As Matt and Cat never tire of pointing out, this website started as a hobby, is independent and takes no money from restaurants.
This gives them the freedom to air their honest opinions, and the liberty to please themselves without anyone pulling their strings.
Having written a fairly enthusiastic review of what was then the new Phileas Foggs back in 2009, they didn't see any need to write another one in any hurry. Not because they didn't want to go back to this very nice venue - on the contrary, they’d had some good food in a lively atmosphere. However, as each review involves a modicum of preparation, usually an evening spent in a restaurant and then several more hours crafting their opinions and processing photographs, M&C tend to target their revisits for mercurial places where the review might no longer be accurate, or which elicit polarised opinions from commenters to this website. The new owners of Phileas Foggs implored Matt and Cat to "visit us soon, we need an up-to-date review" - but, as the word was that all was still rosy in the house of Fogg, it took a bit of time for them to do so.
Eventually, of course, it happened. Matt and Cat made no mention of their impending meal to the new owners, who naturally enough got the anonymous review treatment. The big question is, has Phileas Foggs lost its way or does the earlier positive review still hold muster?
Phileas Fogg, the main character in the 1873 Jules Verne novel Around the World in Eighty Days, bears a name often appropriated to indicate global travel and a cosmopolitan taste: convenient things to associate with a restaurant. The clever concept behind Phileas Foggs, and the idea which explains the name, is that the menu has dishes from a range of different cuisines around the world. Rather than a Chinese restaurant, and Indian restaurant, or even a Tex-Mex, wouldn't it be fun to eat somewhere that is all these things and more?
The venue itself, bore no traces of its earlier tea shop incarnation. Clean, bright and airy, it conformed to the modern restaurant stereotype with its wooden furniture, carpetless floor and bold artworks. In some ways, it might have been fun to honour its eponymous traveller and fill the place with souvenirs from around the world in eighty ways. Punters could join in, sending snow globes from Calcutta, figurines from Yokohama and so forth. However, not only would this be a nightmare to dust, it might soon draw the unwelcome attentions of TV’s clutter-clearers. Perhaps not such a good idea after all!
Although appreciating the germ of an interesting concept, the first time M&C visited Phileas Foggs they made gentle yet veiled references to the fact that the menu may have been a bit over-ambitious. The unique selling point of the restaurant and the reason for its (grammatically incorrect) name was this comprehensive offer of world cuisine. No corner of the globe was unrepresented. Nowhere was this more obvious than in the epic menu, presented in a vast tome. Back then, before Matt and Cat had finished flipping through pages and pages of diverse dishes, they equated the experience to browsing a gap-year photo album; like a flick-book of the world, too disparate and too long.
As they once again manipulated the hefty albums with slightly sinking hearts, Matt and Cat were relieved to discover that more than half of the pages were now completely empty. The new owners of Phileas Foggs have under-emphasised the international cuisine theme and developed a shorter and much more focussed menu. It was as if Phileas Fogg’s travels had been updated for the jet age, the cumbersome carpetbag had been exchanged for lightweight hand luggage. This is definitely a good thing.
Having dispensed drinks, the extremely friendly waitress dealt with the business of the food. Matt had starter of squid. Always optimistic that he will be served another portion akin to that acme of squid starters at Elliot's, he was keen to see what Foggs could rustle up. His salt and pepper squid with fried garlic, chilli and spring onion was served with almost superfluous dips. The healthy pile of fresh herbs and greens, laced with fresh chilli, was all that was needed to do justice to the lightly-battered mollusc. A great start.
Matt’s roast pork fillet, creamy mash, IW asparagus and salsa verdé was the most beautifully presented of the three mains that were delivered to their table. The meaty pork tower had a leafy mash foundation, regimented asparagus ground floor and a turret of folded proscutto. This was Matt's first Isle of Wight asparagus of the season and, in a year when it's not that easy to come by, it was worth the wait. The whole dish worked excellently.
