It?s amazing how many people think that they are a ?natural? at something. For every warbling show-off who imagines that their dreary back-story and falsetto interpretation of ?Oops I Did It Again? on Britain?s Got Asthma is the route to instant glory, there are thousands of people who know that hard work and a decent education are truly the key to long-term rewards.
Matt and Cat have from time to time visited restaurants and been served by uninterested children without the wherewithal to even make eye contact. And do you know why? It?s because people imagine that hospitality work is that which any fule can do. Well it isn?t. Like being a successful pop star, it takes training and guidance and mentoring and on-the-job experience.
Having had a fabulous Sunday lunch at the award-winning Isle of Wight College-based UKSA Essential Marine Hospitality kitchen, Matt and Cat were keen to see to see where other fledgling chefs, servers and restaurateurs learn their craft. As it happens, the hospitality trainees at the Isle of Wight College need to have people to practice their craft on, and some friends had invited Matt and Cat to join them for dinner there. So it was back to the college, this time to the student-run restaurant.
Back in the day a handy man named Phil refurbished a greasy spoon called Top of the Town. He was so pleased with his work that he took over the venue and named it after himself, and thus Original Phil's was born.
There was the possibility that Phil donned his pinny and was flipping burgers at an early stage in the career of his eponymous restaurant, but if so, he didn't hang around for long. After several iterations, in summer 2013 the café was once more reborn with new management and high aspirations. This can only be a good thing: Original Phil's for some years featured as one of Matt and Cat's top recommendations, but had got bit less original of late.
New people full of energy and excitement could be just the thing to put some fizz back into Original Phil's soda, some sizzle into his sausage and insert some meat between his buns. Or something. Anyway, the new brooms' bold claim, "We are upping the game with uniformed table service, fresh hand-made burgers with real steak every day" strongly suggested that, while Cat was picking through some lunchtime lettuce somewhere, Matt should go and put the diner to the test.
Back in 2012 Matt and Cat were enjoying an ordinary Saturday night in. The rain was teeming down and and Matt was chopping some fresh Island lamb into chunks for a meaty winter stew for the next day's Sunday lunch. It's always nicer when it's been, well... stewed!
Unusually for March, he heard some fireworks outside. Matt and Cat didn?t yet know it, but some wedding celebrations in Ryde were about to go with a bang and a pop, and then a sickening crackle followed by the prolonged whooshing of extinguishing water. The rest of the story is well known - the fireworks apparently initiated the flaming overture to a remarkable night. Matt shoved the stew in the oven and he and Cat turned temporarily into citizen reporters, watching horrified as one of Ryde's best-known landmarks burnt to a smouldering shell.
The Ryde Castle was widely expected to be demolished, but guess what? It wasn't, and in autumn 2013 it reopened, completely refurbished. Frankly underwhelmed by the old Ryde Castle way back in 2008, Matt and Cat set out to see whether, as well as doing some very nice rebuilding, the Greene King phoenix had also worked its magic in the kitchen.
We had a big push on our Dining Club as Red Funnel promoted it to selected couples taking a short break to the Island. Consequently we received some more fabulous offers which we, and the club members, were delighted with. Find out more here.
And talking of loyalty cards, we had a delightful chat with one of the mysterious Ladies Who Lunch in Hampshire, who run a successful scheme similar to ours (although it pre-dates us). Like the Matt and Cat website, LWL has been providing unbiased reviews since the days before Twitter, Facebook and even TripAdvisor (yes, kids, we started out when the internet was all fields).
We spent a pleasant evening at Bonchurch?s Pond Cafe for a nine course dinner created by chef Chris Denney, who was keen to introduce Island diners to his new and decidedly cosmopolitan menu. However, he also chose that night to announce that he was leaving, and so the fortunes of the little restaurant were in flux again.
In summer 2014 keep your eye out for another season of The Dome (pictured), an exclusive pop-up in Bembridge showcasing the talents of Holly Maslen and Alice Lee. We had a delicious and fun dinner in this unusual venue.