On our morning commute we often go through Wootton High Street. Going through is the thing most people do with that road, and we’re no different. Since an unfortunate encounter with The Sloop a few years ago we’ve not had many reasons to change that.
But recently, our interest has been piqued by the gradual transformation of a former butcher’s shop into what turns out to be a cosy-looking little Mediterranean restaurant. When we heard that it was connected to the people who run Prego and Olivo, that interest was kindled into full-on eager anticipation. And thus we turned up in Wootton one weekend, looking for brunch at the village’s newest dining place, Cibo.
Cibo departs from the normal formula for such venues by not serving pizza. It has instead a pleasingly diverse range of vaguely Mediterranean dishes, with a striking emphasis on vegan items. Yes, there’s meat here, and plenty of it but, as with many on-trend menus these days, the vegan options are integral to the whole thing, and by no means a meagre afterthought. They don’t even bother separately identifying vegetarian food, so mainstream is it these days.
We were very pleased to see that breakfast and brunch was served until a civilised 3pm – even we would struggle to get up that late. Matt was interested to see a whole section of baked brunch options, and indeed, his pan-cooked breakfast was delivered, splendidly, in a sizzling cast iron skillet on a wooden board, straight from the oven. Inside was a great breakfast of sausage, bacon, mushroom and tomato dominated by a generous portion of home-made beans that was almost a meal in itself. The deliciously spicy paprika-toting beans had more than a hint of heuvos rancheros as the perfectly soft egg was baked right in them, holding the whole thing together. Alongside were two warm soft slices of herby focaccia, toasted and ready to dip in the inviting egg and beans. We’d been expecting a good breakfast, but we got an unexpectedly great one.
Tea x 2 £3.20
Bubble and squeak £6.00
Pan-cooked breakfast £7.00
Maybe it’s all a part of the immersive Mediterranean experience, but Matt was a little disappointed with how his breakfast tea arrived. For a full English, even one presented with pea shoots on it, a pot of tea – or at least a very large mug – is a highly desirable accessory. Tea at Cibo is presented as a glass of hot water with a teabag alongside. Yes, it was actually good tea, and there was a nice little almond biscuit, but Matt would have appreciated a pot and some hot water – or at least the bag inserted in the cup at the same time as the water.
The vegan bubble and squeak that Cat chose was delicious. Beautifully presented, a knot of fresh pea-shoots crowned two fair-sized portobello mushrooms atop a tasty puck of nicely singed bubble and squeak. The vegan cheese that covered it was less to her liking, being rather sticky, cloying and bland – like a kind of edible PVA glue. Perhaps such faux cheese is best confined to plant-based burgers, where it seems to do a reasonable job. Out here on Cat’s mushrooms it was an unnecessary addition to the otherwise excellent dish.
This busy little venue is doing a lot of things right. Relaxed yet effective service, an informal environment and a menu that’s got something for everyone – especially vegans.
This is the full-length version of the review first published in the Isle of Wight County Press.