Matt and Cat\'s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide
Black Sheep Bar, Ryde Black Sheep Bar, Ryde
Black Sheep Bar, Ryde

Some of Matt and Cat’s readers visit this eating out guide with flattering regularity, apparently trusting – as well as being entertained by – the amateur ramblings of the eponymous bloggers.

Courgette salad, Black Sheep Bar, Ryde

Just as one might demand the same hairstylist year after year – as they are truly the only scissor-jockey who can whip lank greasy hair into a towering spiky mullet – so Matt and Cat have confidence in the venues of certain restaurant proprietors.

So it was, when M and C learnt that the business acumen behind popular upmarket Ryde restaurant Liberty’s was involved with the refurbishment of what was formerly Bar 53, they were keen to check it out.

Black Sheep Bar, Ryde

Black Sheep Bar occupies a prime site adjacent to the historic Yelf’s Hotel in Ryde’s distinctive Union Street. Its adjoining courtyard has been sympathetically upgraded; etched plate glass walls keep out the draughts and potted plants create pleasant screening. The interior of the bar is quite gothic but without clutter; florid black and silver wallpaper contrasting with plain magenta walls.


Matt and Cat were curious to see whether another Liberty’s would be created up the road – as if so, there’d inevitably be competition between the two. But the style and feel of The Black Sheep Bar is quite different from Liberty’s – one assumes deliberately so. And, for those expecting Liberty’s-style menus, there is a surprise in store for the Black Sheep Bar sells tapas. Matthew, who usually likes a full plate has learnt to love these tiny dishes. They allow you to have a taster of many interesting foods without the hazard of making an unwise choice. Don’t care for your slow-cooked octopus? Ne’er mind, swap it for your companion’s smoky eggs. Not ordered enough? No problem – just order some more. Cat, with her bird-like appetite, loves to pick away at this food designed for sharing too, so it’s a good format to please both of them.

For tapas noobs, there are some friendly instructions printed atop the menu, recommending three or four dishes to start with. There’s even a special children’s menu available on request, offering the intriguingly-titled ‘definitely interactive food’. As many experiences of eating at El Toro Contento have shown, three platters each is usually enough to fill Matt and Cat. So when the waitress sauntered over they ordered an eclectic mix to pick over together: mixed olives; black pudding; whitebait; sesame & garlic chicken; and a courgette salad.

The Black Sheep Bar was not crowded, and Matt and Cat soon noticed another distinct difference from Liberty’s. Perhaps in a deliberate effort to give an informal, clubby atmosphere, the waiting staff were determinedly casual about their demeanour. Chatting volubly across the bar as they waited for other customers, Matt and Cat heard the staff tattling about amorous conquests, unusually large volumes of alcohol drunk, and even listened to a new ringtone.

It was a revelation to Matt and Cat that good tapas can be English, as well as Spanish

This is no criticism, and indeed much of this seemed to be coming from a chap who was obviously off-duty. When staff attended to M & C, the same informal and chatty style was clearly the norm for The Black Sheep Bar.

Eavesdropping was soon put to one side when the food very promptly arrived. Your reviewers were stunned by the impressive spread which was laid out in front of them. This far exceeded their expectations. Each dish was beautifully presented, and hardly done justice by the menu descriptions. What was described merely as ‘mixed olives’ turned out to be a delightful mélange of olives stuffed with coriander and cumin seed, presented on a tangy bed of fresh rocket and garnished with sprigs of thyme. Similarly, the black pudding, billed as ‘quick-fried and served with warm breads’, was a decent pile of piping-hot wedges of pud, on warm ciabatta alongside a mixed salad featuring fresh figs, no less.

Matt and Cat’s bill
Courgette salad £3.00
Garlic chicken £4.50
Black pudding £3.50
Whitebait £3.50
Smoky eggs £3.00
Mixed olives £2.50
2 x coffee 3.50

And this bounty was not found wanting when tasted either – it was all freshly cooked and prepared, mostly from fresh ingredients. Indeed the only obviously pre-prepared item was the olives, by necessity from a jar. Matt was particularly pleased with the whitebait – so hot and new they just melted in the mouth as only very good fish can. Again, this was served with handfuls of that zingy rocket which really set it off. It was a revelation to Matt and Cat that good tapas can be English, as well as Spanish.

This nu-goth addition to Union Street’s ever-changing kaleidoscope of eateries is a remarkable innovation, and one which Matt and Cat thought was exceptionally good. A very casual ambience, yet still a hint of grown-up sophistication. And the food! An outstanding way to enjoy tapas. This one’s recommended.
Black Sheep Bar, Ryde

This nu-goth addition to Union Street’s ever-changing kaleidoscope of eateries is a remarkable innovation, and one which Matt and Cat thought was exceptionally good. A very casual ambience, yet still a hint of grown-up sophistication. And the food! An outstanding way to enjoy tapas. This one’s recommended.
  • A trendy eating-place
  • Bargain cocktails
  • Some really innovative and good food
  • Consistently cheerful service
  • Not a venue for an intimate family gathering
  • Gets a bit lively later in the evening

4 of 5

3 of 5

5 of 5

4 of 5

4 of 5

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Tonylin

    5th February 2017 #1 Author

    Best Sunday lunch in Ryde , truly scrummy and excellent value . Well worth a visit


  • Foodie Fan!

