moules frites" shrilled Cat in a tone that would crack lobsters' claws. Eventually all the food was handed out and, once the lack of cutlery, sauces and extra bread had been pointed out and rectified, the diners set to work.
Now, the quality of burgers on the Island is something that Matt and Cat have been monitoring - and they're not alone. So they were both looking forward to this meal. Sadly, the Coast Stilton burger was a bit of a let-down, and for £10.95 they both felt as though they were owed a bit more. The chips - or frites, as they are described - were cooling, perhaps as a result of the large party and ineffective service. The salad was unadorned leaves straight from the bag: no dressing, no tomato, no cucumber, nothing. Fresh, mind you, which was a plus. But the burger itself was the real disappointment. The meat was average: dry and without flavour, the bun just the same. Tainted by the merest hint of some chutney, a single onion ring was located on top of the meat and tasted like every other onion ring that had ever come out of a freezer. On the other side, a parsimonious smear of Stilton was eventually discovered adorning the bottom half of the bun which had collapsed to a wafer-thin sliver. Really, these burgers were a wasted opportunity. The ingredients were only just good enough, and if they had been cheered up with the addition of a generous dollop of cheese, some gherkins, a big slice of beefsteak tomato, some mayonnaise, or pretty much anything really, the whole thing would have been so much better. It seemed that the other diners in the party felt the same: of five who had ordered this meal, only one finished it. And yes, that one was Matt.
So The Coast had some good points - it looked good, and had an interesting menu. It was also very lively and had a good atmosphere. But in truth, for serving a large group of people both the kitchen and the waiting staff struggled. Given the rather cramped layout, it's hard to see what could be done to improve that. Probably this would be a better place for drinks, or light tapas, rather than a whole evening's dining.
Eventually, the party reached a consensus in the way that large groups of slightly tipsy people seem to take such a very long time to do. Rather than pester The Coast for desserts or coffee, they'd pay up and go elsewhere. With a last-minute spurt of efficiency, The Coast managed to produce a separate bill for all the people involved - no mean feat - but by then it was too late. The diners moved on to one of the other splendid offerings in Cowes. And you'd better believe there are plenty of those.
Categories: We don't like, Restaurants, Cowes & East Cowes
I feel I need to reply, as we were both with you (they were my Moules Frites) and we are quite often eating / drinking at the Coast. So let me start the case for the defence.
The coast has gone through many guises in the past few years; Alamo, The Pussy Cat Club, Morgans... etc. So, having some stability in this prime slice of Cowes is brilliant.
I agree with the comments about the waiting staff, however, they are painfully polite, always calling me "sir". Its a nice touch and manners cost nothing.
My food was delicious, the Moules were perfectly cooked with a great white wine sauce. I even asked for bread and was presented with a still warm french loaf, excellent! Something else thats excellent, the cocktail list!
However, the tables were a sticky, there is no excuse for this.
I urge Matt and Cat to revisit, maybe when its less busy. The coast do a great breakfast menu, give it a go!
Now I understand that the staff were rushed off their feet, but that excuse only reaches so far; if they had made a genuine mistake with my food, I would have preferred them to own up and apologise for the delay or failure.
I like the Coast as a venue, it has a nice wine-bar style atmosphere which is rare on the Island, but the drink prices do indeed raise eyebrows, and I'm doubtful if I would risk eating there again.
I would definitely return for cocktails, nibbles and mussels.
I think that the review could put some people off going to Coast which would be a shame.
It is BY FAR the nicest place in Cowes to go for a drink. Great atmosphere, tasteful decor (this is frankly unique in Cowes!) and very nice staff.
I think it would be fair to say that if you want a MEAL at Coast you go upstairs to their lovely dining room. I havent eaten here so hopefully the owners will pay more attention to the produce they select (its always depressing when you eat out and decide everything has come out of the freezer..)
Also, your review was done when Coast was quite newly opened.
Coast should certainly feature on any night out in Cowes and if you are going for a meal at M&Cs favoruite, Mojacs, Coast is literally yards away and a great pit-stop for a pre/post meal drink.
The food may be good at Mojacs but the decor has had a style bypass..so maybe these two establishments should join forces and use each others strengths! Then you would have one of the best venues on the island!