Matt and Cat\'s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide
Unexpectedly finding themselves in Shanklin one evening, Matt and Cat scratched around for something to do. Tempting as My Fair Lady at Shanklin Theatre...

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.

Sesame prawn toasts

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.

Stir-fry beef with broccoli and cashew nuts

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.

Stir-fry Thai spicy beef with green beans and Thai basil

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.

Matt and Cat’s bill
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

  • patrick says:

    So how many stars does “we like” equate to…? (Quite happy with the old syatem myself, but that would help to compare against more recent reviews of neighbouring venues…)

    • Matt and Cat says:

      If you’re looking for precision, we can’t help you. The two ratings are not the same thing, really, so there is no equivalence. The review itself is the definitive appraisal.

  • Sean says:

    Was looking for somemwhere new for us and friends to try on Friday, and after seeing the comment on M&C thought we would give the Black Cat a go. Loved it, the food, the staff, the price, all great. We all agreed we don’t eat enough Thai food compared to other asian foods and will make an effort to return.

    I would say when being asked next time how I wanted my dish; mild, medium or hot, I would go mild, I went for medium which was rather on the hot side for me, but not too hot to still be enjoyed! The hot dishes must be hotter than the sun!

  • John & Hilary Woodhouse says:

    Visited for evening meal again last week. Quality service & value for money memain consistent. We understand restaurant will be closed January – March 2013

  • Kate says:

    We ‘found’ this restaurant on the last night of our holiday. We went in and asked for a table for 2 and was asked whether we had booked. We said no and after a bit of umming and ahhing were seated at a table. At first we thought this was very weird because the restaurant had just opened for evening service and the place was not even a quarter full. This was very soon to change. As we sat down a steady stream of regular diners arrived all greeting the waitress as old friends. Soon after there was queue of people being turned away!

    And no wonder.

    From the start to the end we were made to feel like special guests, not paying diners. The attention to detail was outstanding. Service was friendly and the waitress had a genuine smile. I mentioned that I had a food intolerance and this was duly noted. After complimentary prawn crackers the chef came to speak to me in about my food allergy, just to make sure that there were no other related allergies. I was amazed at this because in all the restaurants I have eaten in my life the chef has never, ever come out to discuss my dietary requirements. Impressed? You bet! What was most amazing about this attention to detail was that the place was heaving with diners and the chef was extremely busy but she still made the effort to speak with me.

    When we first sat in the restaurant it had been very quiet. It was now absolutely buzzing with atmosphere with people chatting and laughing and it really felt like being at a good friend’s dinner party.

    The food was fresh, light and tasty – properly authentic Thai food. We only had a main course as we had other plans lined up for the evening but we decided this would be our first dinner destination when we next holiday on the island.

  • Simon Lloyd says:

    After visiting Pendleton’s the previous night, we spotted the Black Cat next door, similarly displaying the Matt & Cat sticker on their door. That was good enough for us! We phoned during the day and booked a table for that evening. Again, an excellent meal served by attentive and friendly staff, who were only to pleased to explain the make up of some of the dishes for those of us less knowledgeable about Thai food. We will return!

  • Les,Sharon & 5 year old Luca, says:

    Had a recent 4 night stay in Shanklin. Black Cat good? You bet – by far the best prepared and tastiest we have had in a long time. Went back for a second visit (yes out of 4 nights!)

    Not only is the food good but the atmosphere as well – our 5 year old was treated like a human!!

  • John Woodhouse says:

    Since our last report we have returned on several occasions. As with Pendletons next door this family run restaurant provides consistent welcome, service, quality food & value for money

  • John & Hilary Woodhouse says:

    My wife & I visited again last week, following two visits with house guests at the end of August. The warmth of the welcome, the efficient & friendly service, coupled with the super quality of the food remain undiminished

  • spidey and scooty says:

    we had a wonderful evening at the black cat in shanklin. the food is the best thai meal i’ve ever had. the service was good, our waiter was attentive and fun. i’m sure scooty and i will call again the next time we visit shanklin.

  • Anne Drury says:

    Went to Black Cat after looking up on this site. Bit apprehenhsive as husband is veggie and I am vegan but staff very helpful and the lady chef came out from the kitchen to check what we could/couldn’t eat! Food was delicious, service attentive and we will definitely return. In fact we are planning to take mum there for her birthday soon as she has never tried Thai food. We have already recommended it to friends and are looking forward to our next visit!

  • Kay says:

    The Black Cat is one of my favourites. The atmosphere is lovely and the staff are so well informed about the menu it is a pleasure to listen to their recommendations. The Thai sticky rice with coconut ice cream is delicious. This is not the cheapest restaurant you will find in Shanklin but it provides consistently good quality and is my first choice for a special occasion. The family are always very welcoming to my 8 year old daughter too. Highly recommended.

  • Lucy 'the Riley' says:

    Best restaurant in Shanklin!

  • Janet (visitor) says:

    There is a saying ‘leave the best to last’. This certainly applied to eating at the Black Cat restaurant. We booked a table for the sixth evening of our week’s stay in Shanklin. It is a family run restaurant that specialises in Thai food.

    My husband and I ordered stir-fry chicken with pineapple and cashew nuts. My husband then had a side portion of chips while I had rice. Our daughter ordered stir-fry mixed vegetables with jasmine rice. After the order for our drinks and main course had been taken, the waitress arrived with a basket of poppadoms. The latter were very tasty. When the main courses arrived we were not disappointed, the meals were appetizing and delicious. When I saw the jasmine rice I wished I had ordered that!

    When it came to desserts I was so full that I knew that I wouldn’t be able to eat one. However my husband ordered the strawberry mousse gateau and our daughter ordered the tropical fruit salad. They both looked so good that I had to have a spoonful of each! Our daughter then had a jasmine tea to finish and I had a coffee. The bill totalled £48.90

    Why did we return the next evening? The atmosphere in the restaurant was one of calm tranquillity, we had good fresh home cooked food together with personal service, it was value for money and I got to try the jasmine rice!

  • James says:

    I can endorse the comments about the Black Cat in Shanklin. Really excellent Thai food, with pleasant service and atmosphere. The food took some time to arrive, but they were quite busy and it was clearly made to order. The starters were just right, too – enough to fill the (by then) aching void, but not so much as to spoil the main course. We had one of the set meals for two and it was beautifully presented, although my other half reckoned that her pork dish was minus the advertised pineapple. Were we supposed not to notice? Recommended though, as everything else was just right.

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