    10th May 2012 #2 Author

    Had a wonderful evening here last night with the new Tapas menu and the Jazz jam night. The food was really so fresh with a good variety from Kings prawns with garlic and herbs to sirloin strips in a lovely sweet soy dressing, we will definately be going back!


  • Kayleigh

    24th April 2012 #3 Author

    We are delighted to inform our customers old and new that tapas is back at The Blacksheep Bar. The extensive new menu has delicious meat, fresh seafood and vegetarian dishes perfect for sharing (or to enjoy alone)!

    This Friday 27th April, we have the first of many ‘dinner with the band’ evenings, this month with the fabulous Charley Macaulay, who will be singing a stripped back acoustic set during dinner, later joined by her full band to perform with that perfectly toned sultry powerhouse of a voice. Expect a treat and to hear the classics from Adele, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Amy Winehouse and a few of her own.

    This is a very special night…don’t miss it!

    Dinner Booking Essential.

    Please call 01983 811006


  • Mandy G

    8th January 2012 #4 Author

    My friend and I popped in here for a quick lunch. I had the bacon, brie and cranberry toasted sandwich which came with chips and side salad. My friend had the Croque Monsieur, Washed down with diet cokes – glassof crisp cold white would have been better but we were inbetween house viewings!
    The food was freshly cooked, and served with prompt friendly service (but with only another 6 or so late lunch diners I can’t comment on speed when they are busy.) I have had brie and bacon toasted sandwiches a number of times and this was definitely one of the better ones. Evenly melted and generously spread with cranberry sauce and thick flavoursome bacon. The bread was perfectly toasted and crisp. The chips were crispy outside and fluffy inside. Small side salad with the normal lettuce, tomato and lettuce, pepped up with some dill and red onion.

    All in all something simple and well done.

    I look forward to a more substatntial break there next time.


  • Alan

    25th August 2011 #5 Author

    Great lunch last Saturday at The Blacksheep, they had acoustic live music on the outside terrace which was perfect in the sunshine with a nice chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc! Thrilled to hear they are now doing evening meals too with fresh fish, steak dishes etc. I had the sea bass with lime and chilli and it really was delicious. it’s a real gem to have such great food, really friendly staff and such a nice outside seating area (although inside is just as nice too). Yes it is a busy late night venue but it seems to have found a perfect balance to get the daytime customer too. Well done Blacksheep!


  • Barry

    25th August 2011 #6 Author

    Excellent service from Mike and Luke (Nick?). Very good cream/fruit gateau. Good coffee. No savouries etc. 3pm to 6pm except weekend. Accommodation for dogs outside.


  • Natalie

    26th March 2010 #7 Author

    The cocktails are lovely in BSB, will definetly be going back to try the food next time, I admit to being a tapas noob as well!


  • Becky

    8th March 2010 #8 Author

    Haven’t eaten in here yet, but the music was great. Boogie Nights with the band ‘Off the Wall’ was a really good night! Hope to see it again…needs more advertising on the music front.


  • Kat

    4th December 2009 #9 Author

    My husband and I ate here in august 09. as my husband is a picky eater is was ideal, and he managed to find plenty that he liked , and I also managed to get him to try a few things he thought he didn’t! We finished with a chocolate fondue (highly reccomend!!) and a liquor coffee. We continued to talk about our wonderful dinner for many days to come, and to anyone who would listen! we will be vivsiting the black sheep again soon and cannot wait!!


  • David & Jenny

    22nd September 2009 #10 Author

    We have enjoyed many lunches at The Blacksheep and would highly recommend it to everyone. Great food, great service and great value – we love it. We have tried Olivo’s and whilst it was ok we prefer The Blacksheep, the staff are friendly, professional and nothing is too much trouble – thank you!


  • Trencherman

    13th September 2009 #11 Author

    Great place to eat or drink, or both. Staff well friendly, especially the personable young manager, Matt. Also worth stating that it’s dog friendly garden is a great boon, as so many pubs and restaurants become anal when it comes to allowing dogs. In France you can take your pooch to even the poshest of eateries.


  • Liz

    2nd September 2009 #12 Author

    Hi, went for lunch at the Blacksheep bar at August bank holiday, my boyfriend and me were on the scooter rally 🙂

    Such lovely, pleasant staff and wonderful food. Definately be visiting again next year.

    Thanks! Liz 🙂


  • louise

    23rd August 2009 #13 Author

    Went to the Blacksheep for lunch on friday, hubby went to order and told 20 mins wait, by the time he came and asked me if that was ok as I was on my lunchhour and went back to order they told us they were no longer taking food orders, the place was 1/2 full. Very disappointed as had been wanting to try this place for ages however the owners would i’m sure like to know we had a lovely meal at Olivo’s!


