Cat’s got an elderly relative who’s convinced that B-Day (Brexit Day, EUletide, or whatever you want to call it) will bring not only that mythical £350m for the NHS but also a welcome return to pounds and ounces. In some deep recesses of the Island we have been known to buy haberdashery items in yards – but pounds and ounces? It seems a return to imperial weights and measures is apparently as desirable as blue passports and pharmaceuticals shortages – it’s what (some of) The People voted for.
Don’t mistake us for remoaning snowflakes; we’re not averse to selected bits of the good old English way of life ourselves. After all, if you are a loyal follower of our eating-out exploits you will have seen more than one full English breakfast on our website – in fact over ninety references at the last count. And what can be more patriotic than a nice cup of tea, particularly when eased down with a scone (or scone). Our online guide to the Isle of Wight’s cream tea emporia remains our number one post.
The third in this traditional triumvirate is the Sunday roast. A classic dish with variable components but at its core is oven-cooked meat (sorry vegetarians) served with vegetables, plus at least one sort of spud and lashings of gravy.
Published at the English Channel edge of the Island is the South Wight Chronicle, a local institution. Cat has been an avid reader of this weekly newsletter for years and particularly enjoys the horoscopes (spookily accurate) and the adverts for Ventnor’s Crab and Lobster Tap. The pub’s ads usually mock the weekly pub quiz (“rubbish”), and big up the Sunday lunches, (“booking essential”). So, one day, we heeded the pub’s advice and booked a table to see if the landlord was tooting his own trumpet with good reason.
Like the nearby Bonchurch Inn, the venue has resisted the wet-look awnings and pastel decoration of the 1980s funpub. It snubbed its nose at nineties gastropubbery. The slates and aluminium buckets of the noughties and beyond have not made a dent on this classic venue, which has the unapologetic look and feel of a pub from a generation ago.
We always like to see a pub where bar-side drinking is as valued as dining. Newchurch’s Pointer Inn and the Kynge’s Well in Brading manage to successfully accommodate both wet sales and food clients without conflict. And so too, does the Crab and Lobster Tap. Our table was in the sunny window; facing inwards we had a view of the backs of the bar stool customers and, beyond, a massive telly. Regulars were very much at home, with the bar staff going well beyond the call of duty, for example popping out to the street to call in one diner whose lunch was ready – he unaccountably arrived with his own plate.
We ordered the roasts for the stunningly low price of six pounds. In these days of the carvery, you can mix and match your Sunday roast; a little bit of gammon, plus maybe a slice of beef and a big ladleful of cauliflower cheese. The Sunday roast at the Crab and Lobster Tap is served in the way your mum might present it to you. Plate pre-loaded with your meat of choice, regulation number of roasties, plus a Yorkshire pudding – all covered in a lake of dark brown gravy. We had a dish of boiled vegetables to share – more than we could finish. Nothing alas like The Best Parsnips Cat Has Ever Tasted™ at La Cucina, Yarmouth, but it was nice to see cabbage make a reappearance – it’s been ages since we were served this once ubiquitous leafy veg.
Matt would have liked some crackling with his pork, but suspected that the meat was of the pre-sliced variety and not carved from a piping joint. The turkey was probably of a similar provenance; but as turkey is more than often served in thin slices, this was not an issue for Cat, who enjoyed her bird in a simple sort of way.
The roast potatoes were the star of the show. To be honest we don’t often go for Sunday lunch, preferring to have a Lennon/Ono-length stay in bed. Why risk getting up? You might end up having to eat an over-greased potato with a brittle shell and oil-soaked yet fluffy interior which burns your tongue once you’ve managed to breach that tough outer layer. Well, the roasties at the Crab and Lobster Tap were certainly worth getting out of bed for. Nicely browned skins gave way to sweet yet yielding innards. Cat ate all of hers, to Matt’s astonishment. Usually she’ll pick at half a roast potato and offer the remaining ones to the group.
Sunday roast x 2 @ £6 = £12
Pudding x 2 @ £3 = £6
We had pudding. Matt’s rhubarb crumble looked as though it had been shot into the dish from a distance – luckily the powerfully cohesive custard held it all together. Presentation aside, this turned out to be a very passable rendition of the classic.
The plum tart was served with a surprisingly sophisticated vanilla ice cream. Cat was half expecting a nugget of that suspiciously-yellow soft-scoop which is more oil than milk. However, her ice cream was creamy, white and freckled with vanilla. It went well with the plum tart. The waitress confessed that the flan might not be homemade, but the plums were apparent – and even had skins – although the pastry was flaccid, which can be the sign of microwaving rather than being oven-baked.
Less than 24 hours earlier, Matt had paid £10 for a single cocktail. For a whole pound less he was now enjoying an entire roast dinner plus dessert. It’s absolutely worth the money, and then some. Certainly Cat’s Leave-voting relative would be able to eke his pension out a bit further if he chose to eat at the Crab and Lobster Tap each Sunday. If only they would require payment in pounds, shillings and pence, then his Little England utopia would be complete.
This is the full-length version of the review first published in the Isle of Wight County Press.