Matt and Cat pride themselves on not having a clue. No, really, it’s important.
They’ve never worked in the catering industry and can’t cook anything more complicated than a casserole, and they know little about wine, meat or famous restaurants. Not watching the television much means they don’t know what celebrity chefs are up to - nor do they care. What they do care about is good food well served. Every time Matt and Cat walk into a new venue, they assess it, insofar as they can, based on what happens there and then. Because that’s what matters, isn’t it? It’s the experience that is delivered on the night - preconceptions have to be left at the door.
A pleasing side-effect of this policy of wilful ignorance is that Matt and Cat are often surprised by a restaurant. Sometimes they find a great venue unexpectedly and get to praise it highly. Less often they find a terrible one and have the mixed pleasure of telling their readers about it. Either way it keeps them entertained.
Matt and Cat certainly had fun the night they visited a little café in Bembridge with some chums. Lockslane, which opened in early 2012 in the former Café Maya, is described as ‘Lockslane Contemporary Bistro’. Wondering if it would be like the much-vaunted Dan's Kitchen in nearby St Helens or maybe keep to the previous incumbent's wholesome and modest approach to catering, Matt and Cat knew there was really only one way to find out.
Arriving in Bembridge the party was able to park outside the door of the little venue. This perhaps reflects the fact that Bembridge cannot in all fairness be said to have a thriving nightlife - at least not in February. Leaving the dark and empty street behind them the group was greeted by a smiling waitress who took their coats and, once the crew had settled down, explained the specials and offered drinks.
Lockslane was spick and span, with a homely and comfortable new interior. The diners’ gossiping slowly ground to a halt as they read through the detailed menu descriptions with mounting interest. Almost every dish sounded interesting and enticing and choosing turned out to be a tricky but enjoyable job for everyone. The range of starters, which included two veggie options, particularly proved impossible to resist and even Cat, who's normally a two-course jockey, was irresistibly tempted by the cream of watercress soup topped with smoked haddock. A complimentary plate of warmed bread with oil and balsamic arrived, and when the first course rolled out, the diners knew they’d done the right thing.
Cat's starter was delivered in an appropriately shallow bowl; the watercress soup was adorned with a swirl of cream and she could detect a flake of haddock poking through its meniscus. The soup on its own was remarkable; with a perfect consistency and subtle flavour. However, it positively zinged when Cat had a spoonful which contained a hunk of fish. Like the Krankies, watercress and haddock may seem an unlikely partnership, however its pairing was a triumph of good taste - unlike the aforementioned swinging Scottish 'schoolboy' and 'his' 'dad'.
Watercress soup starter £5.25
Black pudding starter £6.00
Pork tenderloin £12.50
Chicken breast £10.50
White chocolate tart £5.50
Coffee 2 @ £1.80 = £3.60
Bottle house red (Casa do Lago red 2008) £14.50
Matt, who’s a sucker for black pudding, is always glad when it makes an appearance on any menu, be it breakfast, lunch or dinner. So he was delighted to see Woodford’s black pudding with warm caramelised apples and a cider mustard sauce. Woodford’s is the butcher around the corner, and Matt can report that the black pudding had travelled the short distance well. This dish was quite splendid. Two big slices of pudding were topped with soft, warm apple chunks, and a sprinkling of the cider mustard sauce was artfully surrounding it. But the real treat was in the eating as the flavours of the sauce brought out the taste of the pudding - this was a starter that Matt savoured.
Next for Matt was an essay of a dish: pork tenderloin with prunes ‘en papillote’ and a green peppercorn, brandy and cream sauce, served with braised red cabbage and potato rosti. This complex description was necessary to do justice to what proved to be another corking plate of food. It transpired that ‘en papillote’ means ‘baked in a parcel’. The pork was cooked in a tinfoil case, along with prunes and the tangy sauce. It worked fantastically well. The meat steamed appetisingly, the little parcel having been presented freshly opened. Matt likes a strong flavour and Lockslane didn’t let him down with this dish. The green peppercorns were potent but not overwhelming, and the prunes, brandy and cream, with added herbs, made a sweet and juicy bath for the carefully sliced tenderloin.
Cat’s choice was straight off the specials board, in fact, it was the only main dish on there. Cat loves a bit of chicken, and has noticed that chicken is less frequently seen on menus than in the past. Is it her imagination, or are the chickens being chased off by steak and lobster? Certainly not at Lockslane, where she was presented with a free-range chicken breast in sherry and tarragon sauce, served with olive oil mash and fine green beans. It was an interesting twist to the chicken and creamy tarragon dish that Cat knows and loves. Lockslane's version was beautifully presented with the tender meat languishing on a potatoey pillow with a pretty parcel of beans gift-wrapped in a ribbon of ham. The sauce was tangy - almost acidic and perhaps with a hint of sweetness - and complemented the meat and veg.
Desserts were never in doubt. After two top-rated courses, Matt and Cat were not going to miss out on the finale. Cat chose lemon meringue Pavlova, but shared with her friend who was eating individual coffee, rum, and cardamon trifle; a clever twist on the classic tirimisu. She struggled to finish it - handing portions round to her fellow diners, who fell on it with delight. Matt played a straight bat with white chocolate tart and vanilla-baked rhubarb. This was a very simple dish with a powerful white chocolate kick to it. Perfect with the sharp rhubarb to cleanse the palate.
Bristot coffee all round finished the meal, and the diners were replete and very happy. With the honourable exception of Fox's, Bembridge has never yet been a Mecca for the Island’s diners, but maybe that tide is on the turn. Matt and Cat were surprised and pleased by Lockslane. A seriously enjoyable place to eat has materialised in an unlikely spot. Lockslane is a delightful and unpretentious venue that focuses very clearly on food. With smooth and informative service plus imaginative and tasty food, Lockslane offers a relaxed and informal bistro style - at a reasonable price - that should suit a range of different audiences. Highly recommended.
Categories: Restaurants, We love!, Bembridge and St Helens, Local produce
Will certainly be going again with my family in the next week or so.
Had main and dessert, both wonderful.....REALLY wonderful.
Can't wait to go back and work through the menu!
Lovely meal and evening once again and very good value.
We shall return