Category: Fish and chips
There was a time when a 'pop-up restaurant' on the Isle of Wight was a phenomenon which drew naive provincial diners like moths to a cosmopolitan flame.
It was beyond exciting when a new one 'popped up'. Tickets would sell within moments. But it didn't take too long for even hicks to discover that pop-ups, like all other restaurants, vary in quality. Matt and Cat have been to some fantastic pop-ups, and - occasionally - the contrary. This summer Matt and Cat thought the trope must have reached its nadir when they saw a street-vending wagon with 'pop-up burger restaurant' written on it. But despite its ubiquity, they can't deny that the pop-up concept still has a slight atmosphere of fun and mystery about it that is oddly alluring.
So when Twitter correspondent @iowjobs drew their attention to Yarmouth's new pop-up fish and chip emporium, they paid attention. Catch is the on-trend name of this stylish installation that is trading for the summer from the yard of Yarmouth Institute, prominently located right by the town's main car park. And on the evening Matt and Cat visited, it seemed to be doing brisk trade.
Remember that day, that marked the End of Days? The first day of the Isle of Wight Festival, when the heavens opened, the roads closed and the fields around Fairlee Road turned to welly-eating sludge? Of course you do! The county's day-long gridlock monopolised the media, caused angry residents to take up their green ink-filled pens and even Sky News sent a helicopter to capture all the thrills of stationary traffic.
This clogging of the Island’s major vehicular arteries was caused by a perfect storm of several factors. Like the knee bone is connected to the thigh bone, the boggy conditions of the pop festival car park that morning soon caused major tailbacks to Fishbourne where cars, including Matt and Cat’s, languished. As they watched the lights at Fishbourne iridesce through their eternal cycle, they turned off the car’s engine and considered what to do. After half an hour of playing iSpy, they did a u-turn. Alas, the people on the ferries did not have the same freedom of choice and three boatloads of hapless music fans and commuters bobbed about on the briny waiting for conditions to improve. Meanwhile, further up the system near the neckbone, cars were backing up on the mainland, parking on Southsea Common and causing the authorities in both counties to scratch their heads - the final body-part in this tortured analogy.
Finally arriving in town, having taken the scenic route to Newport, M&C knew that their traffic-related troubles may not yet be at an end. They had to go home again. Or did they? With talk of the apocalypse abounding from those who’d clearly never driven on the mainland, Matt and Cat decided to do the prudent thing after work that evening and go to the pictures whilst the fuss and the traffic died down.
It may be the depths of winter now, but imagine the scene: having spent all day on the beach during a rare hot August Bank Holiday, a day-tripping family tidies up their detritus.
Nan is levered out of the deckchair and Dad bounces assiduously on the hissing inflatable banana until it slowly goes flaccid and is packed away. Struggling back up the hill, the whining kids, piebald with suncream, are famished from a long day of throwing sand at each other, and Mum’s thinking with little relish about the prospect of heating up tomato soup on the Camping Gaz stove. Just then, a fish and chip shop comes into view, the tempting aroma of hot oil wafting across the pavement and drawing the hapless tourists unresistingly inside.
If our hypothetical hungry family is in Ryde, they’d do well to stop at the first chippy near Appley beach, Monkton Village’s Chipmunks. Matt and Cat have reviewed that venue favourably, but it is only one of several contenders in the town. The family could maybe step a bit further west. No, no, not to the Codfather, slightly south west and up the hill to Wights. Although a tad more than a hop, skip and jump from the beach, this chippy is well-placed at the junction of Ryde’s precinct, near a pub, cinema and bingo hall - perfect for passing hot-snack-hunters. And so it was that Wights was Matt and Cat’s chosen venue for a fish and chip supper with a visiting relative from London.
Living in the green and pleasant land that is the Isle of Wight, Matt and Cat can't help but wonder how concrete-dwelling urbanites know when summer's arrived.
Surely they don't have the same pastoral indicators that a rural county can boast? No wildflower verges, shrieking swallows or the tedium of crawling through Sandown behind a mid-summer turkey and tinsel coach. Matt and Cat list these plus other key performance indicators, such as the sublime mid-summer pleasure of eating fish and chips out of their wrappers in a rainy and windswept coastal town. Following some enthusiastic recommendations, Matt and Cat headed to the Ventnor Haven Fishery to partake in this traditional seaside dinner ritual.
Didn't somebody once say that Stotesbury's fish and chip shop, in Upper St James' Street Newport, was the oldest on the Island? Or in England? Or something?
Matt's got a vague memory of something about the antiquity of this shop being of note. But no matter. Somebody will doubtless set the record straight, for now it's not the issue. Far more importantly, can Stotesbury's produce decent fish and chips here, today? If so, Matt's interested. And Cat isn't. Because she just can't bring herself to eat fish and chips, no, not even if you wrap a pink ribbon around it and tickle her under the chin.
So one rainy winter evening M & C were in Newport seeking out a quick supper. Unable to agree on a venue, they decided on an unprecedented experiment to undertake two simultaneous reviews in separate venues. Cat, spurning the chip shop, went off to make her own investigations elsewhere. Matt, let off the leash, shot into Stotesbury's like a rat down a drainpipe.