With over four hundred reviews on this website it's inevitable that they won't all be up to date.
If Matt and Cat were to refresh reviews of places they'd already written about, it would take them over seven years if they ate out once a week - and that wouldn't include any new eateries! However sometimes they do feel compelled to provide an update and, with a pub as popular as Shalfleet's the New Inn, a few (albeit favourable) paragraphs, and no pictures, written way back in 2006 clearly needed updating. Didn't it?
Matt and Cat popped into the pub one April evening and, having taken the necessary step of booking a table, they wandered to the church and then along the pretty creek to work up a suitable appetite by looking at local sarcophagi and sarcophagidae. There were plenty of historical artefacts in the church, including a memorial carved by a protegé of typographer Eric Gill. At the creek Cat saw her first lesser-spotted woodpecker and, in the gloaming, she and Matt squinted into a field trying to spy elusive spring hares. Having got a hour's worth of fun out of Shalfleet, they turned back to the pub for their dinners.
The New Inn is part of the same group that runs The Fishbourne and The Boathouse. It used to be in the same stable as the Horse and Groom, but that seems to have been swept up by another pub chain. Matt and Cat have visited both of the New Inn's sister pubs this year and have found the food and the venues efficient and tasteful, if a little corporate.
The New Inn is the original pub in the group, and certainly has the edge on the other two for character. In 2006 Matt and Cat described the venue as "retaining a pub ambience". Even back then this was noteworthy, as more and more pubs moved away from wet-led sales and geared up for dining ahead of the smoking ban. Half a decade later the New Inn is still packing diners in almost every available space, but has managed to keep a serviceable bar. Other venues may have streamlined their interiors to squeeze in more diners, as the previously incumbent smokers choose to cluster around doorways and shiver in pub gardens. The New Inn, at least, has a bar at which drinkers can prop themselves without feeling like they're taking up valuable table space, even if they are still exiled outside for a fag. It's not a big pub, even so, and for once it's no wishful boast by the pub when their advertisements tell you that booking a table is absolutely essential at any time of year.
Taking their drinks - Matt was particularly pleased with his choice of Weston's still scrumpy cider - M&C nestled themselves at their table. There was plenty to choose from on the menu, especially if you like seafood, and anything with a local provenance was clearly identified. It seems that venues are finally cottoning on to the fact that a mealy-mouthed 'local produce where available' just won't cut it with today's discerning diners.
Black pudding rarebit starter £5.65
Grilled herring £10.95
Chicken breast £12.25
Soft drink 55p
The pub was pretty packed - being as it was the Easter holidays. M&C watched as children ran gleefully around the tables, a baby squawked and old people murmured. Cat overheard some oldies say that there was nothing for youngsters to do in Yarmouth and her mind turned to her own childhood of bicycle rides, tree-climbing and playing her recorder.
There wasn't much time for eavesdropping though as Matt's starter arrived in double-quick time: grilled black pudding and mature cheese rarebit. This piping hot dish was obviously freshly-cooked. The two big flat discs of soft pud were served on a mixed leaf salad, topped with a layer of tangy cheese and corralled by blobs of a mustardy sauce. Unexpectedly, although the menu's prologue had a teasing allure of "bread baked in Bowcombe using Island flour", there was no bread in this dish - although, to be fair, none had been promised. This seemed a bit odd for a rarebit, and the hot pudding laid straight onto the fresh salad made the lack seem even more glaring. Matt ate the little starter with pleasure; it may have been modest in size but it was still a great start to the meal.
As the pub filled up, Matt and Cat had some new neighbours. It seemed that the customers were mostly visitors - with a preponderance of sailors, presumably having come ashore at nearby Shalfleet Quay. Some were clearly seasoned seadogs, and landlubbers Matt and Cat listened with mounting trepidation as they overheard tales of sailing to the Caribbean. "It was the hottest place we'd ever been," griped one, "We had to have the boat's air-conditioning on all the time. It was dreadful - the noise and vibration was intolerable. But without it we couldn't sleep". Sounds a bit grim.
The main courses arrived, again in very good time. Cat had chosen pan-fried chicken breast with local goose egg ribbons and IW smoked garlic butter. This was a fabulous dish; tender chicken roosting on a nest of ribbons, all in a puddle of butter. It was tasty and interesting; the ribbons were something new to Cat. Matt's brace of grilled herring with local wild garlic olive oil, brown shrimps and mozzerella was an impressive sight, and tasted equally good. Herring is an unusual dish to find on a pub menu, and the New Inn rightly showed its confidence with this and other seafood specialities that might be hard to find elsewhere on the Island. New potatoes, broccoli and red cabbage came alongside in a bowl to share - a decent allowance of freshly-cooked veg, at no extra charge.
As Cat sucked up the last of the goose egg ribbon, the waitress came and took their plates and enquired if M&C wanted dessert. A moment to reflect might have been good here, but in such a crowded pub it's a foolish diner who sends the staff away, so with the garlicky butter still moistening her lips, Cat managed to ask for lemon posset with poached rhubarb and shortbread. Matt was easily talked into salted peanut caramel tiffin with vanilla ice cream and peanut brittle. In the short pause before the arrival of the puddings, the neighbouring table were still reminiscing about their Caribbean trip, "We didn't eat out much. The food was expensive and anyway, we didn't like it". Matt and Cat struck 'sail across the Atlantic to the West Indies' off their to-do list.
Much better value and closer to home is the food at the New Inn. Cat's lemon posset produced the required amount of sour-faced gurning, much to Matt's delight. Funnily enough, the rhubarb - which can usually elicit similar mouth-sucking - complimented the creamy dessert. The biscuits helped temper the acid too. The peanut tiffin came in the form of two rich chocolatey fingers with a confetti of peanut brittle and a scoop of ice cream - although contrarily, the printed menu suggested Minghella ice cream whereas the dessert board offered New Forest ice cream. Either way, it was Solent-local and very tasty. Both desserts demonstrated the strength of the kitchen at the New Inn - they were every bit as considered and well-conceived as the other courses.
Utterly replete after their meal, Matt and Cat made their way back to the bar. As they patiently waited for their turn to pay, a fellow diner was enquiring about the other pubs in the group, and making plans to catch 'em all - like a full-size game of pub-grub Pokémon. Matt and Cat thought she'd made a good choice to use the New Inn as a template for further IW dining. Having read through their review from 2006, surprisingly little has changed about the pub. The venue still has its cosy rooms, the staff continue to be friendly and very efficient. The food is reasonably priced for the quality delivered - especially the main courses. If anything, the standard of food has gone up a notch or two, but it was pretty good in the first place. Recommended.
Categories: Pub Grub, We love!, Family friendly, West Wight
Christmas in Bequi and New Year's in Trinidad. Absolutely heaven after sailing 26 days from Tenerife in the Canary Islands in our 1927 32 foot wooden ketch. Food was FABULOUS... but maybe that's because I wasn't cooking on my little gimbled primus stove during a Force 7. We sailed with a combined group of dolphins and whales for several joyful hours in a English/cetean migration. You have lived when you are belly down on the bow deck watching these lovely mammals accompany you on your journey.
You mock the sailors, Matt and Cat, but when have you dared to go on an adventure... and Venture Quays in Portsmouth doesn't count.
Matt and Cat respond: Thanks for your comment, Dave. We've changed 'mooring at Shalfleet Quay' to 'presumably having come ashore at...'. And we're sure we were mocking ourselves when it comes to sailing; we're desperately unadventurous!
Matt and Cat respond: Mmm, sounds great! We'd love to go! Have a super week on the Island and do let us know how you get on if you eat out!