Matt and Cat\'s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide
Special report by our roving festival reporter, Wendy Her updates will be added to this review, so keep checking back and read down to...

Special report by our roving festival reporter, Wendy

Her updates will be added to this review, so keep checking back and read down to find out the latest!

Furnace tent, Bestival

Bestival Friday update
Well, I’m here posting from the SOS internet cafe, one of the few dry spots at Bestival this squelchy, soggy Friday. Unlike previous years when I could stroll around in the sunshine and choose food according to how tasty it looked and how short the queues were, today it’s a case of dashing towards any place with an awning big enough to shelter ones self and food for the time it takes to eat it.

The Hurly Burly vegetarian cafe looked great but was so packed with poncho-wearers huddling in the dry that I couldn’t get anywhere near the counter. So we waded on and eventually tucked ourselves in by the counter of The Furnace fine vegetarian foods stall, where Ian, who would normally opt for meat at festies, chose the veggie chilli, son Milo the children’s pasta dish and I had the chickpea curry with basmati rice and poppadum. Scrummy food on any day, but especially when you’re soaked and starving! Punters around me were heard murmuring that it was “healthy but warming” as if healthy food usually isn’t. Very cheerful staff, too.

I hope tomorrow will be dry enough to do the massive range of food offerings more justice.

Furnace menu, Bestival

The act on the main stage has just announced it’s “stopped raining”. I’d better make a dash for it!


Saturday morning
Having now caught up with the rest of the family (two student daughters plus one of their boyfriends), who gave up on camping in the quagmire and caught the bus home last night (lightweights!), I can pass on their comments thus far:

Pie Minister pies, situated near the BBC introducing tent: Becky had the wild mushroom and asparagus with mash and gravy for £5.95: “really tasty, filling and warming; brilliant festival food”; Olivia loved the Heidi (another of the veggie pies), while Ollie said “the Chicken of Aragon pie was amazing – it had some bacon in it, and I think maybe some apple sauce, too.”
I’ve scoffed these pies myself and can vouch for their excellence.

Pie Minister

– At the farmer’s market, Olivia spotted the Isle of Wight Cheese Company selling a great value platter of their cheeses plus island tomatoes and salad for £5. Ollie was impressed with the “funky apple juice” cider for £1.50, and Olivia with the ginger beer.

– They took refuge from the rain at the Solace tent in its lovely spot next to the inflatable church on the top of the hill (top of the hill being an advantage in this weather as long as your wellies have the grip to get up there!), where they gratefully partook of free tea and cake supplied by an army of kind-hearted Island cake bakers.

Their less successful eats so far have included falafels that were “nice but far too crumbly”; and the choice of breakfasts on the campsite when they woke up on Friday morning: “The veggie options were pretty basic,” said Becky. “Toast and jam or a vegeburger. We’d brought cereal with us, but there was nowhere selling milk.” (This is a shame, because I know last year Briddlesford Dairy, which is on Bestival’s doorstep, went round selling milk and Cornflakes to campers, but had to stop after grumbles from other vendors.)

Last night I camped myself for the first time ever at Bestival (what a year to pick, eh?), in a damp tipi (note to Boutique campsite: a coir mat is no substitute for a proper groundsheet on wet ground). The closest stall offered bacon rolls for brekky, or a rather expensive cream cheese & salmon bagel; the next closest boasted “tea, coffee, Red Bull”.

We weren’t tempted and decided to lug ourselves home for breakfast, showers and a change of clothes, But we will return undaunted to see The Human League and Gary Numan today, and check out the amazing range of good quality food on offer on the main site.

Let’s hope for a break in the weather.


Saturday evening:
As my six-year old son said to me yesterday, “I can’t believe this is supposed to be fun.” But strangely enough, it is, as long as you don’t get cold. The atmosphere is great.

Pie Minister queue

Today I didn’t eat until late, heavily distracted by ’80s nostalgia in the form of sets by The Human League, Gary Numan, The Specials and Grace Jones. Ravenous, I again thought about trying the Hurly Burly veggie café on the main thoroughfare, which has its own undercover seating. But on closer inspection, the floor was just as deep in mud as outside, so although the food itself looked fine, being served out of their raised trailer kitchen, the place had the air of a refugee camp and it put me right off.

Instead I joined the (yes, muddy) queue for Pie Minister and took my my wild mushroom and asparagus pie plus minty mushy peas, mash and gravy to the come dancing venue, which was wonderfully warm, with a proper wooden floor and swing music and everything. That pie combo doesn’t look too pretty, but it tasted amazing and certainly hit the spot.

