Paramount Café, Shanklin

It seems that the hottest dinner ticket in Shanklin is Fine Nammet. Again and again, Matt and Cat have pressed their noses optimistically at the new restaurant's windows, only to see the place packed with diners who'd had the foresight to book a table.

Paramount Café, Shanklin, burger

They'll have success there one day, but for the moment Fine Nammet seems to be managing perfectly well without the Island's "notoriously hard-to-please" reviewers, as for a third time they were turned away unreserved and empty-headed. Fortunately Shanklin is a town with other eateries and, as Matt and Cat moved away from the steamy windows of Nammet and headed up the hill, they knew that they would encounter several great restaurants in the Old Village. With maybe the Black Cat, Pendletons or the Village Inn in their collective minds' eye they moseyed up to the traffic lights.

At the top of the town, just before the descent into the Old Village, is the appropriately monickered Paramount Café. Matt and Cat casually studied the menu outside and it didn't take years of eating out experience to see that food seemed remarkably good value. A glance inside caught locals tucking into what looked like satisfactory meals. So, it was swerve o'clock for M&C; intending to go to a restaurant, they were equally delighted at having found a café that stayed open for dinner.

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 Published: 10th August 2013
Categories: Cafes, We love!, Family friendly, Sandown & Shanklin

Cowes Week 2013: food price survey results

Everyone says that food is expensive in Cowes Week, don't they? But are they right?

This is the third year that Matt and Cat have surveyed prices of food at over 40 outlets and venues in Cowes, and once again it seems as though popular wisdom is wrong - food is actually cheaper this year than it was in Cowes Week 2012.

So our annual infographic is back with this year's price results in more detail.
Who sells the cheapest coffee? And who sells the dearest? See the full infographic here.

It might be the keener competition amongst venues, or the effects of the credit crunch, but whatever the reason the averages have come down again for most of the items surveyed - just as they did the previous year.

The most impressive drop is in the average price of a burger - from 7.00 in 2011, it dropped 45p to 6.55 in 2012 and in this year the trend continued with a massive 94p drop to only 5.61. A portion of chips would set you back 2.34 in 2011, and following a small fall in 2012 the price has dropped again to an average of only 2.05. And although a fish and chips meal would have cost an average of 8.66 in 2012, this year it was more than 1.50 less at only 7.03. But it's not all good news - the crews' favourite, all-day breakfast - the only food item that has actually gone up in price - has risen from 6.14 to an average of 6.70. And coffee continues its price rise, up to an average of 1.88.

These results might not always mean better value - for example, some venues might be choosing to offer smaller meals or cheaper ingredients, but they demonstrate that the typical price of eating out in Cowes Week is actually still going down.

Note: not all venues in Cowes were surveyed, and food and drink was not sampled so the prices will refer to quite different offers. This year Gurnard was not surveyed, and some temporary stalls in Cowes Yacht Haven were included. Prices were recorded on 3 August 2013 and may change.

 Published: 5th August 2013
Categories: Cowes & East Cowes, Special events

Isle of Wight Chilli Fiesta

One thing the Isle of Wight does well is festivals. Back in the day - when the West Wight was all fields - it played host to the mother of all pop festivals; hippies were drawn from around the globe to a tiny corner of a tiny corner of England.

IW Chilli Fiesta

As any fule kno, the Isle of Wight Festival was revived in 2002 and, with Bestival, these events top and tail the music festival season. Somewhere in between is the Donkey Sanctuary's Faux Fest - like the pop festival but with tribute acts.

But it's not all grizzled rockers performing to young girls in hotpants; the festival season also includes food festivals - and it is these that are naturally of interest to Matt and Cat. For example, they have been regular attendees of Red Funnel's seasonal Cowes Food Show; where local producers peddle their wares and talented chefs concoct edible delights in the food theatre. Arreton's Sweetcorn Fayre is a good addition to the autumn festival calendar and the Garlic Festival probably has more years under its belt that the old and new pop festivals combined. One food festival that M&C would love to see make a return appearance is Ventnor Botanic Gardens' Hop Festival, toasting the garden's hop harvest with locally-brewed ale. Then there's September's proposed Festival of the Sea which promises to have all sorts of fish-related fare.

The newest kid on the festival block is the Isle of Wight Chilli Fiesta. The brainchild of the folk behind the Chilli Farm, it's smack bang at the beginning of the summer holidays. Matt and Cat visited on the first day of the inaugural festival. The weather gods smiled down on the event: it wasn't so hot that everyone was at the beach and it wasn't so dull that everyone was exploring the Island's many indoor attractions. As porridge-rustler Goldilocks herself would say, it was just right.

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 Published: 27th July 2013
Categories: Special events, Street food

Well Bread, Cowes

Once our ancient ancestors had got a handle on fire and established the principles of agriculture they had the components to create that staple of the human diet: bread. And whether it's with a hand-kneaded artisan loaf, nutritionally-questionable sliced white or a communion wafer, the practice of sharing bread with our fellow man is as old as the hills.

Well Bread, Cowes

While some people prefer to eat in private, for the majority dining is a shared experience. And nowadays - even if you haven't eyed your family across a table for months - you may find yourself compelled to eat with strangers at one of the new-fangled refectory-style eateries. Matt and Cat are big fans of both the delicious food and the communal environment of mainland Japanese restaurant chain Wagamama. They have also waxed lyrical about the simple, church-like seating arrangements in Newport's Foundation Bakery. And now those two concepts - breaking bread and noshing with strangers - have been fused in Well Bread, Cowes' bakery-cum-café.

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 Published: 22nd July 2013
Categories: We don't like, Cafes, Take aways, Cowes & East Cowes, Local produce

Three Buoys, Appley

The north east Wight has a handful of eateries with a notable sea view; from Baywatch on the Beach you can enjoy a panorama which includes the iconic St Helens Fort; or if you get a shore-side seat outside the Old Fort in Seaview you can watch the busy maritime traffic in the Solent. Other venues - such as the magnificent Spitbank Fort and slightly less grand Costa Coffee at the end of Ryde Pier - can boast a view of the sea pretty much on all sides. A table on the balcony at Three Buoys, in Ryde's Appley Park, gives dinner a memorable backdrop as the orange light of the sinking sun is reflected off the extensive beach. The activities of ships and yachts add interest, and the twinkling lights of Portsmouth are far enough away to look almost enticing.

Three Buoys, Appley: calamari

The restaurant at Appley has had a number of previous incarnations and it's not hard to see why. The awesome views aside, Three Buoys is a first-floor restaurant above a separate café, which must sometimes make it hard for potential patrons to spot that there might be more than ice cream and beachballs available at Appley these days. Also, delightful though Appley Park is, it is very much a seasonal location, and when the weather closes in there is little passing trade. What all this means is that it has to be an exceptional offering indeed up those stairs to draw in enough regular diners to make a sustainable business. Three Buoys thinks it has what it takes. So does it? You know what happens next.

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 Published: 23rd June 2013
Categories: Restaurants, We love!, Family friendly, Ryde

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