A gentle afternoon stroll between Yarmouth and Fort Victoria Country Park is one of the nicest ways to explore the West Wight, with the promise of an enjoyable destination whichever direction you travel. Matt and Cat visited the splendid Yarmouth Old Gaffers Festival, and decided to take this short but very scenic walk across the peaceful estuary and out of the thronging town to find some lunch elsewhere.
The first eating place they happened upon was the Boathouse Cafe, positioned right on the shingled beach close by Fort Victoria. There was plenty of seating, with tables inside, or outside on the beach, and in the raised garden area with commanding views over the busy western Solent and New Forest beyond.
Matt and Cat chose seats in the garden before entering the cafe to see if they were still serving food. Although it was about 3.50pm, and the place advertised that it closed at 4pm, upon enquiry the proprietress could not have been more welcoming, and assured her guests that they would have plenty of time to eat – a prudent move on her part, as many more thirsty walkers were soon to follow as Gaffers festival refugees began to wander by.
After some discussion with the very friendly staff, and study of the full menu of lunchtime items Cat chose a chicken sandwich, for the bargain price of £4.95, whilst Matt was tempted by the specials board and ordered fillet steak ciabatta for a more manly £8.75. A pot of tea for two was added to the order, and Matt and Cat retired to their table to enjoy the views.
The sounds and smells of freshly frying steak drifted across the beach to reassure your reviewers that the food was being cooked to order. They enjoyed a diversionary few minutes watching various dog owners passing by and comparing the dogs and their handlers – always a good game. It might also be worth mentioning that if you’re not too fond of dogs the benches right on the beach might not be ideal, given the popularity of the little walk with dog-walkers and the fact that the footpath effectively goes right through the dining area. But up in the garden, Matt and Cat could enjoy the view undisturbed.
The tea arrived without milk, but this was immediately rectified when Matt made an enquiry at the counter. Although it was in a decent-sized pot, and with real milk, the tea was uninspiring in flavour, although adequate. However, the best was yet to come. On arrival the food was an impressive spread.
With modest, lunch-time portions, the meals were nonetheless perfectly composed to make a really good repast. Despite this being at the tail-end of what must have been a very busy day, there was no sign of anything but the freshest ingredients. The salad was crisp and new, with a range of leaves to give it colour and taste. Cat’s coleslaw appeared to be home-made, and was an enjoyable complement to the slightly dry chicken sandwich piled with freshly-cut cold meat. Matt’s fillet steak ciabatta was sublime – several choice bits of the tenderest beef nestled in the crisp bread, soaked with the cooking juices rather than any butter or margarine. French mustard was served with it, and under the meat was a decent portion of well-caramelised onions that really made this more than just a sandwich. The meal was simple, but cooked and served with real attention to detail that made the not inconsiderable price well worth it.