Matt and Cat\'s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide
Matt and Cat like going to Shanklin’s Old Village and smugly playing I-Spy with restaurants’ doors, spotting their ‘Recommended by Matt and Cat’ stickers....

Matt and Cat like going to Shanklin’s Old Village and smugly playing I-Spy with restaurants’ doors, spotting their ‘Recommended by Matt and Cat’ stickers. The excellent Pendleton’s, the Black Cat Thai restaurant and homely Village Inn all sport their green and black badges of recommendation.

Goats cheese parcel

With an appointment in the town later that evening, M and C were back in this picture-postcard village on a cold winter evening looking for somewhere new to eat. Clattering down the hill they stumbled into the historic Crab Inn. To be honest, in this thatch-tastic corner of the Island there’s nothing but listed buildings steeped in history. If there was a prize for the quaintest Isle of Wight village, the Old Village, Shanklin would be a serious contender with Godshill snapping closely at its heels. A similar award could be made – to the same places – for the place where you’re most likely to run over a bimbling tourist coming out of a cheesy gift-shoppe. However, M and C weren’t there to admire the architecture, they were there to eat.

Matt and Cat entered with slight trepidation, for the Crab Inn is part of the Greene King chain, along with the distinctly underpar Ryde Castle. Their misgivings were dashed aside by the warmth of the greeting from the barmaid, Fran. She was extremely accommodating; polite, attentive and helpful from the outset. Finding themselves a cosy corner to settle in to the duo studied the menu. This was quite a task, for not only was there a specials board and a standard menu, but also a few pages of loose-leaved stuff, promotions, kids menu, and so on. There was even a bit of introductory text exhorting the visitor to look out for the poem by Keats that is outside on the drinking fountain – yes, the drinking fountain with ‘Longfellow‘ written above it. Still, one nineteenth-century poet is much the same as another when you’re a mainland-based design agency turning out generic menus for 1300 pubs.

To read all the table literature in one sitting might have risked an early demise from starvation. So after some comparisons, and weighing up of alternatives, choices were finally given to the patient Fran. Matt chose Hawaiian chicken stack from the specials board as it sounded intriguing. It was advertised to come with bacon, cheese, pineapple chutney, peas and potato wedges. Cat, typically enough, found the plethora of standard choices overwhelming but found a way to devise what she wanted. She combined a starter of goats cheese filo parcels with side-orders of chips and vegetables, and the Crab accommodated this combination without any trouble.

A few pensioner couples, refugees from the big hotels up the road, wandered in and found tables to sit at. M & C passed the time trying to spot wigs – one old chap with an unfeasibly eye-bothering fringe was a 10/10 dead cert, and his wife had to be a 6/10 odds-on good bet. There’s probably a bonus achievement unlocked for spotting a matching pair of wigs, and this was close, but M & C have yet to get a confirmed sighting.

Soon enough the helpful Fran bustled up with a range of platters and bowls. Matt’s Hawaiian chicken came on an attractive wooden trencher. Cat’s meal was a well-presented leafy mixture, supplemented by side-dishes of chips and steamed veg.

The Crab Inn, Shanklin

The diners set to work on their suppers. Matt was impressed with the very fresh and hot potato wedges, which were perfect. Still, apart from the meat and some peas, that was all there was – maybe a little salad garnish or even a sprig of parsley might have finished off the presentation a little. He cut into the Hawaiian chicken stack with interest. It was an intriguing, cheese-smothered pile, and the contents soon became apparent. A chicken breast fillet had been hammered flat and grilled, then anointed with a rasher of bacon, some pineapple mush and finally cheese. This sounds appetising – and didn’t look too bad. But whilst it was edible, Matt just couldn’t work up any enthusiasm for it. The pineapple chutney was a syrupy jam-like stuff that did little to impart any pineapple flavour. The chicken and bacon, though fresh, was watery and tasteless; and the cheese was just a greasy morass. Overall it seemed that a fairly well-designed meal, competently prepared, had been let down by indifferent ingredients.

Cat’s goats cheese parcels were a much tastier bet. The tiny packages with their tangy cheese and fig filling were lovely. The salad was nice and fresh and the chunky chips were excellent. The vegetables were a bit watery; parsnip, carrots and, despite being a good source of iron, some anaemic-looking cabbage. Although it was a nice mix of dishes Cat struggled to eke out the three little morsels of filo.

Matt and Cat’s bill
Goats cheese parcel starter £4.25
Side chips £1.99
Side veg £2.29
Hawaiian chicken £9.95
1 pint lemonade £1.95
Lime and water £0.60
Total: £21.03

The Crab’s a big, rambling pub. Really, if you’ve been to one Greene King pub anywhere then you probably know what to expect. Plenty of tables and basic food that can be – and is – churned out on a production-line when the punters are really packing the place out. For example, the day after this visit, Cat went with some colleagues to The Folly Inn, Whippingham, which is another Greene King pub in a prime location – and found exactly the same menu as the Crab. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it exposes the mass-production of the food, possibly shipped in from some mainland factory. So if you visit the Crab in the high season, you may even get the same food. It’s likely that you won’t get to appreciate the quiet and friendly atmosphere that Matt and Cat enjoyed, but perhaps you will have the same very quick, friendly and efficient service.

  • Nearly islander says:

    We had lunch at The Crab today and I have to say I have no idea how they can call the fish and chips awarding winning, it was terrible – the batter was like rubber! I felt pretty ropy for the rest of the afternoon.

