People on the Isle of Wight have long, long memories – and unforgiving ones. Matt and Cat have heard tales of folks who have vowed never to revisit a particular establishment after a single disappointing experience – and cling to that simple principle for so long that generations later their children’s children are still wedded to the conviction that nobody should ever go near the place.
It’s for that reason that Matt and Cat make a point of going to pretty much anywhere (at least once). Good food and service can be found in the most discreet of locations so sometimes it’s worth deviating from the well-trodden path. Island eateries can change quite rapidly for better or worse, and you never know when a gem is going to turn up – or, for that matter, a lemon.
However, with nearly 2,000 licensed food premises on the Island, in nine years Matt and Cat have only managed to visit about a quarter of them. And let’s not even start on about revisiting places. So it is only fair for them to confess that they’d never actually been to Adgestone Vineyard. Nor had they really considered it as a dining venue, and yet it is. Driving through the countryside one sunny afternoon they were in search of a cream tea and, having only recently enjoyed the teashop at nearby Brading Roman Villa, decided they’d like to try somewhere new. Thus they ended up pulling into the vineyard’s little enclave.
Adgestone Vineyard claims to be one of Britain’s oldest, dating back to 1968. The word is that the vineyard has new owners, who fancied running what in the modern parlance is called a lifestyle business. And who can blame them? After all, who wouldn’t want to spend their days tending to a south-facing hillside covered in vines, chatting to people in the well-stocked visitor centre and dispensing afternoon tea. Certainly the place looked in good order, and was informal and welcoming. A little flock of fancy chickens was camped out on the verandah and clucked obligingly while fluffing up their elaborate plumage. This explained the ‘no dogs’ request to visitors – be advised this is not a place for our four-legged friends. Music gently drifted across the grass. This was an unexpectedly promising venue for a nice afternoon tea.
Cream tea, inc. tea £5.95
Cinnabon cake £3.50
Inside, there was a choice of wine-tasting, naturally enough, or tea and cake. Matt and Cat gave the wine a look – it would have been rude not to – but they knew why they were there. Displayed on the teashop counter was a small selection of breathtakingly large cakes, as well as more traditional scones. Matt and Cat ordered a cream tea, and a slice of one of those massive cakes, which went under the name of ‘cinnabon cakes’ – a new one to M&C which appeared to be a home-made version of an American in-store classic.
Cat always enjoys choosing the optimum place to sit, and in this case she was torn between the comfortable verandah with its sentinels of beady-eyed poultry, and the elevated terrace that gave panoramic views across Brading Roman Villa to the twinkling blue of Sandown Bay beyond. After flitting between the two, the allure of the chickens won out, and the pair settled in some nice patio chairs to await their grub.
When it arrived, the tea was good and plentiful, in a nice china pot with a milk jug – just as it should be, with all the proverbial trimmings. The cakes were better than average. Cat received a brace of scones; they had a light cakey, slightly fluffy texture which she enjoyed – not dissimilar to the highly-regarded but now sadly unavailable scones that graced Newport’s erstwhile Round House tearoom. There was oodles of topping – jam first naturally, despite what the Devonians say.
Matt was simply delighted with his warmed cinnabon cake. It was vast – like it had been sliced from a Danish pastry made for giants. A heady cinnamon smell rose from it, and slathered on top was a sweet, creamy topping that Matt loved. These cakes alone would have made it worth the journey down the back-lanes of Adgestone; but coupled with the enjoyable setting and decent tea, the whole experience was one that Matt and Cat were very taken with.
After their tea, the diners took the opportunity for a stroll amongst the vines where they encountered a few more chickens and lots of ripening grapes – plus a stunning view of The Bay. There was a small grassy area where children were happily running about, and as the evening sun sank across the downs and let a few golden rays creep over the vines, the little vineyard had a timeless feel to it.
Back at the visitor centre, the friendly proprietor chatted to Matt and Cat, and confirmed that yes, this was all a new venture for him and the old place was under new management. M&C would say that he’s doing the right thing so far, and would recommend Adgestone Vineyard to anyone seeking a good, quiet lunch or afternoon tea in a very relaxing environment.