The Eight Bells is a popular pub, frequented by families and the Sunday lunch brigade. Positioned as it is in the middle of the pretty village of Carisbrooke and with a well-populated duck pond in its leafy garden, one can see why.
Having wandered around inside the cavernous pub and ordered their food, Matt and Cat chose a seat in the garden, by the delightful pond. The menu was plentiful with a good array of specials although the prices seemed a tad expensive. However, on the plus side, the play facilities were very good – a good family pub garden – and there were plenty of little ducklings carrying out their duckling antics on the pond. It was particularly nice to see that the vast pond was not cordoned off in a draconian way; in this risk-averse nation of ours, it might have seemed prudent to fence off the whole area and put up acres of notices about keeping away from the edge. But no, just a simple low wall and a low chain fence separate visitors from peril, without impeding the view. And, you know what? This understated approach seems to work.
In their reviews of eating out places on the Isle of Wight, Matt and Cat do not normally concern themselves too much with peripherals like car parking and toilets unless they are particularly notable. Such is the case of the ladies toilet at the Eight Bells. The single facility is pretty grim and Cat, having already ordered food before paying a visit, was very concerned.
Scanning the rotten wood of the skirting board, the grubby walls and the rusty plumbing, Cat shuddered to think what state the kitchen was in. Still, people want to know the truth and Matt and Cat are here to give it to them.
In fact it turns out that the kitchen isn’t as bad as the toilet, as the helpful IW Council food safety website gives the Eight Bells 4 out of 5 stars (at the time of M&C’s visit). The ladies was a bit of an anomaly; the gents toilet turned out to be freshly refurbished and clean.
The gents did feature Matt’s pet hate, which he has christened ‘Hologram Taps’: these are the sort of taps that can only be used by holding them down. So the only way to actually wash your hands is to press down the tap with your forehead… leaving the imprint of a letter H on your skin. If you don’t understand why this means ‘Hologram’, it’s too tedious to explain. Here’s the money shot:
So, on to the food. This was delivered by a friendly lady, who had to cart it all the way out to the pondside table. Matt chose beef in creamy pepper sauce, served with a big bowl of chips and a nice salad. This turned out to be a very enjoyable dish made not, as he was expecting, with slivers of fried beef, but generous hunks of tender braising steak which were served in a splendid rich sauce.
Cat chose, unusually, quorn and cashew korma, which was served with a fresh and crunchy poppadom and piles of steamed rice. The plentiful curry was delicious and creamy with what looked like sprigs of fresh coriander in it. Cat was delighted with her meal, and even exclaimed that the poppadom was better than the some of the normal offerings at Indian restaurants.
So, finally, the pleasure of the excellent meal in such enjoyable surroundings quite took away all the bother about the toilets. Matt and Cat enjoyed their visit to the Eight Bells, and would recommend it.