Matt and Cat’s lunch breaks are usually taken within a set radius from their Newport workplaces.
Their invisible umbilicus allows them to range to Olivo, French Franks and the Blue Door. Tugging a bit tighter on the string, they can make it to the Noodle Pot and even Original Phil’s. However, one day they decided to test its full extent and managed to get all the way to Pan before there was no more slack.
There may be some among you who hold an old-fashioned view about this vast housing estate. However, the area formerly known euphemistically as 'disadvantaged' is these days enjoying an unlikely mini-revival. Word had spread to Matt and Cat that a feature of Pan's new neighbourhood spirit is the social café in the portacabin known as the Isobel Centre. Now, some might baulk at venturing into Pan and seeking out a portacabin for lunch - if so, they should get over themselves. Matt and Cat make a point of discovering and enjoying the Island's good food, service and cooking wherever they can find it. Fancy restaurant and hotels certainly feature on that odyssey, but so do industrial cafés, burger vans and ice-cream kiosks. A big part of the fun is going to unlikely places and making unexpected discoveries. The Isobel Centre fulfils both those criteria.
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.