Ian opted for fish and chips (£6.50) from the Sea Cow near the main stage and found them “pretty plain”, though they style themselves as “gourmet”. The portion of fish was modest.

I spotted Harbour Seafoods (Isle of Wight fish vendor), who’s learned from earlier outings at the Isle of Wight Festival and invested in some big, bold signage, advertising the paella and other seafood dishes on offer.

Another Island business on site is the mobile Plaza ice cream van serving Beechdean ice cream. You’ve got to feel sorry for them because it’s not been ice-cream weather. And how mobile that classic van will be by the end of this muddy Bestival is anyone’s guess.

Taste of the Wight, fish and chips

Sunday update:
After a pick-me-up of a free cup of chamomile tea and a little cake at Solace (see Saturday), I made the most of the fine weather to negotiate the mudslide near the bandstand to check out the local produce. The WI tent attracted a long queue, New Barn Farm had a stall selling Island reared lamb in various forms, there was Island sweetcorn, Calbourne Classics ice cream, and the farmer’s market.

Solace, tea and cake

But what caught my eye was the enthusiastic frontman by the Taste of the Wight van, doing an admirable job of reeling in punters as they slid down the hill with a cheery, “You look hungry, come and eat our food. It’s all local; comes from within a mile of the site.” Quite how the cod for my fish and chips (£7) fitted that category I’m not sure, and surely the lemon came from further afield. But they were wrapped in paper and an outer layer of a very local County Press. My fish and chips were splendid – fresh and perfectly cooked, and more substantial and tasty than those Ian had yesterday from Sea Cow (yes, I did nick a bit of his, so I can compare).

Full marks to Taste of the Wight (which is the local food group that publishes the magazine of the same name) for showing plenty of initiative. At festivals Island vendors usually blend a little too politely into the background. Speaking of which I felt very sorry for the Isle of Wight Proper Burger vendors who I noticed looking forlorn and forgotten as I was lugging my daughters’ camping gear out of the site this evening. They had a pitch opposite the Jestival comedy tent, which would have been great, except Jestival has been closed most of the weekend; one of the casualties of the mud. That’s no joke.
Bestival, 2008

  • Wendy says:

    Glad your initiative with IW water made up for the poor sales on ice cream Gary! Did you need a tow out of the mud afterwards? Your poor vans were looking a bit sunk by Sunday.

  • Gary says:

    Great review of the Bestival Food. I’m glad you felt sorry for The Plaza Ice Cream Van – you should of done! We quickly realised that we were not going to sell heaps of ice cream with the weather being what it was – so made some hasty phone calls to Paul at Wight Crystal Water. He was brilliant and opened up at 7.30 am for us to take delivery of stacks of water which saved the day. It seemed quite ironic as if everyone hadn’t seen enough Isle of Wight water that weekend. Also we did make page 12 of The Sun newspaper and also Youtube (check out Bestival Ice Cream Van. All in all a great weekend which we wouldn’t have missed for the world!

  • Wendy says:

    Yes, we missed the Loose Tea tent too Alexander. I intended to try the “posh” sushi restaurant by the bandstand, but peeking inside at the low seating and pristine white rugs I couldn’t bear the thought of having to prise my wellies off and – worse – wedge them back on again. Same for Time for Tease: full-on afternoon tea plus burlesque sounded intriguing but I couldn’t face the contrast! There were practicalities to consider. The Taste of the Wight were ambitiously offering freshly cooked lobster for £12. But how would you eat that, up to your knees in mud and nowhere to sit down?!

  • Alexander says:

    Great report. Being a besival fan it was very sad to see Robin Hill in such a sorry state. As the reporter suggests, the sunshine or lack of it does affect decisions. Last year I thought the Loose Tea tent was the best thing ever..mug of tea and cake in a tent full of random furniture with a small satge for ‘buskers’- really nice. But where was it this year???? Disappointed as it was a huge tent that would have been packed with cold wet revellers in search of a hot cup of tea!

    On Monday, after we had packed up our tent, we got a bacon sarnie FREE! Now that is proper Bestival spirit….

  • James P says:

    Great report, Wendy. The girl who sold me my Sunday paper said she’d been yesterday and that lots of people were falling over in the mud, although some of them were in the sort of state that meant they’d have had trouble staying upright anyway!

    Shame about the vendors shooing away local suppliers of breakfast, when it wasn’t affecting them. Perhaps the ice-cream sellers should keep a supply of milk handy.

    Generally, though, it sounds like it’s worth a visit just for the food. You’d have to pay me to listen to Gary Numan, though.. 🙂

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