This review is of the former Cask & Taverners, which has now been reopened as The Taverners – and is quite different. See the more recent and up-to-date review here.
It has been said that Matt and Cat shy away from the Isle of Wight’s more upmarket eateries; this website is considered by at least one person to have too much emphasis on pub grub and cafes. Perhaps M and C’s review of fine dining at the Farringford does not satisfy those who would like to see the Island’s more chi-chi restaurants feature on this blog.
Mindful of this, despite the proximity to pay day, and with empty(ish) purses, Matt and Cat scampered to Godshill with the intention of having a jolly good feed at the award-winning Essex Cottage. They were stymied when they found not only was the restaurant shut, but it was closed down! Not wanting to waste the anticipatory saliva which had bubbled in their mouths at the thought of Godshill Park Farm beef, they fluttered over to the lights of the nearby Cask and Taverners.
Spooneristically referring to the pub as the Task and Cavernous was quite apt; it is a vast and winding place. Matt and Cat entered through the dining room, which could seat dozens of people; and at the height of summer presumably does. In fact, as anyone who has ever tried to drive through Godshill on a sunny day in July will know, coachloads of grockles swarm in this picturesque village. Making their way to the bar, M and C were pleased to see a warming gas fire burning in the central fireplace, mellow authentic flagstones on the floor and a curious interior pitched roof finished with earthenware tiles.
Along with a couple of locals at the bar, Matt and Cat settled in high stools and ordered drinks. Matt’s thirst was quenched with a good pint of London Pride, Cat had generic coke. The bar soon filled up with more regulars, pals of the two incumbents, and a pub quiz book was produced. But this wasn’t quiz night, it was just a friendly contest between close friends. Questions were read and heads were scratched. Cat, despite trying to concentrate on the menu, was determined to help the amnesiac quizzers. “Who sang Be-Bop-A-Lula?”, “Whose wife was turned into a pillar of salt?”, “Which Elvis song did the Pet Shop Boys take to number one?”. No-one likes a know-all and, after involuntarily supplying several answers, Cat was asked in a very friendly way to keep her counsel – so she turned her attention back to the bill of fare.
Most items on the menu were pub favourites such as steak, gammon, ham and egg and lamb. Most came with vegetables (primarily peas) or salad garnish. There were a few standards on the vegetarian menu including vegetable lasagne and tuna pasta bake – for those people that call themselves vegetarian despite eating fish. What is that about? You’re either a vegetarian or not; if you’re a veggie, there’s a ‘no fish’ clause. Matt and Cat were interested to see spinach, tomato and mozzarella pudding on the menu. They had previously encountered this unusual dish as a special at The Woodvale – what a coincidence. Despite the legume accompaniment to most dishes, somehow Cat managed to order the only meal that did not come with any greens: chargrilled chicken served with creamy mushroom sauce and chips. Matthew played safe with cheeseburger and chips.
Whilst waiting for their food, your reviewers read the day’s newspaper. The headline proclaimed more salacious nonsense about the long-dead Princess Diana: “Diana had five lovers“. Feigning interest in the paper, Matt and Cat listened to more pub quiz puzzlers from the other side of the bar. Missing the first part of the question, Cat heard the following clue, “His initials are A.M.” “Anthony Mollusc?” was the hopelessly optimistic (and incorrect) reply. Anthony Mollusc? Cat snorted cola down her chin! “Which Irish actor played Oliver Cromwell?” “Richard Harris” blurted C, luckily too quietly for the quizzees to hear. If she had spoken up, there would not have been the entertaining five minutes of mass mental fumbling and tip-of-the-tongue word-lurching. “I know it, I know it, I know it, I know it, I know it – Peter Tool?”, “Clue: he was a drunkard”. “Dudley Moore” yelled someone.
Just as someone finally splurted out “Richard Harris”, the dinners were served. For Cat, a perfectly shaped ‘butterfly’ chicken breast was splayed on the plate next to a bunch of very nice crispy chips. Alongside was a huge stainless steel sauceboat contained a lovely creamy, mustardy sauce with big chunks of freshly cooked mushrooms and onions. The dish was all quite delightful, if a little beige.
Matt’s cheeseburger was as expected, and had some nice caramelised onions nestling under its buntop. Again, the chips were very good and the small salad garnish was quite fresh.
Whilst Cat and Matt were eating, the quizzers dispersed to be replaced by another gang of greeted regulars and the pub retained its jolly atmosphere. It is likely the the food in the Essex Cottage would have been more gastonomique but would the hub-bub have been so bubbly? The Cask and Taverners – fun and friendly and with functional food.
Answers: Gene Vincent, Lott, You Were Always On My Mind.