Matt and Cat\'s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide
So, Matt and Cat boast reviews of “the most modest of burger vans to the grandest hotel restaurants”. Burger vans have been covered, but...

So, Matt and Cat boast reviews of “the most modest of burger vans to the grandest hotel restaurants”. Burger vans have been covered, but what of those grand hotels?

Farringford, Freshwater

Farringford, Freshwater

Cat and Matt had some money for Christmas which they decided to invest at the Poshest Location Yet On This Website – The Farringford, Freshwater. Before you wonder if they are taking backhanders, their experience was at a seasonal discounted rate available to all who read the Isle of Wight County Press. So, in the interests of thorough research they became residents for the night, checking into the hotel’s finest room – Alfred Tennyson‘s bedroom, no less; with its four-poster bed and historical ambience. A nice soak in the erstwhile Poet Laureate’s bath preceded a visit to the hotel’s Downs Restaurant, which is also open to non-residents.

What an excellent experience the Downs Restaurant was. After Matt and Cat were shown to their table the staff moved in, draping linen napkins onto your reviewers laps, proferring menus and wine lists whilst speaking in hushed reverential tones. This was a notable feature of the restaurant: many waiters were on hand throughout the experience, always attentive but never intrusive. Before Matt and Cat even had a chance to fully ogle the menu, they were offered canapés; beautiful little morsels of chicken liver pate, and cherry tomatoes and cheese piped artfully onto the tiniest rounds of toast.

Once the last of these mouthwatering hors d’ouvres had melted in Matt and Cat’s mouths, another waiter hove into view with tiny plates of barramundi fish on the most intricate bed of foliage, “compliments of the chef”. Matt and Cat briefly wondered if their cover have been blown but it seemed that the chef was feeling particularly generous that evening as all guests were offered the same free dish. The fish was delicious; slightly salty with a hint of pesto-style sauce. The bread waiter shimmied to M and C’s table and served them small rolls of bread which they used to mop up the juices of the barramundi. You can take the reviewers out of the cafes, but they’ll still, metaphorically, lick their plates.

Matt and Cat briefly wondered if their cover have been blown but it seemed that the chef was feeling particularly generous that evening

By this time Mat and Cat had ordered their food from the short but impressive selection on that evening’s unique menu. Fish, white meat, red meat and vegetarian were the options. Matt also indulged in a glass of Merlot, which was served “chambré” (at room temperature) – perfect. Cat’s glass of water was topped up regularly by an attentive waiter.

The arrival of the starters was perfectly timed, as the two earlier dishes and the bread had gone down nicely. Cat chose the most exquisite goat’s cheese with tomato and spinach salad, dressed with a Cabernet Sauvignon reduction. The sweet dressing perfectly complimented the slightly bitter taste of the cheese.

Matt was given smoked fished terrine with horseradish cream. The terrine was beautiful, like a stained-glass window with its clear jelly and pieces of fish in a delightful pattern. It tasted fantastic; Matt declared it to be “absolutely delicious”. This is the life!

Once again, the eager waiting staff cleared away the plates and, after an appropriate pause, delivered the main course. Matt had roast lamb on a bed of crushed new potatoes, served with roast celariac and a wild mushroom jus. Cat’s roast chicken and roast potatoes came with French beans and carrots with a creamy cracked black pepper sauce. Both meals were beautifully presented, piping hot and were lovely. The meat was delightfully tender and the sauces were both rich and tasty.

Matt and Cat had just enough time between courses to check out the other diners and the dining room itself. Having been pretty overwhelmed with the standard of their room in the old part of Farringford, they were expecting great things of the dining room. However the restaurant occupies a rather incongruous 1970s extension to the hotel, and did not have quite the atmosphere of the rest of the building. This may be due to the vast size of the room which, on the night Matt and Cat visited, was set out with about a dozen or so tables in one corner; the remainder of the cavernous hall was empty and in relative darkness. However, back to the food.

