As you know, we review restaurants. This website is full of our opinions on Isle of Wight eateries. That’s why you’re here. But that doesn’t mean we don’t like to write about other nice things.
Cat is always daydreaming about the future – her 1970s interpretation of it, brought to her via her childhood spend lapping up TV’s Tomorrow’s World. A time when we’ll be transported in hovercars. When dinner will be space food; a whole meal in an easily-swallowed capsule.
The future, by definition, remains tantalisingly out of reach. However, we got the chance to dip our toes into one possible vision of it this weekend when we took a spin in a brand new electric car, courtesy of Isle of Wight company EV Express.
We abandoned Cat’s regular wagon and took possession of the Nissan Leaf one-hundred per cent electric car, which boasts zero emissions and all sorts of fantastic functionality that Cat’s fifteen-year-old Citroen could only dream of: ‘smart’ speed sign recognition, anyone?
One of the first things we noticed about the Leaf is that it looks surprisingly like a conventional saloon. Cat would have preferred something more like a space rocket, or some Buckminster Fuller-esque fantasy vehicle, all streamlining and silver bodywork, but the Island is probably not ready for that sort of road Zeppelin.
Nonetheless, the functionality of the car was what impressed us, with its parking assist, auto-dip headlights and intelligent wipers. Because it doesn’t have a conventional engine – there were no gears – the Leaf is effectively an automatic. Putting aside its environmental credentials for a mo, the best and most radically different thing about driving this car, was its regenerative braking system. Basically you press the pedal to go forwards and withdraw your accelerator foot to effectively apply the brakes. One foot driving. It was great for the Island’s undulating landscapes and made conventional hills starts a thing of the past. That old gubber you know – the one who lives in Ventnor and who has burnt out two clutches in his old jalopy over-revving at every hill and wrestling with clutch control? Well, they’d love the Leaf’s e-pedal driving system. We took the shiny black car up and down vertiginous Bath Road several times. That tricksy turn at the top, by the Royal Hotel? A piece of cake, mate.
And, as we were within a whisker of the hotel and both us and our car needed refuelling, we decided to stop for tea. Simply plugging our e-vehicle into the handy power point in the car park at the rear of the Royal Hotel, we popped in for some refreshment while it charged up.
So, that was the futuristic transport taken care of, but what of the Cat’s astronaut meal? It seems we’re thankfully some way off chugging down a sachet of powder for our futuristic epicurean pleasure. Our afternoon’s refreshments were satisfyingly traditional.
The team at the Royal greeted us warmly and showed us to a white-linened table in the brasserie, where we were spoiled with a delectable afternoon tea. As it was a few hours after Valentine’s Day we enjoyed heart-themed fancies and dainty crustless butties – smoked salmon, lightly-season egg mayo, cheese and homemade tomato chutney, ham and mustard, all in the softest bread and presented on a tiered stand.
On the top tier was a beautifully-crafted selection of cakes. These included a delicious sweet chewy macaron with tart blackcurrant filling decorated with the tiniest purple heart; moist red Battenburg; and the most exquisite chocolate delice. And, if that wasn’t enough, we had fresh scones: one fruit and one plain each. Unlike some establishments we had plenty of clotted cream and home-made strawberry jam to anoint these cakes – either jam first or cream first or both, then yet more jam and cream if we felt like it.
Replete and recharged, we drove the car home via Sandown where Storm Dennis gave it a good sandblasting. We didn’t care as we were cosy inside the Leaf, with its separate driver and passenger cabin control heat settings. We couldn’t hear the wind either nor, of course, the engine – as it doesn’t make a sound. There is some disquiet about the silence of electric vehicles, which Cat has written about elsewhere, but we didn’t find it disconcerting at all. Overall, our electric vehicle experience was positive! ‘Positive’, see what we did there!
Up to and including the 31st March 2020, customers of the Royal Hotel can charge their electric vehicle for free.