Update: The Crown Inn, Shorwell has attracted a vast number of comments over the years, not all of them complimentary. Matt and Cat decided to pay another visit… The first review from 18 October 2007 is further down the page.
It was a spooky night that Matt and Cat chose to head over the downs to Shorwell. The fog had drawn in, making driving nigh-on hazardous and forcing Cat to squint hopelessly at the three inches of road visible ahead. She and Matt had planned to go to Café Number 44, Carisbrooke, as recommended by fellow Tweep, Sara Oxford but it was closed; perhaps it’s just a daytime venue? So, onward they drove at a gubber-pleasing 20 mph until the bright lights of Shorwell emerged from the gloom. Swinging into the Crown Inn’s car park, Matt and Cat then fumbled their way into the pub, careful not to fall into the little stream.
Thankfully, despite the murkiness of the night, the pub itself was well-lit and welcoming. As before, the first thing your reviewers spotted was the pub’s specials board and a quick enquiry at the bar established that food was being served. Having taken part in the annual Christmas gorge-fest, Cat was feeling a little bloated and only wanted something light. Matthew however, had been eyeing up the eating challenges in the Guinness World Records book and was ready for a hearty meal.
Thankfully the Crown Inn had food for both Matt and Cat’s requirements. Cat chose the starter of pan-seared pigeon breast with red currant and something jus on a bed of sautéed spinach. Matt, remembering the harsh readers’ comments on the previous review decided to judge the venue with burger and chips, a pub standard. The order duly given at the bar, Matt and Cat took their seats at one of the pub’s cosy nooks.
It wasn’t long before the food was delivered. Cat, given a judicious warning about the temperature of her dish, would also have preferred to have been given the head’s up on the possibility of lead shot within the meat. Despite crunching on a leady ball, the little meal was delicious; the pigeon was rich and gamey and was perfectly complimented by the red jus. The spinach was a bit of a soggy mass, not quite what Cat was expecting from sautéed vegetables but it gave the dish a good colour contrast.
At first sight, Matt’s burger and chips seemed adequate; a seeded bap with chunky-cut chips and a small side salad. However, the bun was surprisingly wet – almost sodden underneath. The burger itself, though anointed with a very good covering of real cheddar, was uninspiring – with so many excellent burgers being offered these days a good pub burger will be meaty, well-textured and substantial. This one was not bad, but it didn’t really get top marks in any of those departments. The chips were better, and the salad was in fact pretty good, heavy on the cabbage but all fresh and tasty ingredients. Matt was also pleased to have a good pint of ale to wash it down with – there were no complaints about that.
The food provided a reviving meal which certainly stoked Matt and Cat up for their impending ghost walk around the mist-shrouded Newport. They set off, fortified, for the eerie excursion, reflecting on their experience and comparing the Crown with their memories of the previous visit. Matt and Cat’s revisit demonstrated a mixed bag at the Crown Inn. Cat was very pleased with her pigeon breast (despite the lead shot) but Matt was underwhelmed by his burger. However, they did not in any way experience the delays, rudeness or bad food that has inspired so many people to leave a comment on Matt and Cat’s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide. Service was timely and courteous. Either things have improved or M&C have visited on two good days, three years apart. Regardless, they’d eat there again.
Matt and Cat’s review from 18 October 2007 is below.
“Surely there can’t be anywhere left that you haven’t eaten?” is a question regularly asked of Matt and Cat. And, the geographically-minded of readers may have noticed that, within a five mile radius of Ryde, the choices are becoming fewer as more eateries are crossed off the list. Hence the recent excursions to Bembridge, Nettlestone and Sandown.
One dark evening, in the search for somewhere new, Matt and Cat pointed the Catmobile in a westerly direction and decided not to stop until a new place emerged in the glare of the headlamps. That place turned out to be the Crown Inn, Shorwell; the journey saw Matt and Cat waving as they passed already visited establishments in Ryde, Binstead, Wootton Bridge and Newport. What a lot of eating out!
Drawing the iron horse to a whinnying halt in the capacious pub car park, M and C entered the cosy pub. With its low ceilings and intimate lighting and nooks, The Crown, Shorwell retains an olde worlde pub feel. However, this doesn’t mean that the pub is stuck in the dark ages; a lovely garden with weeping willows offers a stream-side al fresco dining experience to the gentle quacking of the resident ducks.
On a drizzly evening like the one when Matt and Cat visited, unless you are a determined smoker, you might be more comfortable inside the pub. On entering, they patrolled the entire venue and, because the place is arranged around a central bar, ended back where they started from and chose a table by the door.
In a cunning marketing move, the first thing that you see when you enter the pub is the specials board and M and C made their choices from the tempting array. However, in the interests of good manners and their readers, M and C took some time to see what was on offer in the regular menu before ordering chicken supreme with rosemary, lemon and white wine sauce, and pork steak with apple and cider sauce. Other delights included duck breast, plenty of seafood dishes, pub favourites, such as burgers, steaks and pasta; the day’s vegetarian special was three bean and vegetable chilli with rice.
At first glance, the pork and chicken dinners looked pretty similar, with their creamy sauces, pale meats and tomato and parsley garnish. Their tastes were quite different though. The pork was delightfully lean and the sauce was sublime; the apple was neither too sweet nor too bitter and the cider gave it a great tang. Both meals were accompanied by chunky chips and one plate of seasonal vegetables to share.
The well-presented chicken supreme turned out to be both breasts of a roasted chicken, the skin of which had been seasoned to make it nice and crunchy, not flabby as chicken skin can sometimes be. The rosemary sauce was an interesting variation on chicken supreme’s usual coriander, and was soon mopped up by the thick-cut chips.
As usual, Matt and Cat were unable to squeeze in a pudding, although the strawberry pavlova looked very tempting. Where do they get strawberries from this time of year? And where was the duck sourced from? On their exit from the pub, Matt and Cat noticed that the stream seemed strangely quackless…