Fine Nammet, Shanklin
When Sandown boy Matt worked in the Fens he was struck by three things: the searingly cold easterly wind, the uncanny flatness of the countryside and the dialect.
He learnt how to stoke up a woodburner, heard the legend of Ol? Shuck and updated his vocabulary with words including 'clunch' and ?docky?. The docky hut was a shed with runners that was dragged about the fields and parked up to provide a temporary shelter for men to eat their lunch - or 'docky'.
It is entirely right that something as important as lunch has its own local word, and on the Isle of Wight docky is called nammet. In 2013 a new restaurant appeared in Shanklin calling itself - with commendable local distinctiveness - Fine Nammet. It goes without saying that to wear such a name with honour, Fine Nammet would need to be a cut above your average cheese sarnie.
Since the day it opened its doors, Fine Nammet has been popular. Whatever they?re doing clearly draws the crowds; Matt and Cat have invariably seen the place full - always a good sign. Three times they went in on the off-chance there would be a table free and, on each occasion, they were courteously turned away. Bemoaning the fact to some clever (and better organised) friends, they soon found themselves booked in as part of a party of four. Ahh, that?s how it?s done!
So, it?s Monday night, it?s winter and it?s raining. Most people would have tweaked back their curtain, seen the rain battering the window, sighed 'nah' and slumped in front of the box. But Matt and Cat are surprisingly waterproof and so were able to take their places at a booked table in Fine Nammet which was, as usual, full to bursting point on even this most unprepossessing of evenings. The meeting and greeting was friendly and professional, the table was comfortable and well-furnished with glasses and cutlery: Matt and Cat were beginning to understand the attraction of Fine Nammet already.
Wine lists were brandished and specials boards scrutinised before the orders were finally given. Cat had drawn the designated driver straw and was sucking tap water up through it. Matt, on the other hand was gagging for some wine, and noticed with approval that all on the list were available by the glass. With a bottle ordered by their companion, the alcohol flowed.
If the starter was an indication of the meal to follow then M&C were in for an exceptional night. The waiter was almost weighed down with Matt's first dish; a warm and freshly-cooked homemade scotch egg of prodigious proportions. It was proper hench! How they cooked this sphere of meaty and eggy goodness with a yolk of technically-perfect consistency was anyone?s guess. Matt wasn?t going to waste time speculating, he just dove straight in. Home-made piccalilli came with it, and if you are thinking that this all sounds like a starter that Matt might have dreamt of, you'd be right. He absolutely loved it. A bold and impressive beginning to the meal.
Scotch egg £5.95
Fillet steak £24.99
Fish and chips £15.99
Eton mess for two £9.95
250ml Pinot Grigio £6.50
2 x coffee @ £2.50
Cat forewent a starter, possibly because of her (self-deluding claims of a) birdlike appetite. Truth be told she was holding back for her main course of Isle of Wight fillet steak. Everyone has their favourite dish, the one that can be used as a benchmark by which to judge a venue. For Matt it is the burger, for others it may be a chicken tikka masala or fish and chips. For Cat it is fillet steak. Typically the meat is served with a bisected tomato, some chips and mushrooms, perhaps a spoonful of peas and a thick sauce for an extra couple of quid.
The fillet steak dinner at Fine Nammet looked unlike any other Cat had ever eaten, and she has tried many. Served with truffle chips, vine tomatoes, wild mushrooms and blue cheese sauce, that?s where the similarity to a standard fillet meal ended. Unexpectedly there was a tangle of side salad; a pleasing range of mixed leaves including the ever-welcome peppery rocket. The meaty main event was topped with fried leeks and greens and throughout the dish the blue cheese sauce insinuated itself. And the steak itself? It was the texture of cheese; soft, unresisting and cooked to perfection.
Matt, in keeping with his social standing, had posh fish and chips: Hancock pollack served with triple-cooked chips, homemade tartare sauce, seasonal vegetables and a trio of peas - pea puree, mini pea fritters and pea shoots. Ahh, pea shoots. First fed to Matt and Cat by Alan Staley during his residency at Ventnor?s Royal Hotel, these flavoursome little plants have been a firm favourite ever since. The architectural dish had a foundation of serried rows of oblong chips supporting the soft fish, which was thatched with the aforementioned pea shoots. Surfing in a slick of pea puree were several tiny pea fritters and cast about the plate were pea sprigs and a dollop of zingy tartare. The chip pile was surprisingly heat-retaining; warm air from the stack infused the shoots, regularly releasing a waft of intense pea-y aroma which even Cat caught on her side of the table. Matt was delighted with the hot fish; it was tasty, perfectly textured and imaginatively served.
Each and every one of you will, at some point, have eaten out with a friend or loved one and had food envy. You know the scenario; the most promising dish - the one you ordered - turns out to be some horrendous nouvelle cuisine fusion of pomegranates and clams, while your modestly-appetited and fussy vegan friend has the biggest, tastiest pile of food known to man. And they won?t swap.
Well, at Fine Nammet, all the dishes were winners so far - not a dud among them, nor those of M&C?s companions. So, after three successful dishes out of three so far, Matt and Cat decided to push their luck by ordering dessert to see if they could get a full house. Choosing the intriguing Union Jack Eton mess for two, they cleansed their palates with water and wine respectively and waited for the pudding. There were gasps and giggles around the table as a chopping board was placed between Matt and Cat. On it were pinnacles of meringue and cream. Some were blue, a handful were dribbled with monkey?s blood, others were crowned with blueberries; redcurrants and raspberries were scattered throughout. Again, top marks for presentation. And it tasted as good as it looked. Both blue and white meringues achieved the required consistency, somewhere between chewy and powdery, and the fresh mint leaves gave an agreeably peppermint contrast to the sweetness. There was brief moment of confusion when they came to pour on the cream. As Matt lifted the little jug he realised that most of the milky stuff would likely end up trickling its way into the board?s moat but they bunged it on anyway.
So, having finally got themselves organised enough to get a table at Fine Nammet, Matt and Cat could see for themselves what all of the fuss was about. With decent local ingredients - as you?d hope from a place so named - plus very courteous and prompt service, a decent wine list and (if you stick to the set menu) astonishingly good value for a meal of this quality it was all very fine indeed.
Address: 35 High Street, Shanklin, Isle of Wight PO37 6JJ
Phone: 01983 300335
Categories: Restaurants, We love!, Sandown & Shanklin, Local produce
3 comments (newest first)
We tried friday pre-theatre and loved the food and service.
People trying to dine and being turned away as the place was fully booked…and i am not surprised. Great food, great value (the set menu) and great service, a lot of places could have a lesson here watching just 2 front of house work so well as a team and they did a fantastic job for someone needing a special menu due to allergies….thankyou!
Special mention for the Lamb Fritters and the Triple Cooked Chips,…worth the trip alone!
We lunched at Fine Nammet with friends yesterday, February 19. The above report says it all. We have been regular visitors there since opening nearly a year ago & will continue to do so.
Try Fine Nammet in Shanklin if you haven’t already, excellent food and service and we found it to be very good value for money.
Matt and Cat respond: Thanks for your comment, Looby. We’ve tried to eat at Fine Nammet several times but it’s often filled to capacity - a sign of success, we assume!