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?
Despite the dismal (typical) British summer weather, Matt and Cat made a seasonal visit to Shanklin's Old Village to mooch around the gifte shoppes and see what they could find to eat.
Hear the full podcast review:
Unable to squeeze into Pavarotti's, ignoring the singular sugary delights of the Rock Shop and the previously reviewed June's Fish Bar, your reviewers happened upon Pendletons, a restaurant so politely understated that it is almost invisible amongst the blaring high-octane shop fronts of its neighbours. However, on the night that Matt and Cat visited, Pendletons offered that rare commodity in this bustling tourist Mecca - a table for two. So they took it.
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.
The wheel of fortune turns inexorably: restaurants open; pubs are redeveloped; cafés are closed for refurbishment; and takeaways change hands. So it proved with one of Matt's favourite chip shops, Mr Chips in Oakfield High Street.
Matt was not surprised when Mr Chips closed down, as although the food was great, the place was, to be honest, pretty tatty. He was disappointed to be deprived of his local fish and chips, but as there are plenty of wholesome alternatives he wasn't inconsolable. Expecting the chip shop to be demolished in favour of another blank-faced development of modern one-bedroom flats for sale or rent, he was delighted when signs of activity within indicated that the chip shop lived on. It transpired that long-established Cowes chippy Corrie's Cabin was branching out, and soon a synonymous branch was open in Ryde.
Now, regular readers will be aware that Cat regularly turns her pert nose up at the thought of fried fish, usually muttering some mumbo-jumbo about cholesterol. So the duty of weighing-up and considering such establishments falls to Matt alone, often assisted by junior reviewers and chip fans Bill and Jack.
The Isle of Wight is delightfully unsophisticated despite the regular and steady influx of DFLs (Down from London), downsizing to experience the mellowness that is Island living (see Guardian article 'Let's Move to Ventnor'). The Island's esplanades are empty of metrosexual man's preening narcissism, his skilfully dishevelled hair refusing to budge an inch in the blustery seaside conditions.
As well as the cosmopolitan man, other urban trends have also remained an abstract concept. Thankfully the Island's streets are not littered with the corpses of recently stabbed youths; celebrity tarts in pink velour tracksuits remain, like their personalities, satisfyingly two-dimensional on the pages of Heat magazine and property prices continue to rise, despite the rest of the world heading for a global economic downturn.
So, it was with some trepidation that Matt and Cat entered Ventnor's Met Bar, imagining it to be populated by zealously groomed young men with bodies hard from their gym workout or orange-hued women with nylon hair cascading down their tattooed backs. Thankfully, they discovered that The Met is a name derived from the eminently respectable Metropole Hotel! Phew!