In the heat of a summer's afternoon Sandown Esplanade might be mistaken for the Spanish Costas with its towering beach-side hotels, miles of golden sands and the aroma of Ambre Solaire. However, on a miserable gusty evening in April it was more like Skeggie than the Costa Del Sol. Battling against the wind and under a glowering sky, Matt and Cat were positively sand-blasted by the time they fell through the door of the resort's Reef restaurant.
This was no happen-stance visit; many readers of this website have suggested the Reef - and all in glowing terms. But although Matt has a certain historic fondness for Sandown, the town of his boyhood, The Cat has no such sentiment. So far she has been a bit underwhelmed by this coastal town they forgot to close down. But it's not all over for Sandown, The Bay regeneration may uplift this faded dame. And, on this blustery night, Matt and Cat were pleased to find a welcoming haven.
For once Matt and Cat aren't going to start a review of a Cowes eatery with jibes about yachties and DFLs. Instead, let them tell you about how lovely this waterfront town was looking on an unexpectedly clement Saturday in May. The sun was shining intermittently though fluffy clouds and it was warm enough for The Cat to finally dispense with her trademark mittens.
'Twas a day for weddings and Matt and Cat made way for troupes of be-suited chaps with their clip-clopping consorts. The precinct was turned into a human aviary with the clucking and squawking of women wearing this season's fascinator hats; feathers bobbing in the light breeze. M and C dodged into a junk shop to escape the nuptial flash mob but, without much to sustain their interest amongst the piles of dusty tat, they soon left.
A chance encounter with fish fryer and Twestival compère Richard Quigley led Matt and Cat to lunch at The Fountain. This prominent hotel is part of the Greene King chain which Matt and Cat have found to be patchy in both service and food. How will the Cowes branch fare?
Aren't humans lucky? We somehow find this lovely planet awash with things conveniently at a manageable scale: buttons, houses, cutlery. Also, being omnivores, we can eat pretty much anything. It's as if it was all designed for our use! Imagine how dull life would be if you were a koala. Sure, you'd live in a nice country and look pretty cute, but what good are a pair of unfeasibly fluffy ears if you can't manipulate a mirror to admire them? And who'd want a monovorous diet of eucalyptus leaves? Not Matt and Cat, who are out and proud as omnivores.
Not all people embrace their ability to chew and digest most of what Mother Nature provides for them. Some people live in places where their diet is not always a matter of choice; others have objections to eating animals that others simply think of as food with a face. Some choose to restrict their diet on a whim or principle: as a child, Cat was a very fussy eater and it's a surprise that she grew up at all, living as she did on salad cream sandwiches and milk. Matthew was less discerning; tea time at the vicarage was a meal without waste.
As she got older, Cat's diet broadened and she was a vegetarian for many years. However, eventually the lure of tuna was too much even for her steely will. This Damascene conversion suited Cat well. These days she has a penchant for fillet steak and, of course, bacon - the vegetarian's temptress.
Both Matt and Cat are happy to eat hay for pay, so were delighted and flattered to be invited to The 'V' Word at The Royal Hotel, a vegetarian tasting evening where they could mingle with the Island's eminent vegetarians. Could they spend an entire evening in such august company and not mention bacon? The only thing to do was to brush off the posh togs and find out.
Fortunately for the organised Matt and Cat their impression of a Bank Holiday breakfast at the Crown Hotel, Ryde will not dissipate so easily as it can be recalled with some photographic prompts. Those of you who are avid M and C followers will have read on their twitter feed that they sampled this prominent hotel's hospitality way back in August and it is nearly six weeks later that the feckless duo have got around to writing about it. Well, what do you lot expect for nothing!
Matt and Cat have made several false-starts when attempting to review the food at the Springvale Hotel and Restaurant. Being in their manor, the venue often came up on their radar when thinking about places to eat.
However, when poised on the hotel's doorstep, there had always been something about the place which made them unable to commit.
The location is superb - right on the Island's north shore with panoramic views of the Solent; the hotel even publishes a list of ships that you might see when gazing out of its vast windows. The food prices were clearly displayed and they seemed pretty reasonable. So could it be the menu's contents that put Matt and Cat off? Although there was quite an extensive list of bar snacks and meals, the dinner menu has never been inspiring enough to tempt your reviewers across the threshold. So how were M and C encouraged to eat at Springvale's most architecturally ornate restaurant?