Despite having consumed four courses already, Matt and Cat were keen to squeeze in a dessert. Cat doesn’t like banana-flavoured food as a rule, such as Angel Delight, because of its seemingly synthetic banana substitute. However, she was confident that the Farringford’s caramelised banana with raspberry sorbet would be made of real bananas. And it certainly seemed to be. The sorbet was fantastically tart and served at a perfect temperature – it was just beginning to melt so Cat’s teeth were unlikely to be put on edge. The pudding was served with a drizzle of fruit coulis and a sprig of red currants and two blueberries. It was the perfect palate cleanser and was delicious.

Matt had ‘trio of chocolate’; white chocolate ice cream on a bed of dark chocolate mousse dressed with a milk chocolate sauce containing Tonka beans (so the friendly pudding waiter knowledgeably boasted). Matt’s relatively uneducated palette had trouble discerning the exotic Tonka beans, but he declared the pudding a real success none-the-less. A meal and an educational experience to boot.

Even after this welcome sweet, there was yet more to come! Matt and Cat retired to the lounge where the coffee waiter brought them a tray of coffee and petit fours which they ate and drank whilst playing Scrabble in front of a roaring gas fire.

Farringford is a place with history. With over half a century as a hotel they seem to know a thing or two about the business. As a hotel, it offers luxurious accommodation; and as a restaurant it similarly offers spectacular food, delivered with service that is second to none. As may be expected, such luxury is not cheap – at normal rates, Matt and Cat would have paid over £60 for their dinner. But nobody who has enjoyed the hospitality of the Farringford could possibly begrudge a penny of it – you might have to save up to eat there but if you do, you will not regret it.

By the way, the breakfast was a similar delight. Anyone want to know what that was like?
Farringford, Freshwater

  • Island Visitor says:

    The staff here were very friendly although we must have hit it on a bad day as the food was disappointing. Had the Sunday roast only to find the meat was luke warm and had to be sent back. Tiny selection of vegetables and a rather heavy gravy that literally smothered the whole meal. Glass 175ml of unremarkable red wine a rather steep £5. No appearance by the Chef so assume Sunday must be his day off.

  • Mike says:

    Recently found this place after being so bitterly dissapointed by the Red Lion, lovely surroundings, lovely restaurant, lovely food. We’ve been a few times now for evening meals and have also sampled the Sunday lunch which was very pleasnt indeed. A must go to place for any food lover, the chef is a lovely chap who as has been stated above comes to speak to you about the food. Not cheap but well worth every penny. We’ll definately be going back time and again, would have gone a fortnight ago when family came to visit but they don’t open on a Sunday night. Shame! Awesome restaurant.

  • oc says:

    We have been trying to get here for a while and finally managed to get there last Saturday for a meal – and were extremely happy with the whole experience
    The place is obviously laid out for a warm summer evening with the garden restaurant opening up to the nice gardens on two sides – and the design is very summery, too
    Despite the setting beeing pleasantly informal, there are nice crockeries and silver (presumably salvaged from the old Farringford hotel) which adds a noble touch to the experience. The friendly staff makes you comfortable and the chef came even out to greet us – a great start. The menu has a nice local touch to it as far as ingriedients are concerned and it read very tempting. We decided to have local potted crab and mushroom risotto to start, the (awardwinning) lamb variation for me and fried Pollack for my wife and finished with a dessert variation for two
    Everything was very nice and beautyfully presented, the potted crab was probably the best attempt on this dish I had so far, the risotto perfectly al dente with a nice fine mushroom aroma which was not overpowered by the often seen addition of (fake) truffle oil, Excellent lamb perfectly prepared and with (rare on the IoW, unless in top class places) perfectly cooked vegetables – crunchy tasty broccoli for example
    It was all rounded nicely by the dessert and a good rose from the tempting and well price wine list
    I nearly forgot the amuse boche – homemade lobster bisque – very good and appetizing
    All in all a delightful evening and certainly not our last in the Farringford – possibly we will also try one of their Indian event evenings (one of their chefs is Indian and does one evening a month, covering a different region every time)
    Give it a try M and C you will not be disapointed

  • Had a beautiful lunch here today.
    Looking forward to returning!

  • lex says:

    i hear its a slightly different set up now with a garden restaurant by the mm went today for lunch and said the pizza was really nice and reasonably priced. i wonder if you could a new review according to the new set up and new menu?

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