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?
There have been whispers that Matt and Cat generally keep to the Island's scofferies, eschewing the more upmarket establishments. In fact, County Press columnist Keith Newbery congratulated them for being "real punters talking about real grub". Is it indecision, poverty or scruffiness that keeps your reviewers out of the nouvelle cuisineries? Probably a pinch of all three plus a soupçon of idleness.
So, to prove the naysayers wrong - hopefully without overly annoying Mr Newbery in the process - Matt and Cat put a pin in the 'posh eateries' section of the Yellow Pages and stabbed the name of Albert Cottage Hotel with their tiny stainless steel bayonet. Did they manage to get through the door without Matt being sent home for a tie?
The heroes swaggered through the huge glass doors and entered the gleaming, modernist palace.
Spectacular lamps - several feet long - hung over the polished bar.
Smartly dressed flunkies shimmered into view and escorted the reviewers to a table with views over the shallow lake, reflecting the twinkle from a multitude of lights. The chairs were comfortable, the carpet florid, a psychadelic shagpile swirling underfoot. The incomers listened to understated Latin sounds; Stan Getz, Astrid Gilberta. Taking their drinks they watched the hessian-covered wall at the rear of the bar slowly revolve to reveal a map of the world etched onto a vast sheet of acrylic with Pacific locations of secret missile launchpads flashing insistently... OK, so that last bit was made up, however, entering the Lakeside Park Hotel is like stepping onto a James Bond film set.
Cat felt quite at home in the 1970s Scandinavian-styled restaurant. Her glitter platforms, snake belt and Suzi Quattro feather cut, for once, did not look incongruous. Matt, dressed as usual in his Roger Moore safari suit, enjoyed an Ian Fleming moment as he imagined the roof rolling back to reveal stolen warheads coursing into the Wootton sky. Would the party finish the evening saying Nobody Does it Better, or would it be Dr No?
Matt and Cat like to think of themselves as 'of the people' and, unlike other less popular Island on-line eating out guides (you didn't even know there were any others, did you?), they are happy to try any size of venue from the humble to the salubrious.
Often they tread somewhere in the middle but, for this evening, after their week at the coalface they wiped off the sooty residue and headed somewhere posh.
There's something quite satisfying about an establishment that has not succumbed to the refurbishment fashions of stripped wooden floors, strategically placed 'objets' and sunken lighting. Yelf's Hotel in Ryde retains its old skool charm - demonstrating that carpets, a staff dress code and crooning Tony Bennett piped through the speakers have not yet had their day. In fact, with "200 years of hospitality", under its belt, the hotel can afford to be a bit relaxed about interior design trends. Yelf's, as a town-centre hotel, does a busy lunchtime trade as well as evening meals. Matt and Cat have visited twice to try both these, and so there are two reviews here for you to sample from their different visits.
Evening menu (reviewed March 2008)
All dressed up and ready to try the new Cinnamon Indian restaurant at the bottom of Union Street, Ryde, Matt and Cat were slightly nonplussed to find it packed to bursting. Where else on Union Street could take your hungry reviewers in? In search of somewhere at the upper end of the scale, before long they found themselves peering through the glass of Yelf's Hotel. After a splendid lunchtime meal there last year, Matt and Cat had vowed to return and try the a la carte menu, which seemed more appropriate for an evening visit. So in they went.