The Isle of Wight's a small place, but Islanders more than make up for this with their enthusiasm for gossip and entertainment.
Perhaps that's why Twitter has been a big success here, with even the veritable Isle of Wight County Press awarding a 'Tweet of the Week' accolade these days. Now, locals are capable of generating plenty of excitement on their own, but one of the rumours that has been keeping the Island's movers and shakers at a fever pitch recently has been the persistent but unconfirmed suggestion that a certain fast-food chain is coming across the water to share its franchised munificence amongst grateful, chicken-starved locals.
There are some big chains, like Starbucks, that Islanders feel they are missing out on. This could be a genuine loss or, more likely, a very lucky escape. For every fabulous Yo Sushi on the mainland, there’s an underwhelming Brewer’s Fayre carvery. With several national retailers withdrawing from the Island’s high streets, some holes have appeared leading inevitably to speculation as to who might plug them. Fans of budget clothes are solidly in the Primark camp but there are plenty of locals keen to try Joey Essex’s favourite restaurant - Nando's. The permatanned star of The Only Way is Essex advocates this chicken eatery at every opportunity, leading to rumours that he might be a holder of a coveted Nando's black card.
Joey, employing the best of his sparse vocabulary, prosaically tweeted of Nando's: "#chickchick #chicken #LOVECHICKEN #:)". Despite this masterclass in reviewing Matt and Cat presumptuously thought they could probably give a more enlightened assessment to potential customers and, one Saturday night, set about doing so.
What a day - Matt and Cat had been whisked around London, relished some great food and drink, and seen some wonderful sights.
The provincial unsophisticates really enjoyed the big city; especially in comfort from the back of a black taxi. The final stop on their tour was the highlight - a visit to Hawksmoor, the celebrated steakhouse over which critics have raved and drooled.
Meat. It’s a simple thing, an atavistic thing, and somehow an emotional thing. Meat arouses emotion in us in a way that other food does not. Some choose to forswear it entirely. Most don’t. Of those who do eat meat, if you ask them for their favourite dish, there’s a pretty good chance that it would not only be meat, but beef. And of those who would favour beef, how many would choose a really good steak as their top meal? In this country, it really is the number one favourite dish (although, surprisingly, not in America). So when somebody sets out to cook the best steak in London, what they probably mean is that it's the best steak in the world. And, in such a crowded market, it better had be. Hawksmoor’s massive success suggests that they may actually have achieved this remarkable feat.
This is the second review from Matt and Cat's visit to London. See earlier review of Elliot's here.
Being a tourist in London can be exhausting; the endless slack-jawed pointing and over-stimulation can quickly deplete one's energy reserves. Some visitors burden themselves with supplies of squashed sarnies and emergency bananas but when travelling light - as Matt and Cat did - help is at hand with the resurgence of the coffee house. First hitting these shores in the seventeenth century, and reaching a peak of popularity in the 1950s, such venues continue to provide cheap, warm places for people to congregate and refresh themselves.
In the self-aware twenty-first century, Cliff Richard’s moody teen of Expresso Bongo is a distant memory (although remarkably Cliff is as sprightly as he was back in the day). In today's coffee bar, instead of a space-hungry jukebox, music insinuates its way out of a matchbook-size iPod Shuffle. In place of a well-thumbed copy of Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’, hipsters flick through virtual pages on their Kindles. Of course, some things prevail; people still engage in conversation, albeit with someone they’ve never met, on the other side of the world, through the medium of their wifi-enabled MacBook Air.
Although Matt and Cat have explored all corners of the Isle of Wight, they’re not particularly adventurous travellers otherwise.
Cat’s experiences of foreign parts are limited to various budget trips to European cities, eating frugal picnic lunches in public parks and worrying about running out of francs. Yes, her last foray abroad was before the introduction of the Euro. Matt actually left Europe once, but it was last millennium, and he has not shown any sign of wanting to repeat the experience.
Matt and Cat fantasise about visiting a city with style; swapping flophouses for luxury hotels, and giving up aimless blundering to enjoy a tour with a native guide. One day M&C’s wish was granted. It just so happened that they were offered the chance of a curated trip round some of London’s eateries with a knowledgeable sherpa, a chap who happened to own a fashionable London coffeehouse. Such an opportunity was not to be missed. With a fourth Island gastronaut in tow, they took an cockerel-startling early train to Waterloo, empty stomachs at the ready.
On a day trip to Portsmouth, Matt and Cat built up a decent appetite shopping at Karen Millen for a party dress for The Cat.
An eager shop assistant presented Cat with an optimistically-sized dress which, apparently, she could diet into. She was then offered the next size up, which was too baggy. "Never mind", suggested Matt, forever seeing the best of any situation and reflecting the shop girl’s earlier advice, "you can eat your way into it!". With Matt’s sage advice ringing in Cat’s ears, they went to Jamie’s Italian to start the fattening process.