    Another eater in my company had to pick his third choice meal as they did not had “run out” of the others even though it was only 12.30 – they didn’t even have a jacket potato. Luckily the IPA was off, so the pint included with the meal was switched to a local brew.

    The service was friendly enough to our party, but they seemed completely disorganised.

    I guess due to the location next to the Chine and the car park, they always have a good stream of first-timers, so should do ok, but it could be so much nicer.


  • Ian Smith says:

    I try to visit the crab whenever I amon the island, you can’t beat thier ploughman’s. The fish and chips are good as well.

  • alan williams says:

    Visited the Crab on Sunday 9th sep looking forwards to a decent pint and meal,the pint of real ale was very good,however,ordered the “award winning haddock”what i received was a lukewarm piece of tasteless fish riddled with bones,when i sent it back i was full of anticipation of a properly cooked succulent haddock. How wrong can you be? Another bland grey waterey piece of fish,took it back to staff who said”must be a bad batch”not offered a refund and wont eat there again. If award winning means most meals sent back within ten minutes then they win hands down!

  • A sunday evening, and there was almost nothing on the menu available – not even fish and chips, or any other fish – a bit odd for a place calling itself ‘The Crab’. It became quite funny when almost everything we asked for was finished. Eventually plumped for a ‘duck sizzler’ from the specials board – it came sizzling, and the duck was well cooked, but the caramel was burnt, and the whole thing a bit pretentious I thought. The service was fine, but the ordering system complicated – you had to go here, and then there, as if the place couldn’t decide if it was a pub or a restaurant,

  • oliver harvey says:

    I visited the Crab for a staff do, not my choice it must be said.

    I ordered the surf’n’turf, i think about £12.69 – not cheap for what was served
    in their own words:
    Prime British steak topped with tail-on tempura battered king prawns & watercress, served with chips, grilled plum tomato,
    grilled flat mushroom & whole onion rings

    The steak was ok, cooked to the requested medium. the surf: well what a joke, one measly battered prawn on top. there was about 3 onion rings with the tomato & mushroom, but no sauce offered to tie the dish together. what i did get offered was what they described as ‘dijon mustard’ – disgusting springs to mind, a horrible (out the packet)brown vinegar with thickeners not impressed. 4/10

    for dessert i had:
    White chocolate & pistachio cheesecake with a cardamom-spiced crumb & toffee sauce.
    Perfectly nice ( but most prob frozen – well it is a tourist pub ) but what i didnt get was it was served with a jug of cream >? .. creamy cheesecake with more cream, i wanted a coulis of something to cut through the mountain of cheesecake – there was a drizzle of the toffee but not enough & the crumb, well it was just that .. could have been good 5/10

    i cannot vouch for other peoples meals as it was a while ago, but overall the feedback wasnt great. I wouldn’t recommend it.
    The pub is there to feed the masses, and has been in the hands of the same managers for years,(i used to work there as a kid) which is a shame because this pub has the ability & location to offer something quite good.

  • C & R says:

    We have had some lovely food here. The deli boards are delicious, the burgers are very nice. Home made chips would make them even better!

  • Deb Merrilees says:

    We were staying at hotel in Shanklin. Did not like the al a carte menu and went to The Crab. I had Lamb Shank with mint gravy potatoes and veg and hubby had fish. We were both amazed at the quality of the food. I in particular the mash was proper mash not Smash, the lamb fell off the bone, veg cooked properly and plenty of mint gravy. Cannot wait to visit this pub again.

  • JanFran says:

    We have been visting the island for longer than I care to remember and we always refer the The Crab as The Crabless. Nuff said.

  • G.Reavill. says:

    Its a shame about the old crab inn, I walked in there some years ago and walked out again, never to return, so I can’t comment on the service or food, however, I have fond memories of the crab inn when it was a real old Shanklin pub,the place to go to day or night for a fantanstic welcome, alas this was long ago in the last century ( the 60’s & 70’s). The Crab inn deserves better ,perhaps one day this historical pub will find its way back to its roots as a fine old Shanklin inn,(corporate free).

  • KJ says:

    At least its only a short trip( across the road) to a decent pub

  • KJ says:

    Having worked for them…I can only agree.

    The only brewry/pubco worth looking at these days is Fullers (yes..I worked for them too) who a realistic view of what alocalpub is and what it can do.

  • Bushy says:

    How sad thst the Greene King name, which in the 1960s was associated with a proper old-fashioned brewery renowned for its real ales and which had many traditional pubs in the East Anglian area, should now epitomise the bland face of what has become known as the ‘hospitality’ industry. The legislation that sought to increase customer choice by loosening the ties between breweries and pubs has a lot to answer for – not least the creation of these giant pub companies that are doing their best to kill off some of our most successful hostelries either by imposing their corporate will on menus etc. or by changing exorbitant rents (e.g. the Pointer at Newchurch).

  • Fay Woodford says:

    We went to the Crab the Tuesday after Mothering Sunday. Of the 4 meals we ordered, they only had 2 in stock (how can a pub called “the Crab” with a boards everywhere advertising crab possibly run out of this very dish?!) and the third one was promptly added to an “items unavailable” board as soon as we ordered it.
    What we finally ended up with was very nice but it was disappointing.
    A table behind us took 3 attempts to end up with 3 plates of cod and chips, which were huge but it wasn’t quite what they went in there for.

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