Category: Ventnor area
The other day Matt and Cat were on the terrace of the Spyglass Inn, in Ventnor.
As they enjoyed the view of the English Channel they pondered how many other pubs could actually boast such an awesome south-facing shore-side position. Think hard folks, because that’s what Matt and Cat did. And, do you know what? They couldn’t think of one pub other than the Spyglass that is within a stone's throw of the beach on the south side of the Island. Sure the Sun Inn, Hulverstone and Chale's Wight Mouse both have spectacular views across the heritage coast but you'll never be bothered by salty spray at either of these rural venues.
The Buddle Inn at Niton Undercliff was only likely candidate. Its website trumpets hopefully that it "boasts unrivalled views of the English channel". So, to put this to the test, Matt and Cat bowled along there and parked in the little car park which did indeed have pretty good views across the sea. They sat for a few moments and enjoyed this vista, listening to the sound of the waves pestering the shore far below. But after a short stroll down the hill towards the scenic rocks and spectacular lighthouse of St Catherine's Point, they realised that the Buddle is not that near to the shore really. And in fact, the best view - and it is a good one - is to be had from the Buddle car park, albeit that it was shared with an old camper van and a derelict BMW. So having got the best of the view, Matt and Cat ambled back up to see what the pub’s food was like.
Matt and Cat are well-known to the staff and management of Cantina, so despite requests from readers they have not visited as reviewers, thinking an anonymous review would be impossible.
Or would it? They sent instead James - Ventnor writer and gentleman. Matt and Cat promised to publish his unexpurgated views, both praise and criticism. Read on to see what James made of Cantina.
I feel sure that many readers of M&C's eating out guide have felt a little envious at times. To be able to potter about the Island, anonymously photographing and describing eating experiences both good and bad sounds like a good wheeze. I've always thought so anyway, so I was excited to be given the opportunity to report on a local restaurant for them.
Pausing only to invite a charming and witty dining companion to join me on my undercover mission, I booked a table for two. It was a mild but drizzly October evening when Hannah (my companion du jour), and I arrived on Ventnor’s attractively curvy promenade. The lights of the seafront’s various eateries played romantically over the rolling waves, but few folk were venturing out into the damp air.
How many Islanders does it take to change a light bulb?
"CHANGE? We don't like change!". Everyone must have heard that joke by now and presumably there are regional versions of it being laughed at around the world. And change? Well, Islanders embrace it, don't they?
Now, Matt and Cat love the Island, its heritage, culture and community. They engage on many levels with all of these elements, both personally and professionally. Yet sometimes they are dismayed to see the proverbial baby thrown out with the bathwater in the name of progress. Hands up who thinks that the medieval market town of Newport has had its skyline improved by the tin behemoth that is the Cineworld complex? Can the addition of 800 new homes really enhance a lovely bit of urban fringe pasture-land?
Despite these subjective blots on the landscape, Islanders are a resilient lot; after all, it's never long before they've got another contentious local issue in their sights. The latest is the controversy over Ventnor Botanic Garden; after forty years under council control it has recently passed into private management. But this review is not about the politics of the disposal of the Botanic Garden. If you want to discuss that there are other far more appropriate forums. Matt and Cat are interested in food, and eating out. So it was very much with those matters in mind that they made their way down to Ventnor and in through the familiar gateway of the Botanic Garden to try the café in its new non-council incarnation.
As Matt and Cat never tire of pointing out, this website started as a hobby, is independent and takes no money from restaurants.
This gives them the freedom to air their honest opinions, and the liberty to please themselves without anyone pulling their strings.
Having written a fairly enthusiastic review of what was then the new Phileas Foggs back in 2009, they didn't see any need to write another one in any hurry. Not because they didn't want to go back to this very nice venue - on the contrary, they’d had some good food in a lively atmosphere. However, as each review involves a modicum of preparation, usually an evening spent in a restaurant and then several more hours crafting their opinions and processing photographs, M&C tend to target their revisits for mercurial places where the review might no longer be accurate, or which elicit polarised opinions from commenters to this website. The new owners of Phileas Foggs implored Matt and Cat to "visit us soon, we need an up-to-date review" - but, as the word was that all was still rosy in the house of Fogg, it took a bit of time for them to do so.
Eventually, of course, it happened. Matt and Cat made no mention of their impending meal to the new owners, who naturally enough got the anonymous review treatment. The big question is, has Phileas Foggs lost its way or does the earlier positive review still hold muster?
Matt was once described by his university professor as having a Rolls Royce brain with Morris Minor engine. Cat, who used to be pretty punctual and organised, has adopted Matt's languorous attitude over the years they've been together. This lackadaisical leaning means that they have never quite managed to book a table for dinner at the award-winning Hillside Hotel, of which they've heard many good things. This is because a degree of premeditation is required to eat at the hotel's illustrious restaurant; admittedly just the minimum of a day's notice but, for slackers M&C, even that has so far proven to require too much foresight. So they were delighted to be able to swing by Hillside's newest venture - Ventnor's Hillside Bistro - without giving any notice whatsoever.