OK, alright! You’ve spoken up and, as always, Matt and Cat have taken heed.
You’ve shone the beacon into the sky and your call has been answered… Chale Green Stores it is!
As if the price of petrol was no object, Matt and Cat made their second trip west in just a matter of days, the first having been to the new Hong Kong Express in Freshwater. It was a glorious day and the drive into the deepest countryside of the Island was a pleasure. Rural pursuits were observed; huntsmen in their ‘ratcatchers‘ trotted by, buzzards battled in the sky, and rabbits lay sleeping in the middle of the road.
On arriving at Chale Green Stores, Matt and Cat wondered if the recent publicity – a full page advertorial in the previous day’s County Press – may cause the café to be oversubscribed. There was certainly a bit of a tight squeeze in the car park. However, Chale Green Stores is also a valuable and award-winning community facility; many of the visitors were doing their shopping, visiting the post office or having a chat.
Although Matt and Cat were there for lunch, on their stroll through the shop they were impressed with the range of goods and the cleanliness of the place. Like many rural stores across the land it had a post office counter, lottery terminal, newspapers, vital supplies and a smattering of fresh vegetables. But further into the shop, it became apparent that this was no ordinary store. A deli counter was hiding round a corner and bore spectacular-looking stuffed olives, a good range of cheese, including some Stinking Bishop spread on little crackers to sample, plus a range of cured meats.
And if you go far enough in, at the rear of the store is the café: a large square room with vast patio doors opening onto a well laid out but as yet immature garden. Small shrubs and a few straggly climbers had been planted, which in a few years will no doubt soften the landscaping. However, the view beyond the patio to the downs was pretty gorgeous, and more buzzards could be seen wheeling around the cloudless sky.
Lamb pie £7.95
Elderflower juice £1.50
2 Desserts £6.50
Matt and Cat took a seat at one of the wooden tables, and turning their attention to the menu, noticed that depending on what day of the week you visit, you may not get the full range. However, as they were there on a Saturday, all food was available to them, including some great-sounding specials. As far as can be remembered the specials that day featured bubble and squeak soup with crispy bacon, Thai-style squash soup, butternut pasta with tomato pesto, and rich Isle of Wight lamb pie red wine gravy and buttered carrots. Before even looking at the main menu Matthew decided to try the lamb pie.
Cat examined the deli menu. Ciabattas with various fillings included smoked salmon and cream cheese, tuna with lemon mayonnaise, bacon and Brie, and salami, olives and sun-dried tomato. It was a difficult choice, all looked tasty and good value for money. Settling on ciabatta with Mozzarella and pesto with chargrilled vegetables, Cat placed the order.
Back at the table, Matt and Cat looked at the large format photographs of Island views which were hung on the walls. There were also smaller historic photos of previous proprietors, which was nice. The lunches and drinks were delivered promptly. They were startling well-presented; certainly not what was expected from such a modest venue. Cat’s ciabatta was cut into narrow isosceles triangles and these lay next to a tasty salad of peppery rocket, chargrilled peppers and onions and a tangy balsamic dressing. A small heap of ready salted crisps completed the constellation and all was presented on a long thin plate. It was a delicious lunch; the pesto a good addition to the sweet vegetables and rubbery Mozzarella.
Matt’s lamb pie had a fantastic aroma; the red wine quite apparent. The meat, local lamb, was beautifully flaky, soft and tasty with no fat. Carrots Julienne lay alongside. The dish could have benefited from some bread or potatoes to soak up that sublime sauce but Matthew was able to mop up the scrummy juices with the kind donation of a hunk of ciabatta from The Cat. All was washed down with elderflower fizz and tea.
Because the lunches were so delicious, Matt and Cat decided to have pudding. There was a time when your reviewers were moderate about what they ate, rarely having two courses in the interests of their digestion and purses. However, increasingly they have succumbed to the temptations of the sweet course and what was an exception has turned into the rule. Their burden is a heavy one, carried in your own interests, dear reader.
Apple and blackberry crumble seemed to be the only pudding but when Cat went to order the waitress mischievously also offered sticky toffee pudding. It was then necessary to order one of each! As before, the dishes were brought to the table very promptly. M and C were agog at the presentation – the crumble was on a wooden board with an artful squiggle of vanilla-flecked custard and sprinkled icing sugar. This was the sort of attention to detail that they have only seldom received in far grander venues, and it was a real unique selling point for this village café. The crumble was pretty yummy too. Matt’s sticky toffee pudding was presented in an asymmetric bowl. It turned out in fact to be treacle sponge. But, no matter, he ate it with gusto.
You probably don’t need Matt and Cat to tell you what a gem Chale Green Stores is. The proprietors have done a great job of promoting this village facility and even this website has been awash with contributors singing the café’s praises. Matt and Cat would like to add their names to the many who think its a great place to eat.
Matt and Cat revisited the Stores on a lunchtime excursion out west. Since this review was first written, the place has changed hands, the chef has changed, the menu has changed… so they were expecting to write a new review. But you know what? It’s still pretty much the same, and just as good. So although the details have changed, the essence of CGS remains just as it was before, so the existing review stands without the need for revision.
Chale Green Stores