Archive review: Fogg’s is now closed.
Fogg’s has undergone something of a mild transformation. An earlier incarnation saw a wildly ambitious multi-page menu with an eclectic range of dishes from around the world. Probably a menu that was more fun to conceive than deliver. A change of ownership saw the menu’s international offerings contract a little and in autumn 2014 another step-change occurred as the venue changed its name to Fogg’s and launched another new menu.
Fogg’s has a pretty lively voice on social media and Matt and Cat have regularly read about the restaurant’s popular fish dishes – often created with locally-caught seafood brought ashore at Ventnor Haven. M&C have wondered why Fogg’s doesn’t just knock the world food stuff on the head and embrace its obvious strengths. Maybe bring to the fore their locally-provenanced menu with a seafood emphasis. Certainly these days, punters seem to crave local distinctiveness in their food, and visitors to the Island regularly ask M&C where the Island’s fish restaurants are – the Rick Stein effect is clearly not confined to Cornwall.
And so it came to pass that Cat was left with a booking for a table for two at Fogg’s, Ventnor (previously Phileas Fogg’s) on a Saturday night.
Matt was unaccustomedly indisposed and all of Cat’s friends had already made plans. So there she sat, alone in the corner of the restaurant like Billy No-Mates. She perused the revised menu, now a couple of loose leaves on a wooden clipboard as is the modern way. There was still more than a nod to the ‘around-the-world classics’ but there was also a decent range of steak and, of course, seafood.
Cat went all-out for fish. Although unlikely to be hyper-local, her starter was vodka-marinated gravadlax with seeded crackers. The extraordinarily tender pink salmon was spotted with blackberry-sized dollops of caviar and an extremely tasty dip of dill, honey and mustard. Tangy yet sweet, it gave the fish an extra zing. Cat enjoyed it so much she felt compelled to ask the waiter for more details – which he supplied once he’d made enquiries in the kitchen.
Cat was getting accustomed to the novelty of dining in splendid isolation as her pan-fried sea bass arrived. This handsome stack was layered with bands of pea green pesto mash, two large and tender fillets of fish supported by a raft of green beans, and topped with a shock of tomato ragu. The fish fell away from its skin and the flakes were so soft they almost melted in Cat’s mouth. The pesto mash and beans went well with the fish’s subtle taste. The tomato ragu gave a colour boost but in taste was a surprisingly acid complement for such a smooth and mild dish.
Lemon posset £5.95
As the venue filled up, Cat paused between courses. Fogg’s is a lively place and one can’t help but overhear – she had to conceal a smirk when a hearty fellow nearby told his companions, “Years ago Robert Maxwell asked me if he could get a taxi from the station. I told him he could.” He proudly added, “Since then, I’ve said I was once Robert Maxwell’s advisor.”
Turning her attention back to her meal, Cat noticed that the world food theme seemed to have been all-but abandoned for the dessert menu. She chose the distinctly national lemon posset, which has its origins in mediaeval England. Fogg’s interpretation was beautifully smooth with just a few shreds of lemon rind to give it a smidge of disrupting texture. The raspberry coulis was pleasingly pip-free and Cat dribbled it over the posset.
Finishing off her meal with a good Bristot coffee, Cat pursed her lips – not over the coffee’s taste, but because she had an involuntary intake of breath when she saw the bill. Fogg’s has done a fine job of elevating its brand with a smart new logo, punchier name and a streamlined offering. The cooking, venue and service is still impressively good. But £7.50 for a starter and almost twenty quid for a fish main? Topping out at £36 for a three-course dinner with no wine this exceeded what one might expect to pay at the comparable Fine Nammet, Lockslane or Hillside. It approached prices at the prestigious Royal Hotel, and was only a tenner off the nearby three-rosette Hambrough.
Theres no doubt that they know what they’re doing both out front and in the kitchen at Fogg’s. Matt and Cat like the way the restaurant is honing its offering over the years. Cats dinner itself was impressive fare, but one can’t help wonder whether Foggs is coming on a bit strong with those prices.
Edit: since this review was published Fogg’s have publicised their “Prix Fixe Menu” which is available every day except Saturday and offers three courses from a limited choice, for £19.
A shorter version of this review appeared in print in the Isle of Wight County Press on the 24th of October 2014.
Archive review: Fogg’s is now closed.