It’s not all chip shops and cafés on Matt and Cat’s Isle of Wight eating out guide: sometimes the eponymous reviewers will veer off the well-worn track.
One Saturday afternoon in the tail-end of the wedding season Matt and Cat found themselves at East Dene, Bonchurch, as guests of a soon-to-be married couple and their families.
The venue was picture-perfect for an autumn wedding; the historic stone mansion is reached through a rocky chasm hewn into the rock. The beautiful, if faded, interior provided a romantic backdrop along with the well-kept lawns sweeping down to the English Channel. Although Matt and Cat were guests at a private party, and East Dene is not a restaurant or hotel as such, the venue is available for hire, and so they couldn’t resist giving their meal the critical eye. By kind permission of the now-married couple they offer the following review.
So, donning the gladdest rags in their armoires, Matt and Cat sauntered up to the imposing manor, and milled amongst the aunties, uncles and other assorted friends and relatives until the happy couple arrived. However, to preserve their privacy, there will be no further mention of the beautiful bride and her hunky beau in this review of food.
The dining room of East Dene is a palatial wood-panelled place with spectacular views, capacious enough to accommodate – in this instance – the fine folk of Essex and Yorkshire. The staff at the venue had taken great care with the table settings – nested cutlery, assorted glasses and dainty side dishes all had their places amongst the flowers and favours. The service was excellent; the dishes were brought out in strict order (thanks to a large plan of the seating arrangements that Cat found near the kitchen whilst snooping about).
The ice was broken along with the bread and soon M and C were chatting with aunties like old friends. The wine flowed, lubricating the social cogs. Starters were delivered with the aforementioned precision – Cat had a handful of understated grilled tiger prawns with sweet and sour sauce, served on a bed of lettuce with some delicious sweet tomatoes. Matthew’s deep-fried Brie was a cardiologist’s nightmare, but Matt’s dream dish – two massive breaded wedges of cheese cooked to perfection; served with redcurrant sauce plus a little foliage to appease the fat-finding finger-waggers.
More alcohol was imbibed as toasts and speeches were made; the wedding breakfast was in full swing as the main courses were served. Cat’s plate held a spectacular chicken breast smothered with the creamiest watercress and sorrel sauce with pine nuts for a bit of texture. It was delicious!
Matt had an audacious honey glazed rack of lamb with rosemary and burgundy jus; its bones pointing up to the beautiful painted ceiling of the dining room. Alas this was gristlier than Matt would have liked but once he had picked out the meat, what there was of it was very good. Both dishes benefited from the array of tender vegetables – carrots, swede, cauliflower cheese and spinach parcels, plus roast and new potatoes.
By now, any tears that were going to be shed had been mopped up with the linen napkins, the best man’s speech left the guests open-mouthed and the tables were promptly cleared to make way for the desserts. A dainty brandy snap basket with strawberries and clotted cream was delivered to Cat. She enjoyed the sugary pud very much but still had a bit of room for some of Matthew’s splendid dark and white chocolate cheesecake with its tangy raspberry coulis.
All in all, it was a fantastic feast, neatly served in beautiful surroundings. A perfect wedding venue. All that was left to do was to slump to the floor and ‘dance’ to that classic staple of every wedding DJs record collection, the Gap Band’s Oops Upside Your Head…
East Dene, Bonchurch