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.
Even the most casual reader of this website can’t fail to have noticed that Matt likes a fry-up.
Cat will, if pressed, eventually confess to being partial to a cooked breakfast - usually a bespoke combination of eggs and mushrooms with, occasionally, some bacon added for valuable protein - not just, you understand, because everything is improved with the application of bacon (go on, think of something that wouldn’t be better with a rasher).
On hearing that Joyce’s Café, Newport was under new management, Matt and Cat gathered a couple of friends one lunchtime with the lure of a traditional 'greasy spoon'. It’s probably not by chance that the people that M&C like to hang out with are partial to a full English, so they didn’t take much persuading.
But things had changed down Scarrot's Lane. When Matt and Cat's party of four stepped over the threshold of Newport Café, they were greeted by a very friendly man who proceeded to tell them all about the homemade soup of the day, and marinated chicken that he was intending to serve up in a bap. This piqued their interest. It was quite a change from the decent, but strictly transport-café style of the previous establishment.
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.
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.
Remember that day, that marked the End of Days? The first day of the Isle of Wight Festival, when the heavens opened, the roads closed and the fields around Fairlee Road turned to welly-eating sludge? Of course you do! The county's day-long gridlock monopolised the media, caused angry residents to take up their green ink-filled pens and even Sky News sent a helicopter to capture all the thrills of stationary traffic.
This clogging of the Island’s major vehicular arteries was caused by a perfect storm of several factors. Like the knee bone is connected to the thigh bone, the boggy conditions of the pop festival car park that morning soon caused major tailbacks to Fishbourne where cars, including Matt and Cat’s, languished. As they watched the lights at Fishbourne iridesce through their eternal cycle, they turned off the car’s engine and considered what to do. After half an hour of playing iSpy, they did a u-turn. Alas, the people on the ferries did not have the same freedom of choice and three boatloads of hapless music fans and commuters bobbed about on the briny waiting for conditions to improve. Meanwhile, further up the system near the neckbone, cars were backing up on the mainland, parking on Southsea Common and causing the authorities in both counties to scratch their heads - the final body-part in this tortured analogy.
Finally arriving in town, having taken the scenic route to Newport, M&C knew that their traffic-related troubles may not yet be at an end. They had to go home again. Or did they? With talk of the apocalypse abounding from those who’d clearly never driven on the mainland, Matt and Cat decided to do the prudent thing after work that evening and go to the pictures whilst the fuss and the traffic died down.