Category: We don't like
Think back to your childhood, and one of those family days out to meet the relatives. If you're anything like Matt and Cat, such a visit would have either been the best thing ever, or a dismal chore that nobody looked forward to. Some relatives always seemed to be worth the journey - others you just knew would be a bore.
That's the way it is with re-reviews, too. Matt and Cat have been buzzing around commenting on their dinners since 2005, and so some of their reviews are admittedly a bit long in the tooth. But there are a few that just keep on getting put off. Falling into this category is the Hare and Hounds. A big family dining pub, at a focal location, the place should have everything going for it. On top of that, it was a venue with good memories for Matt, who spent happy teenage evenings propping up the bar and sipping daringly on Watney's Red Barrel. When they first reviewed it back in 2007, Matt and Cat found the Hare and Hounds to be satisfactory, if uninspiring.
In subsequent years, comments on their review showed a consistent rising tide of disapproval - remarks such as "the worst the Island has to offer"; "VILE"; and "AVOID AT ALL COSTS!" Even stalwart commenter da yw wyth - normally the most temperate of critics - was moved to say "the main let-down was the food itself". It was perhaps to be expected then, that Matt and Cat somehow didn't get around to making a revisit themselves. Clearly things were not going well at the Hare and Hounds, and it was no surprise when it closed down in late 2012 for a major refurbishment. But what would the new incarnation be? Could hospitality behemoth Greene King turn the pub around? Soon after it reopened, a few comments seemed to suggest that it had - and da yw wyth said "the refurbishment certainly has made a gigantic difference!" That was enough for M&C, and they were finally galvanised to make that long overdue revisit to the Island's highest pub.
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.
There was a time when a 'pop-up restaurant' on the Isle of Wight was a phenomenon which drew naive provincial diners like moths to a cosmopolitan flame.
It was beyond exciting when a new one 'popped up'. Tickets would sell within moments. But it didn't take too long for even hicks to discover that pop-ups, like all other restaurants, vary in quality. Matt and Cat have been to some fantastic pop-ups, and - occasionally - the contrary. This summer Matt and Cat thought the trope must have reached its nadir when they saw a street-vending wagon with 'pop-up burger restaurant' written on it. But despite its ubiquity, they can't deny that the pop-up concept still has a slight atmosphere of fun and mystery about it that is oddly alluring.
So when Twitter correspondent @iowjobs drew their attention to Yarmouth's new pop-up fish and chip emporium, they paid attention. Catch is the on-trend name of this stylish installation that is trading for the summer from the yard of Yarmouth Institute, prominently located right by the town's main car park. And on the evening Matt and Cat visited, it seemed to be doing brisk trade.
The Isle of Wight's a small place, but Islanders more than make up for this with their enthusiasm for gossip and entertainment.
Perhaps that's why Twitter has been a big success here, with even the veritable Isle of Wight County Press awarding a 'Tweet of the Week' accolade these days. Now, locals are capable of generating plenty of excitement on their own, but one of the rumours that has been keeping the Island's movers and shakers at a fever pitch recently has been the persistent but unconfirmed suggestion that a certain fast-food chain is coming across the water to share its franchised munificence amongst grateful, chicken-starved locals.
There are some big chains, like Starbucks, that Islanders feel they are missing out on. This could be a genuine loss or, more likely, a very lucky escape. For every fabulous Yo Sushi on the mainland, there’s an underwhelming Brewer’s Fayre carvery. With several national retailers withdrawing from the Island’s high streets, some holes have appeared leading inevitably to speculation as to who might plug them. Fans of budget clothes are solidly in the Primark camp but there are plenty of locals keen to try Joey Essex’s favourite restaurant - Nando's. The permatanned star of The Only Way is Essex advocates this chicken eatery at every opportunity, leading to rumours that he might be a holder of a coveted Nando's black card.
Joey, employing the best of his sparse vocabulary, prosaically tweeted of Nando's: "#chickchick #chicken #LOVECHICKEN #:)". Despite this masterclass in reviewing Matt and Cat presumptuously thought they could probably give a more enlightened assessment to potential customers and, one Saturday night, set about doing so.
The day after mourning the closure of High Street stalwart Island Images, Cat and a pal ventured into the heart of the town to try Love Coffee.
Technically a new venue, this centrally-located coffee shop is probably more well-known as its previous incarnation of the franchise Coffee Republic. Occupying the site of historic feed-store Guy's, the café is well-placed to catch those in need of a caffeinated pick-me-up: perhaps after staggering out of nearby clothes warehouse TK Maxx, or taking a break from their desk-bound existence in one of Newport’s many offices.
Nowadays coffee is the new gardening or knitting or sex or whatever. Bean-jockeys mix their own blends; have a special job title - barista - and can even attend training sessions to learn about latte art and brew-ratios. But aside from foam swans, what customers really want from their coffee shop is somewhere comfortable to sit, with free Wifi as standard, some delicious eats and fabulous coffee. Can Love Coffee measure up?