Cat’s chicken Tuscany was delicious. Again on a nest of rustic mash - hers included chopped red onion - the generous pile of chicken was artfully twisted, pointing up at Cat’s delighted face. The dish came with a decent portion of very tasty and perfectly-cooked veg. The best bit was the rich and tangy dolcelatte sauce, which made fromageophile Matt envious. One of their companions had lamb tagine and this was duly passed around the table. The aromatic sauce and tender meat were a perfect example of this Moroccan classic. Clearly someone in the kitchen had read their international cookbooks, but not felt too obliged to stick slavishly to them. So far so good. In fact - better than before.
Last time M&C visited, the puddings were a bit of a let down; they described that course as "a bit of a diminuendo". So, purely in the interests of research, the party asked to see the sweet menu. Matt, who’s a big fan of batter, predictably chose tempura banana fritters and Cat had the special cheesecake.
Squid starter £4.50
Pork fillet £15.95
Chicken Tuscany £10.95
Banana fritters £3.95
Baked cheesecake £4.25
2 x coffee @ £1.80
Banana fritters are supposedly quite hard to get wrong. If so, Matt can testify that there are quite a few chefs battling against the odds. In this case, the light tempura batter and artfully splodged syrup could not have been better. The careful presentation of even this simple dish was characteristic of the level of attention that Matt and Cat were starting to discover was the key to the all-new Phileas Foggs.
Cat’s baked raspberry cheesecake was, again, pretty darned good. A generous slice of the dense dairy dessert was orbited by a ring of raspberries while a sliced strawberry stood guard on top. Sometimes cheesecake can be inappropriately sweet but this wedge was on the right side of cheesy.
Although Matt and Cat’s party were for the most part of the evening the only ones in the restaurant, they had a great time. Presumably the venue would have been more atmospheric with a full complement of punters, but the foursome still made enough racket to keep themselves amused. And without a doubt, the food was really very good. Freshly-prepared, delicious, plentiful and good value, Matt and Cat couldn’t fault it. Cat was particularly taken with her chicken Tuscany. So, in a way it’s business as usual at Phileas Foggs, but with some noticeable improvements. In short, there is less on the menu, but what is there is splendid. The presentation was impeccable and the service fabulous. The outstanding asset to the venue was undoubtedly the waitress who, faced with a night of potentially little action, was attentive, courteous and very friendly, even when her guests were getting a bit lively. Was it worth Matt and Cat’s time to do another review? Definitely. They don't know why they didn't come before.
Categories: We like, Restaurants, Family friendly, Ventnor area, Local produce
Cheers ,( all this time, mutter mutter )
Squid are members of the class Cephalopoda, subclass Coleoidea, order Teuthida, of which there are two major suborders, Myopsina and Oegopsina (including giant squids like Architeuthis dux). Teuthida is the largest cephalopod order with around 300 species classified into 29 families.
Squid have differentiated from their ancestral molluscs such that the body plan has been condensed antero-posteriorly and extended dorso-ventrally. What before may have been the foot of the ancestor is modified into a complex set of tentacles and highly developed sense organs, including advanced eyes similar to those of vertebrates.
The ancestral shell has been lost, with only an internal gladius, or pen, remaining. The pen is a feather-shaped internal structure that supports the squid's mantle and serves as a site for muscle attachment. It is made of a chitin-like material.
So although they may have originated back in the mists of time from molluscs they have evolved into their own classification seperate from molluscs
Hey Simon you can come back now and stop muttering ..grin :-)
Matt intervenes: you are mistaken, Nick. Squid are molluscs in the same way that we are chordates. But I am impressed by how tenaciously you've managed to argue the point. I offer the image to the right from the same Wikipedia page you referred to. The emphasis is mine.
Matt and Cat respond: yes, the venue has had two sets of owners since it opened under this name. The current incumbents opened last autumn so we suspect the August experience was probably not anything to do with them.
Thanks for your comments. To clarify we took over the running of Phileas Foggs at the end of October last year. It is not our policy to ever turn anyone away. We are open all year round, with slightly reduced opening times during the winter. I am sorry you were turned away in August, but it was not us! we would love to welcome you some day! :)