So far this year's been great news for cosy suppers round a roaring log fire; or shaking the rain off your galoshes before nestling down for a hot toddy. But opportunities for relaxed al fresco lunches have been, until recently, almost entirely absent.
With that in mind, the first time the sun looked as though it might peer with watery gaze through the clouds at any time near midday, Matt and Cat were out like greyhounds from the trap. They headed to one of their favourite places for a gentle stroll, the delightful grounds of Osborne House. As a mealtime wasn't far away - is it ever? - they were naturally enough moved to consider the tripartite options for eating at Osborne. Dismissing the pleasant but small-scale tea kiosk at the Swiss Cottage, they took a good look at the cafeteria in the visitor centre as they bought their tickets. It was absolutely heaving with lively pensioners who'd just toddled off a nearby brace of coaches, so that left as a lunching venue the Terrace Restaurant, in the former chapel of the main house.
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.
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 and Cat are big lovers of sci-fi. Matt, who fancies himself as a writer and a scientist, combines those two interests in a bookshelf chock full o' the works of Asimov, Heinlein and Iain M Banks.
Cat prefers to have her sci-fi injected straight into her eyeballs. In the 1980s, when her hair was as vast as Arnie's biceps, she loved staring glassy-eyed at the Austrian Oak's portrayal of The Running Man, or his seamless depiction of both Douglas Quaid and Hauser in Total Recall, adapted from Philip K Dick's 'We Can Remember It For You Wholesale'.
The ultimate eighties Dick adaptation has to be the story set in a world where genetically-engineered organic robots, indistinguishable from humans, wither and die atop a decaying building. No, not a documentary about County Hall, but Ridley Scott's Bladerunner. Mindful of this dystopian vision of a rainy neon future, M&C went with a pal to Newport's Noodle Pot.
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.