This is an archive review. The Bay Grill closed in 2011.
The cult of the chef isn’t something Matt and Cat subscribe to – but sometimes you just can’t avoid making the connection. Robert Thompson’s name, of course, is inseparable from his famous Ventnor hotel, and even Alan Staley of The Royal has been known to feature in the glossy magazines. And one particular young Island chef has caught Matt and Cat’s attention on several occasions, with increasing levels of impressiveness.
The Bay Grill, a restaurant with spectacular views across the Solent, is set in Ryde’s Appley Park. By way of disclosure, Matt and Cat will reveal that their first direct encounter with the chef at the Bay Grill was a while ago at Ryde Venue during an under-attended gig by Control, a Joy Division tribute band. This exuberant chap bounded up to the reviewers and offered to buy them a drink – which they eagerly accepted. On his return from the bar with the refreshment, Matt and Cat had to confess to the handsome young man that they didn’t know who he was. It transpired that he was Ryan Burr, at that time the chef at Chale Green Stores. His menu had been the subject of an enthusiastic review. Matt and Cat have since had several other memorable meals from Ryan, and so were fired with anticipation when they heard that he’d opened a new restaurant practically on their doorstep.
Occasionally Matt and Cat will be accused of ‘not supporting local businesses’ – which, it seems, is a commercial euphemism for ‘not doing what I want’. Oddly enough this whine is almost always emitted from between the grinding teeth of someone who has had a less-than-favourable review. Unbelievably some indignant restaurateurs have even pestered M&C’s employers with letters of complaint; moaning that their employee’s wages should only be used to write positive comments about Island businesses. Solicitors’ letters, investigators, threats, the lot. No, seriously. You couldn’t make it up. And yet still these reviews keep coming. Anyway, regular readers will realise that it is actually pretty rare for Matt and Cat to condemn a place. They may remain sitting on the fence, maybe; or take a few shots, but outright dislike is almost unheard of. So to redress any perceived imbalance, M&C are pleased to point out that this particular new Island business gets their approval. But before readers wring their hands and imagine the eating out guide has turned into some puff-parroting promotional mouthpiece, be assured that Matt and Cat’s approval is based firmly on the eating experience, even if the chef did once buy them a drink.
So, to the Bay Grill. Matt and Cat and a friend took a lunchtime stroll through delightful Appley Park, and ended up at the foot of the staircase that leads up to this new place. The Bay Grill is located above a busy seaside ice-cream parlour and café, so it might be possible to miss it if it wasn’t for the prominent balcony overlooking the Solent. Observant visitors will soon locate the staircase to the side, and once the ascent was made, Matt and Cat found themselves in a bright new venue. Formerly the Seashell Restaurant, the place has been spruced up considerably, although it’s still recognisably the same with that great vista out of the big windows.
Matt and Cat, unable to make their normal anonymous entry, were politely greeted and shown to their table. The single-page menu was a most impressive document, and before she’d even read it Cat was cooing over the hand-painted watercolour effect. Matt was more interested in the contents, which comprised a tempting selection of light bites and grill items, and yes, a significant veggie selection in the deli range, a commendable smattering of local provenance items and even a separate kids sheet with good-looking children’s meal deals at a remarkable £6. A big chalkboard at the bar advertised specials, but Matt had no hesitation in ordering Isle of Wight sirloin steak topped with garlic butter. Cat prevaricated longer, tempted by so many of the offers, before, incited by Matt, she picked chargrilled tuna steak on a Thai-style salad.
Tuna steak £12.95
Steak frites £12.95
Garlic king prawns £9.95
Desserts x 2 £7.90
Estrella Damm £2.80
Coffee x 3 £1.50
Matt also ordered a glass of beer, and was intrigued by his Estrella Damm, which came in a glass so frozen that it was steaming gently and actually had a solid sheen of ice all over it. Perfect for summer drinking, and another nice hint at the carefully considered Mediterranean beach-bar style of the Bay Grill.
One characteristic of Ryan Burr’s food is the elegant presentation, and so the arrival of the main courses was marked by exclamations of delight. The steak and the tuna alike were delicately decorated, and perfectly arranged. Matt tends to like his steak unadorned, and so was slightly sceptical about the generous garlic butter coating that sizzled on this big slice of rare Isle of Wight sirloin. He need not have worried: this steak was an object lesson in how to offer that most ubiquitous grill classic. A succulent hunk of meat, rare yet piping hot; the steak oozed juices which mingled with a perfect garlic, salt and peppercorn combination. The sauce gave texture as well as flavour. It never overpowered and could only enhance the fine flavour of good quality Island meat. A rare treat.
Cat’s tuna steak provided an unexpected diversion in the little restaurant. Regular readers will need no reminding that Cat is no fan of hot spicy stuff, and so it was quite daring of her to order the Thai-style dish. Matt pooh-poohed her feeble protests, and when the irresistible creation arrived she too was sure she’d made the right choice. Tuna can be uncomfortably dry, but the Bay Grill had managed to suffuse it with a delicious and potent Thai-style sauce which, to be honest, did have a bit of a kick to it.
It was a surprise for everyone when Cat eagerly took a big mouthful of the succulent fish, and started spluttering like the PS Monarch getting up steam.
Matt immediately felt guilty for encouraging his delicate consort to stray from the bland staples that she favours; then the waitress rushed over in great concern – this not being an anonymous review, she obviously was keeping an keen eye on her charges. In the blink of an eye even Ryan Burr himself popped out of the kitchen and began apologising – Cat meanwhile was still speechless. But apart from expressing concern, there was not much anyone could do – and just a few moments after the drama had commenced it was over: Cat had sucked down about half a glass of water and was able to speak again. She explained with a certain amount of amusement that despite everyone’s assumption, the lovely Thai tuna had not been too hot, tangy but not blistering by any means. It had been a simple old-fashioned bit of food going down the wrong way. She demonstrated the truth of this by going on to eat the lot with no further ill-effects, and indeed with great enthusiasm. Mr Burr, apparently unconvinced, nonetheless brought out a complimentary bowl of instantly-prepared tzatziki (which oddly enough included crushed peppercorns) to cool Cat’s fevered palette.
Cat’s delicious choice at an earlier meal
The excitement of the first course done with, it was time for desserts. Matt went for the chef’s chocolate orange mousse, which came in an exquisitely-decorated glass, and was a really substantial treat, not a fluffy bit of foam but a wonderful and morish creation which was packed with the mingled flavours of both chocolate and orange.
Cat chose a passion-fruit crème brulée, which was artfully delivered with a coulis-decorated plate and a strawberry. Cracking open the sweet caramelised top, she dug her spoon into its creamy innards which were punctuated with passion fruit seeds. It was just what she wanted. Excellent coffees finished the meal.
Matt and Cat really liked the Bay Grill – eating there was an experience that exceeded expectations splendidly. Its combination of an unusual flair and skill in the kitchen; a focussed menu at good prices; glorious sea views and attentive front-of-house staff make your reviewers optimistic that the Bay Grill will thrive. If a really good beach-side meal is what you are after, this place has to be one of the top picks on the Island.
The Bay Grill has now closed.