It’s been a long time since we were truly blown away by food which we once described as rock ‘n’ roll. That was in the glory days of Nomad; a funky concept, fusing Asian and Latin American flavours with a dynamic peripatetic energy which, alas, burned bright and faded away all too soon.
However, we have discovered a venue with comparable credentials and, amazingly, it was recommended to us by a man who was the chronicler of the “the most influential rock band of all time”. Well, you can’t get more rock ‘n’ roll than that surely?
Having taken a ticket to Ryde, if you will, The Beatles biographer Hunter Davies now lives in the seaside town, and professes to love this new restaurant which, food trivia fans, is in the home of an early iteration of Nomad.
Way back, we first climbed the stairs above Appley Cafe to the Seashell – a decent venue with magnificent views. With a succession of imaginative and creative chefs, this beachside eatery has become a destination diner, and we see no reason why Catch will not follow that trend.
The prime tables are on the terrace. There, with a panoramic view of Appley sands and the sunset bathing Portsmouth in a flattering glow in the far distance, we studied the menu. With a name like Catch, we were expecting seafood, yet among the molluscs and monkfish we discovered duck and steak, plus more avant garde ingredients like bone marrow and pigs ears.
Small plates, large plates, and sharing platters meant there was enough for Goldilocks and her three bears to choose from – and, in our experience, they were all just right. And any apprehension we had about the cost of the dishes – £150 for a surf and turf sharing platter – dissipated on eating.
Because there were so many things that we wanted to try, between the two of us we had eight plates all told, including our desserts. Attractive dishes arrived from the kitchen in quick succession; we admired the artistry with our eyes before putting the food to the test with our eager mouths and tongues.
Truffle Fries £5
Vegetable side £5
Cheese souffle £9
Chicken skewers £9
Seared tuna £11
Pigs ear salad £16
Dessert 2 x £7.50 £15
The sesame-seared tuna loin was perfect; beautifully balanced. Sometimes fine dining can be disappointing – all style and no substance. This dish, with its smoky Asian slaw, was instantly satisfying. The fish itself was amazingly soft and gentle; well matched by its companion flavours. Wasabi is a powerful ingredient that is easy to get wrong, but here it was thoughtfully done; tasty without drama.
And what about that pigs ear salad? Was it a terrible mess of a lettuce, or one which contained the lughole of a porker? With no signposting apostrophe, we decided to resolve the conundrum by ordering it. It was actually a well-executed dish, with the porcine ears finely shredded and with a sweet, almost caramelised note, as opposed to the salty overdose of porky scratchings which were their coarser cousin. It was a decent caesar salad with a nice dressing and plenty of parmesan shavings and croutons.
The cheese shavings made another appearance on the ‘rock and roll fries’. These crunchy chips were also seasoned with a good dose of that musty truffle flavour which Cat is particularly partial to.
Yet more dairy arrived in the form of cheese souffle; thankfully the meat free options at Catch don’t bypass the vegetarian pound, as so many other places do, with plant-based foods being the only alternative for those who don’t eat flesh. Anyway, the souffle was just-out-of-the-oven hot and it took a while for us to really get forking into its steaming rich innards. Another excellent dish.
Even the vegetable side of tenderstem broccoli was served with a hollandaise sauce and toasted almond flakes.
We couldn’t get enough of Catch, so ordered afters to prolong the pleasure. Both puddings were delightful. The beurre noisette chocolate ganache was everything you want in an indulgent chocolate dessert; smooth, rich and delicious. Poached rhubarb had an old-school blancmange appearance and heritage pudding flashbacks, but it was far from school dinners. Simple ingredients turned into a fruity, creamy bliss.
We should not have been surprised by the quality and imagination of the food at Catch, as the hand behind the tiller is Ashley Randall, the celebrated chef who took over the reins at Ventnor’s prestigious Hambrough in 2019. He’s swapped his view of the south seas for the northern Solent, and we highly recommend that you make the journey to Catch. You’ll be hooked!
This is the full-length version of the review that appeared in the Isle of Wight County Press.
Catch: 07397532621 https://www.catchiow.co.uk/