There’s something fishy going on at the Seaview Hotel – something fishy and good. It’s always been a decent place for something to eat, but if you haven’t been there in the last year or so, Matt and Cat politely suggest that you rectify that.
Chef Bruce Theobold first cooked for Matt and Cat when he created an excellent ‘Beef, Beer and Deer‘ supper for them for one of their dining club events back in 2014. At the time he was new to the venue, and it seems that a year at the helm has given Bruce the chance to evolve and refine his offering quite significantly.
Recently the hotel was promoting a remarkable ‘Focus on Fish’ menu, which at £28 for three courses was very keenly priced. Matt and Cat are partial to a bit of fish, so one evening they set off to Seaview to give the new set menu a try.
Before the hotel became ‘home of the crab ramekin‘, its signature dish was soupe de poisson. The first time Cat had SDP at the hotel it was chowdery, full of identifiable fish pieces. Since then the recipe has developed and, although still served with garlicky rouille, grated cheese and croutons, the latest incarnation is a much smoother affair. Cat’s soup de poisson starter was sieved to a creamy consistency which diminished none of the taste. The hot-pot had notes of crustacean and possibly a smoked fish or two. Lovely.
‘Focus on Fish’ three-course menu x 2 = £56
Who’d get off on serving up stuffed babies? Sounds alarming but when it’s baby squid, you’re probably OK. Nobody gets too sentimental about baby invertebrates, especially when they are so damned tasty. In what Matt exclaimed to be one of the best things he’d eaten in a long time, Theobold served up a brace of tender little squid surrounding a creamy feta and chorizo stuffing, with a vivid green parsley sauce. As Matt cut into the squid, chunks of chorizo oozed enticingly out and mingled with the pure-tasting parsley – the dish was a taste sensation.
Cat’s pan-fried brill was beautiful. It looked like a miniature temple garden, with tiny minarets of Romanesco cauliflower twirling their fractally heads skywards on little turrets of mash. Alongside were drizzles of truffle-scented jus of various hues of green. The fish was delicious; it tasted like it had been cooked in butter: rich, salty and luscious. Cat loved this dish. The flavours were intense, it was a treat to behold and it was chock full of different textures of cauliflower – one of Cat’s favourite vegetables – which she enjoyed mashed, grilled, smoked, and pureed. Another plate was metaphorically licked clean (come on, M&C aren’t that coarse, they don’t usually actually lick their plates. Much.).
A pairing that shouldn’t work but somehow does – like Celebrity Big Brother odd couple Sally Bercow and Paddy Doherty – Matt’s main course matched pork with monkfish. Really? Yes, really. And typically of this very clever menu, it measured up. Fish was a focus, but it was not all there was to it. The menu had decent vegetarian options, a lamb dish, and also this hybrid of fish and pork. Matt was sceptical but willing to give it a go – and was glad he did. Another superbly presented plate arrived, with chunks of silky-smooth belly pork surrounding a substantial monkfish tail fillet. Both these meats need some support to avoid a pallid look and bring out their flavours, and in the accompanying red wine sauce and butternut puree this was delivered generously. The main course looked great, tasted better, and there was plenty on the plate. Matt loved it.
Cat chose ‘Lemon Meringue Pie’, partly because she was intrigued by the inverted commas. Half expecting some inconsequential deconstructed effort with a smear of this and a shaving of that, she was delighted to be served a dish that would properly challenge her pudding stomach’s capacity. As with her other two dishes, the tastes sang out; tart blood orange segments combined with the sweet lemony posset which, eaten with just-picked basil shoots, created a symphony of flavours. The blobs of meringue had been blasted with a flame, giving them a caramelised shell while retaining a gooey interior. These were the nearest she had come to being served a bonfire-scorched marshmallow; evocative and delicious. As she ate her pudding Cat sipped at an smooth orangey dessert wine, which was the perfect citrus match. Matt’s classic dessert – Cambridge burnt cream – was a simple and perfectly executed counterpoint to the array of complex dishes.
There’s hardly room to expand upon the excellent service, the relaxing environment, and the pleasing wine menu. The hotel got everything just right. So you’ll have got the idea. Matt and Cat went to the Seaview expecting a really good meal – and got a truly great one. This menu, at this price, could hold its own against any other on the Island.
A shorter version of this review appeared in print in the Isle of Wight County Press on the 13th of March 2015.
- Really good seafood menu
- Hotel-class service throughout
- Excellent value
- Good wine list
- Very, very busy in high summer
- Not much parking nearby, you'll need to park up the road and walk down