Category: Special events
Although it is a mere four miles away from home, Spitbank Fort luxury hotel and restaurant is not the sort of place you can just rock up at - it’s a sea-castle in the middle of the Solent for crying out loud.
Vessels have to be chartered and lunches pre-ordered to ensure that the champagne reception has the prescribed amount of canapés. Still, Matt and Cat willingly complied with the booking arrangements as their keenness to visit the fort overrode their natural indolence. As they crossed the days off their calendar, their lunch date drew closer - and landlubber Cat kept an eye on the forecast. Snow ground the Isle of Wight to a customary halt and then, on the day itself, temperatures plummeted heralding the arrival of sleet.
Wrapped up in their warmest togs, Matt and Cat started their journey on the Island Line train. Three boat rides later - with a pleasant intermission in the fort’s luxurious Gosport-based departure lounge - M&C found themselves staring up at the granite edifice. Its presence may have been sufficient to deter Napoleon III’s steam-powered warships from chuffing up the Solent but it didn’t daunt Matt and Cat, not when they knew there was a Sunday lunch inside.
By our festival correspondent, Wendy Varley
The wildlife fancy dress theme for Saturday meant Bestival was teeming with bright-eyed and – literally – bushy-tailed party-goers. Bugs, sharks, and exotic winged-things joined the throng of foxes, badgers and squirrels, plus the odd hunter pretending to take pot-shots. My daughter Becky spotted a jellyfish cuddling a ladybird: "They were both semi-circular! So cute!"
I was a hungry spider, and was with my 10-year old son (a roadrunner) for the afternoon. Our food highlights were:
– The Farmers' Market for delicious mozarella, pesto and Isle of Wight tomato quiche (£2.50), washed down with a good-value (£1.50) pint of freshly-made elderflower and raspberry cordial.
– The Hurly Burly Café (in the Magic Meadow). While my son yomped down a large slab of chocolate cake (£2.50), I tried the more modestly-portioned 'boozy carrot cake', which was zingy with orange, and a bit Christmas-puddingy in flavour and texture. Lovely.
– Calbourne Classics' Vintage Tea Tent is in the Ballroom Field (below the toboggan run) serving cream teas, high teas, cakes and ice-cream. My son had a very generous three scoops of forest fruits frozen yoghurt with berries on top for £3. (Excellent value when compared with the small pot of chocolate ice-cream my daughter bought from the Ben & Jerry's ice-cream van for £3.50.)
Eating out in Cowes Week is cheaper in 2012 than it was in 2011 - that's the unexpected conclusion of the annual price survey that Matt and Cat undertook.
Despite popular wisdom suggesting that food prices in the famous sailing town only ever go up, when Matt and Cat visited Cowes to check on prices of some of the more popular foods - including a portion of chips, an all-day breakfast and a burger - the opposite seemed to be true.
Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week asked Matt and Cat to survey a selection of Cowes high street prices in 2011 just before the start of regatta week, and they repeated the survey this year. Although some prices had indeed gone up, most had stayed the same and many had even dropped. In particular they found that, on average, food prices had gone down.
By our Isle of Wight Festival reporter, Wendy Varley
Saturday 23rd June
Heading in to see Jessie J on Saturday afternoon, Ian's first food stop was the Wagamama Lounge for a late lunch. He's a Wagamama fan, and we don't have a branch on the Island, so he wanted to see how their festival Yaki Soba noodles (with chicken, shrimps, egg, beansprouts, peppers, white and spring onions, £7) compared to the restaurant version. The noodles were dispensed from individual portion-size bags on to hot griddles, and stir-fried with the other ingredients, so everything is freshly cooked to order, and very consistent. (Any doubts I'd had about that the previous day were assuaged.)
He proclaimed the noodles "very tasty, and nicely presented" and as good as you'd get in the restaurant. They're similarly priced to other noodles at the festival, too. The only drawback is the messy ordering system. Names are taken, but hearing them shouted out when there's loud rap music playing on the dance floor is a challenge.
This is a collection of short reviews of Matt and Cat's Christmas meals throughout December 2011.
See our conclusions and recommendations at the end of this article. We’ll be giving out some awards, too:
- Best value Christmas night out
- Best Christmas food
- Top service at Christmas
- Most festive atmosphere
- Overall best Christmas dinner
For a heterogeneous bunch of diners, it seems that curry is becoming a popular alternative to turkey as a Christmas dinner. Matt and Cat joined such a group in Ryde’s Cinnamon restaurant to enjoy their third seasonal spicefest. They were, surprisingly, almost the only diners there that night, which was probably a good thing given the size and liveliness of the party.