Unexpectedly finding themselves in Shanklin one evening, Matt and Cat scratched around for something to do. Tempting as My Fair Lady at Shanklin Theatre was M and C were too late for curtain up, the library was shut and Shanklin Chine was closed for the winter.
So they defaulted to their usual entertainment – eating out. The lights of the Black Cat Restaurant twinkled invitingly and, within a moment, your reviewers were seated at a table in the window.
The Thai restaurant’s interior is similar in style to the nearby Siam Pearl; its heavy wooden fixtures, spindle-backed chairs and chintzy wallpaper seem more suited to an English tearoom than an Oriental eatery. However, there is a taste of the Far East with the many finely decorated ceramics that fill the shelves. And, by having a dual-themed interior, the venue may appeal to both tea hunters and Thai hunters.
It wasn’t long before the enthusiastic waiter sauntered over to take Matt and Cat’s order. Refusing to allow Cat to go off-menu by rejecting her proposed meat swap, she did as she was told and ordered stir-fry beef with broccoli and cashew nuts. Matt, also in a meaty mood, opted for the aromatic-sounding stir-fry Thai spicy beef with green beans and Thai basil. A starter and rice was also ordered; the pair sat back and waited for their meals.
Within moments, a bowl of complementary crunchy prawn crackers arrived. These giant Quavers are as ubiquitous and welcome nibbles as poppadoms, bread sticks or olives and do a good job of juicing up the eater. To occupy themselves while waiting, Matt and Cat punctuated their cracker crunching with speculation about the origin of the room’s vast wooden shelving. Matt, being a bit of an ecclesiastical enfant, thought the rows of alcoves reminiscent of misericords whilst Cat was sure the room-sized remnants were those of an apothecary‘s sideboard. On enquiry the waiter was happy to put them right, explaining that the furniture was in situ when the building was bought – its previous incarnation being a grocers’ shop. Well, there’s a problem solved!
The waiter wasn’t just at Matt and Cat’s table to talk about the fittings, their starter had been delivered. The deep-fried sesame prawn toasts were fanned on a leaf-shaped platter around a ceramic lily filled with tangy sweet chilli dipping sauce (4.50). A small garnish of cucumber and sliced iceberg lettuce and carrot completed the dish. The toasts were piping hot and, with the sauce, were a delicious starter and boded well for the food to come.
The next two dishes looked similar with their beef and greens but their tastes were quite different. Cat’s stir-fry beef with broccoli and cashew nuts contained beautifully tender strips of soft meat, plus al dente nuts, broccoli and corrugated-cut carrots. The sauce had a hint of hoisin; pleasant but not overwhelming (7.95). And the waiter was right to refuse Cat the opportunity to swap the beef for chicken; fowl would’ve been too subtle an ingredient for this spicy fare.
2 x sesame prawn toasts £4.50
Beef and broccoli £7.95
Thai spicy beef £7.95
Egg fried rice £5.70
Matt’s stir-fry Thai spicy beef with green beans and Thai basil (7.95) was really tasty. The basil was the magic ingredient, giving the sauce an aromatic zing. It was spicy and unusual – sometimes Thai food can be like bland Chinese but this was far from it. Cat, having scrounged a forkful of this exalted dish, declared the basil to be the business. The egg fried rice that was shared between the meals was also very good; big pieces of yellow egg, sweetcorn kernels and peas gave it welcome colour and texture.
Unfortunately there was no time for pudding or coffee as Quantum of Solace beckoned. On discovering the destination of your reviewers, the ebullient waiter proceeded to explain why he would rather watch nails rust than sit through Bond 22. And, to make the film less alluring for The Cat, he even revealed the fact that unlike Casino Royale, there’s no sign of Daniel Craig in his Speedos. Or, it transpires, many of the usual Bond cliches. However, this is not a film review website, but an eating out guide. So, to get back on track, the Black Cat serves very tasty food in an olde worlde environment with friendliness and enthusiasm. And no, in answer to your question Mr Waiter, the photos that Matt and Cat took weren’t so they could sell the dishes on Ebay – they are to illustrate this positive endorsement of the Black Cat!
Black Cat Restaurant, Shanklin