We often get asked if we are recognised when we go out for dinner. We assume that most chefs are too busy rustling up some food magic in the kitchen to care what we look like. Front of house is trickier, but by the time we’re tucked our bibs into our shirt collars the damage – or more frequently, excellent customer service – has been imparted.
Of course, we sometimes deliberately confuse – booking in other names, taking a group of chums to mix things up and, recently due to Matt’s incapacity, Cat had breakfast with a West Wight playboy.
Let’s just get one thing clear, it was breakfast only. Although, in an attempt to inject a bit of impropriety into the proceedings, Cat’s date waggishly met her in the car park of the Chequers Inn with that classic line “How do you like your eggs in the morning? Fertilised?” Flattered that he thought she might still be reproductively viable, she greeted him with a peck on the cheek and they walked into the vast pub and took their seats in the conservatory.
Like its sister venue, the Fighting Cocks, the Chequers Inn is one of those country venues that the Island can do so well; a big family-friendly pub in a bucolic landscape, with a spacious car park and children’s play area. Perfect for a multi-generational carvery lunch.
However, we weren’t here for the roast. In the mornings the pub repurposes the carvery counter for what it calls carvery breakfast. A clever way to draw folks into this venue, which is the nearest place for miles where one might get a fried egg and a cup of coffee.
Paying their £7.25, Cat and her companion helped themselves from the array. If this was a roast dinner it would certainly be described as having all the trimmings. Bacon, sausage, eggs – all present and correct. Those staples were supplemented with beans, mushrooms, black pudding, grilled tomatoes, hash browns, fried bread and fresh toast with butter and jam or marmite. Matt’s gonna kick himself when he reads this!
Ladening their warm plates, Cat and her consort went back to their table to examine their breakfast booty. Spreading butter on her hot toast, pedantic Cat ruminated on the term ‘carvery’. A handy shorthand for the school dinner arrangement of a row of hotplates but, in this case, there was no dinner lady. It was a serve yourself affair – a breakfast buffet if you will – which, as well as being technically correct, was also more satisfyingly alliterative. The bonus being that, as we were encouraged to help ourselves, it was only the constraints of the plate that dictated portion size.
Breakfast carvery £7.25
Overall the breakfast was a success. There was a steady trickle of punters; workmen, families, old folks, Cat and her date. The pub’s staff busied themselves with polishing the bar, arranging the garden furniture and replenishing the bread for the toasting machine, but otherwise pretty much left us to our gossiping.
And the food? The bacon was decent; some with a full-on flabby edge, other rashers with the fat trimmed off, and some with a nice crunchy rind – all bacon preferences catered for. The sausage and hash browns were a bit generic and the black pudding – always a bit crumbly – had lost some moisture under the lamps. Similarly the fried bread had got a bit brittle. However, the rest was good stuff. The whole mushrooms were soft and the big tomatoes sweet and juicy. The eggs were the tour de force. Fried was the only option, but they were text-book perfect. Whites cooked through and yolks pleasingly runny. Considering that they took their chances under the hot lamps the eggs had fared well and were as fresh as the moment they’d left the frying pan. And all this with unlimited tea, coffee, toast and orange juice. We went back for seconds.
The Chequers carvery breakfast is a fab way to exploit the pub’s existing strengths. The meal represented great value for money as there seemed to be no limit on how many times we could pile up our plates. And, in answer to Cat’s consort’s question about eggs, fried will do very nicely!
This is the full-length version of the review originally published in the Isle of Wight County Press.