  • OC

    21st June 2009 #14 Author

    Tempted by the review on the above we headed towards Ryde, an aerea were we normally go out rarely- not after checking on the internet how long they serve food as we are somewhat late-or “mediterranean” to formulate it more positively diners – so tapas would suit us just fine…. As it said 21.30 we made sure that we were there before that time. After passing 2 (friendly) bouncers and a sizeable amount of people (who were drinking and smoking outside) we managed to get in the venue were finding staff was a bit difficult as they were all very busy. Finally we found a friendly young waitress, who was however totally surprised by people asking for food at this time of day and after checking she found out there was none- so we left with our stomach clattering against our knees and did what you so far avoid- we went to Olivios- see suggest a venue…
    I think here a great chance is missed to spice up British drinking culture with some late night availibility of light bites (why not make it 23.00 or 24.00 hours)and thus avoid people getting totally plastered because they just drink, or as there will always be some who just want to do exactly that at least mix the customer base with some people who want to or have to dine late. In Spain they would hand out a tapa with every bottle ordered…
    We will however attempt to come back earlier and find out if the food is really that good…


  • Wendy

    22nd March 2009 #15 Author

    First time at Black Sheep Bar last night and really liked it. Relaxed and comfy, effortlessly friendly vibe, and the service and the food was great. Sometimes choosing vegetarian options you feel like the chef is doing the bare minimum and really hasn’t a clue, but here the fig, honey and feta salad, and the mediterranean grilled veg that I ordered were gorgeous.

    I love the decor, including the ladies’ loo

    Ian had the pork skewers served on a bed of rocket & salad, and a tasty potato dish. We both opted for creme brulée for pud. Special mention for my drink: the non-alco Black Sheep Lemonade, a mix of lemon juice, ginger and lemongrass topped up with soda, was so yummy I had to have seconds. Good value too, we thought.

    Plus, I liked the peripherals. Great contemporary background music (which I suppose is what you’d expect with John Giddings of IW Festival being involved) and I love the decor, including the ladies’ loo. Black/silver floral wallpaper reminded me of vintage Biba from the 70s. And a hand-dryer so powerful it nearly takes your nails off.

    Definitely somewhere I’ll return to.


  • Laurie

    12th March 2009 #16 Author

    I would agree with all of the above views. My wife and I have visited the Black Sheep quite regularly since it opened and we have never been disappointed. The food is excellent and reasonably priced; it is complemented by some of the best coffee to be found on the Island.

    Matt & Cat respond: we’d agree – we’ve had coffee there and it is exceptionally good.


  • sean

    11th March 2009 #17 Author

    ive been goin to the black sheep atleast 2 times a week since this place has been about. not once has the glass pannels been smashed. yes ryde is inhabbited by quite a number of ‘yobbos’ though you wont find any of them in the black sheep.

    and being THE ONLY tapas bar in ryde its a breath of fresh air.


  • Aaron

    5th March 2009 #18 Author

    If you havnt tried this place out yet, I urge you to do so, you wont be dissapointed!

    The first time I came into the Blacksheep Bar I was greeted by friendly staff and excellent service. The food was a fantastic array of flavours, with perfect sized portions of food which I had never tasted before (octopus being the personal favourite!) Since then, I have become a regular in this establishment for food, drinks and entertainment.
    The atmosphere in the BSB is always welcoming, friendly and often family orientated with a childrens menu available which my kids love.
    The weekend nights are pretty good too with live bands in the Clublounge every friday and a DJ every saturday.
    If you havnt tried this place out yet, I urge you to do so, you wont be dissapointed!

    Matt and Cat respond: Thanks for your comment Aaron. We went to the Black Sheep Bar on Tuesday and had a lovely meal; Matt’s favourite whitebait had a delicious seasoning coating. We had a good old natter to chef Alex after we had eaten. Definitely worth a visit.


  • Geoff

    27th February 2009 #19 Author

    Not bad food but a quick look around and you’ll find Ryde is already saturated with places like this. All the competition and high rates and lower footfall on the High St seems to be forcing these bars to keep their prices as competitive as possible whilst cutting corners in terms of quality. Get off the high street or head out of Ryde for a better quality meal – in terms of nights out Ryde is very very chavvy at the moment – the Black Sheep regularly has the glass panels round its courtyard smashed because of all the passing yobbos, although music wise you’re likely to find the best of Island DJs and bands in there.


  • Mat

    31st January 2009 #20 Author

    Had a fabulous lunch here last Thursday. This place is a gem. fantastic ingredients, fresh, simple food. A good choice of dishes with ample portion sizes. Price isn’t dirt cheap but I do not mine paying for quality food. £3.50 carvery this is not! The mozzarella salad used some of the finest mozzarella i’ve tasted.Please give this place a go!


  • Natascha Nelson

    4th October 2008 #21 Author

    We recently visited the BSB and agree whole heartedly about the food. We tried various small dishes including the eggs in mayo with paprika and coriander, the roasted peppers, fresh bread and houmous. It was all fabulous but the banana split was the highlight. Fresh cream and a chocolate sauce that actually tasted of chocolate.
    The bar staff were all very friendly and the price was just right. We will definitley go back.