Matt and Cat love eating out in Cowes, but they always approach a new review in the town with a certain caution.
It seems that M&C’s style of leavening their articles with impertinence and occasional sarcasm is one that riles Cowes more than any other Island area. They welcome readers weighing in, but it seems as though Cowesians are just a little more trigger-happy with the green ink. Take Matt and Cat's 2011 review of the Little Gloster, for example, which resulted in peevish objections to the use of the words 'gurgler' and 'breathless'. Other Cowes reviews, now thankfully superseded and archived, raised hackles even further. Learned friends were consulted. Strongly-worded letters were despatched to M&C. Not that Matt and Cat pay any attention to that - and, to prove it, recently they were back in Cowes undeterred to venture boldly into what some could perceive as the heartland of trendy yachtiness, the impossibly chic new Moocow in Cross Street.
The Royal Family's junior members have always courted controversy.
Who can forget Princess Diana and her lively chum Sarah Ferguson dressing up as policewomen and partying in Annabel's nightclub back in the 1980s. More recently some of you may have clicked onto TMZ to see Prince Harry's... er 'billiards'. However, these titled youngsters could learn a thing or two from the teenage Princess Elizabeth. Who? You know, HM the Queen. When she was just seventeen she got the nation's attention by spinning around the dancefloor of London's trendy Bagatelle restaurant to the Latin beats of Edmundo Ros. But what's all this got to do with a new tapas bar in Cowes? Nothing really. Other than when Matt and Cat entered the intimate venue they soon found themselves tapping their feet to Edmundo Ros' rumba music.
But let's unravel a bit. M&C had already scoped out Brawn's during their preamble to Cowes Week - and they thought the venue looked promising. However, as they'd already stuffed themselves that day with crab and chips they only had room for a nice cup of tea. Yet, salivating over the menu, they vowed to return.
There's a lot of hot air talked about 'real' tapas. If there's such a thing as authentic tapas, then presumably you'd need to go to Spain to get it.
Or maybe not. Tapas, like so many other national cuisines, has already generated its own separate identity within British cooking that isn't necessarily a strict copy of the archetypical native style. On the Isle of Wight an example of this in practice is the menu at the Blacksheep Bar, which although not quite as extensive as it once was still includes some great tapas-English fusion dishes. But if you do want to enjoy tapas close to its Iberian roots then the Island has a remarkable treat in store: El Toro Contento tapas bar in Ventnor, a delightful experience which Matt and Cat always enjoy. This bar is great - but tiny. So, rather than expand the existing site, the same folk have opened another bar a few hundred metres away down on the seafront, the Pintxo Playa. Matt and Cat were not going to pass up on the chance to try it out, and so on one of the few sunny evenings in August, they picked up a pal and set off for a tapas-fest.
What glorious weather the Isle of Wight enjoyed in early June! Good job too, as otherwise the music festival would have been a wash-out and Seaclose Park remodelled as a quagmire to rival last year's Bestival mudbath.
Making the most of the sunshine, M and C put on their paddling clogs and tippytoed at the Appley beach's water's edge, cooling their bunions in the limpid waters of the Solent. They interrupted this recreation for a cream tea at Puckpool Tea Gardens, eating their scones under a shady vine.
The leisurely day continued with dinner at Olivo, the new kid on Union Street's block. Situated in what was historically the old post office, the building's previous incumbent was the ambitious Smithfields. Alas, that restaurant closed for reasons not known to Matt and Cat, although they hypothesise that maybe the carrying capacity of Union Street for big, vaguely Mediterranean eateries had been exceeded. Or perhaps it was just too large a building to sustainably maintain. For whatever reason, it would be a brave or confident business that would take on such a vast venue. Now, one such has stepped forward. Does Olivo have what it takes?
The Loaves and Fishes is now closed.
Matt and Cat have a good friend from the West Wight who's a bit of a bon viveur, and who enjoys exchanging notes with them on the latest Island eateries, preferably over a glass of some appropriate quaffage.
Over the years they've discovered a remarkable congruence; the more he denounces a place, the more M and C love it. It never fails. So when, during a recent encounter, the fine fellow hastened to pour the most extravagant scorn on Godshill's Loaves and Fishes restaurant Matt and Cat knew that they had to try it. Read on to see if the magic worked this time!