Category: Pub Grub
Each town on the Isle of Wight has its own idiosyncratic style and ambience. Newport's gentle hustle is hectic compared to the relaxed meanderers of Yarmouth's town square. Ryde's artsy shops contrast with Cowes' yacht-centric commerce. And, in the summer, Cowes is particularly busy. As mentioned before in their review of the Bahar Tandoori Halal Restaurant, Matt and Cat usually resist visiting Cowes during August because it becomes London-by-Sea - if they wanted metropolitan life, they'd go to this country's capital.
However, by accident rather than design they found themselves in the local A&E on Bank Holiday Monday (along with several refugees from Wight Air extreme sports festival). As this took a while, Matt and Cat forewent their intended trip to the cream tea shops of the West Wight. Matt was only able to hobble, having stubbed his toe on a particularly resistant bookcase, so they parked up in Cowes and fell into the nearest eatery which happened to be the Pier View.
On the verge of cooking up a delicious tuna carbonara, shallots quartered, red pepper sliced and mushrooms randomly hacked - Cat received a phone call from Matt. Pals of theirs had invited them to curry night at the Marine Hotel, Ryde. Never turning down the chance to eat out, Cat packed the prepared food into containers, bunged it in the fridge and, pausing only to spit on her hands and slick down her mane, sped out of the door.
In a matter of moments Matt and Cat found themselves sitting with their friends and, without even taking the trouble to peruse the menu because it was curry night, ordered curry. It came in three flavours: beef madras, chicken khorma and lamb curry.
The prominently positioned Marine has undergone a recent transformation and is now neatly decked out with tongue-and-groove on the walls and stripped wooden floors all coloured with a nice muted palette. And, for that extra touch of luxury, leather beer mats - go on, sniff one: see, real leather!
Shanklin Esplanade is one of the quieter of the traditional beaches on the Isle of Wight, where visitors still enjoy the golden sands, amusements, crazy golf and ice creams. It's Matt and Cat's recurring pleasure to stop off on the way home from work at such a place where they can spend a few moments enjoying that holiday feeling - and the Island presents many such opportunities. After a stroll along the warm sand they worked up an appetite, and the Steamer Inn heaved to at just the right moment.
Playing grockles is fun, as Matt and Cat found out one summer's day. Following a delightful walk up Mottistone Down to take in the breath-taking views of the 'back of the Wight', they ventured to the nearby thatched mecca of Brighstone in search of a cream tea. Brighstone Tea Gardens came recommended and certainly looked inviting from the outside and, to the joy of your ever-tardy reviewers, it was still open for business at 3:30pm, proclaiming cream teas until 5:00pm on the board outside. However, once inside, Matt and Cat were turned away - the establishment was due to close unexpectedly early. Pah.
A short stroll up the road and M and C found themselves at the Three Bishops, a vast pub with a big sunny garden and food served from noon to 9:00pm - how could they resist? Entering the slightly scruffy bar which, despite the recent smoking ban had a residual whiff of cigarettes in the air, they were greeted by a very cheerful man. He turned out to be the new owner of the bar, quick to announce his plans for refurbishing the place (plans he has been mentioning since late 2006 according to this website). Still, his intentions are laudable, his manner was very welcoming and the kitchen was still open so Matt and Cat decided to stay.
Whitwell is a little off Matt and Cat's usual beaten track but, in the interests of egalitarianism, they are happy to venture into the Island's rural depths. And, fresh from attending a recording session of Gardeners' Question Time at Ventnor Winter Gardens, they took a hop, skip and a jump westwards to the White Horse at Whitwell.
For a Monday night, the place was heaving - in fact there was only one free table. Matt and Cat wondered whether this was because of the pub's excellent facilities or, possibly, because it is the only venue for miles around. They were soon to find out.
Having recovered from 2006's thatch fire, the pub is most definitely open for business. Being first time visitors, Matt and Cat were not sure if the huge room to the left of the main bar was a recent extension - perhaps built as part of the recovery works. It certainly did not have the same cosy character as the rest of the pub. Despite its resemblance to a school hall, this side of the pub was as packed as the rest - mostly with families. Matt and Cat declined this canteen-like area and took the opportunity to sit next to the stone fireplace in the old pub when a seat became vacant.