Matt and Cat\'s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide
Fox’s Restaurant, Bembridge Fox’s Restaurant, Bembridge
Mighty oaks from little acorns grow, or so the hackneyed saying goes. Matt and Cat’s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide started in 2005... Fox’s Restaurant, Bembridge

Mighty oaks from little acorns grow, or so the hackneyed saying goes. Matt and Cat’s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide started in 2005 as an idea on the back of a napkin and, last month, the website welcomed its one millionth viewer. Hurrah!

Goat's cheese parcel

Likewise, Fox’s in Bembridge is a great little venue which feels as though it might have started with humble beginnings as a tea shop before evolving into a grown-up restaurant – licensed and open in the evenings – but still retaining the charm of an intimate and homely eatery. Happy to accommodate a late booking by Matt and Cat in the height of the Christmas party season, how did it fare?

Fillet of salmon

Matt and Cat stepped into the little venue in Bembridge High Street. The staff were clearly preoccupied with a group of cheery but rowdy teachers, who were having a Christmas-cum-leaving do. Consequently it took a while before M and C were shown to their table.

Matt and Cat settled in and were handed the bill of fare. It looked like the menu was changed regularly as there was a small yet well-chosen range of dishes. Giving each one careful consideration, it took your reviewers some time to make their selection. Because the waitress had pointed out that the soup of the day was French onion (£3.65), Matt immediately knew that was what he would have for a starter. A good French onion should be made with patience and the time invested is worth its reward. Cat opted for goats cheese in filo pastry (£4.95) although the ham hock, red onion and parsley terrine certainly came a close second.

Chicken breast wrapped in Parma ham

Whilst waiting for their starters, Matt and Cat couldn’t help but listen in to the hullabaloo at the teachers’ table. It was someone’s last day and the only gentleman in the crowd gave a rousing speech which was accompanied by much whooping from the ladies. M and C had their podcasting device ready to record their eating out experience; but it was fruitless as nothing other than the jolly braying of the women would be heard.

Foxes take decent food and present it simply and well

Once the other table had been given their food, Matt and Cat’s starters were delivered. The soup was was good but not exceptional, and sadly no cheesy bread was floating in it. Cat, on the other hand was delighted with her goats cheese filo parcel and particularly the nicely dressed salad. It had a good variety of leaves including basil and some other aromatic herbage which gave the dish a lovely summery feel – a fine achievement in the depths of winter! The home-made tomato chutney was the perfect companion to the cheesy parcel.

Matt and Cat both dithered over the same two dishes for their main course. Rejecting grilled sirloin steak, lamb cutlets and Gressingham duck they had a lively debate over who should have the fillet of salmon with prawn cream sauce (£9.95) and who should have the chicken breast wrapped in Parma ham on a bed of creamy cabbage and bacon (£10.95). Both meals were served with skinny fries and a nice range of vegetables. Perpetual mind-changer Cat, knew as soon as she saw Matt’s prawn dish, that she should have chosen it. Matt eyed up the thin hammy coat of her succulent breasts, plus their bacony nest; coveting Cat’s three-meat dinner. So, to satisfy each other, they had a good chunk of each others’ meal.

The salmon was nicely presented, draped with fennel and chives. The creamy sauce had a generous helping of prawns. The few ingredients were top-quality and used to good effect. It was simple and unpretentious, and a good-tasting main course. The chicken dish, too, was lovely. The meaty coat gave the fowl an unexpectedly ruddy appearance; the ham was quite crispy, making an interesting contrast of textures. The bed of cabbage and bacon was very tasty; and indeed the meal was so filling that Cat had to admit defeat and pass Matt the remains. Perhaps the starter had used up more of her capacity than she had hoped!

Matt and Cat’s bill
Starter: French onion soup £3.65
Starter: goats cheese tartlet £4.95
Main: fillet of salmon £9.95
Main: chicken breast £10.95
2 x coffee: £4.40

Matt and Cat did not have pudding but were keen to have coffee to round off the meal. This was duly bought over in a break from the busy staff attending the other party who were now playing top trumps and warming themselves with liqueur coffees. It really added to the ambience of the place having such a lively crowd in. It’s possible that Fox’s may usually be a quiet and genteel place, although this is pure speculation. It was noticeable, however, that M &C had little if any attention from the staff other than the bare minimum. Even the other party were having trouble getting served, and at one point a daring diner had to go into the kitchen to summon somebody to take a drinks order. Maybe Foxes had borrowed all their front-of-house staff to clear up after the big party.

Either way, the food – although quite a restricted choice – was very good, straightforward and generously served. Local produce was indicated where appropriate (Bembridge crab) and the quality of the ingredients seemed very high. Aside from the inconspicuous staff, the only niggle was the unnecessarily mean charge of 35p for a roll with butter and the rather expensive coffee (£2.20 per person). Even Matt and Cat’s favourite Indian restaurants have stopped charging for poppadoms and chutneys.

So this is a good example of a small and sensible restaurant. Fox’s takes decent food and presents it simply and well, charging very reasonable prices. Matt and Cat would recommend it for an enjoyable and wholesome evening out.

  • Alex says:

    Lovely lunch on Saturday out in the garden with my dog (BTW dogs not allowed inside). Three large slices of lamb’s liver, two of bacon with perfectly cooked veg. I had chips and agree they are wonderful (skin on, thin cut), they send out the same ones at the Seaview Hotel.

    Finished off with a velvety orange creme brulee with choc shortbread. Two courses for £9.95 – what a bargain!

    The owners are so helpful and welcoming, one of my favourite places to go.

  • Helen says:

    Forgot to say, husband and I were trying to be grown up so chose new potatoes instead of chips to accompany our meals. Son, unusually for him, devoured all his scampi and left lots of his chips, so we tried them just to check they were okay, and more than that, they were about the most delicious chips we can ever remember having.

  • Helen says:

    Visited Fox’s last week, with our 4 year old son. It looked a bit fancy, so we carefully checked for the presence of a child’s menu before we went in – we have no desire to take our generally well-behaved child anywhere he’s not welcomed.

    The staff were welcoming and accommodating. There was a group of around 8 older women already seated, and we certainly didn’t make as much noise as them. I did enjoy over-hearing snippets from their conversation though.

    The food was fresh, delicious and good – not excessive – portions (we tend towards greedy and were happily satisfied). The waitress was just training up, which was fair enough, and she was kind and attentive.

    A lovely lunch, which I would recommend to families with young children who are well-behaved. I guess you could try sitting in the garden if you have livelier youngsters. The inside restaurant is small, and sound travels very clearly, so you’d quickly feel you were disrupting the entire restaurant if they kicked off.

  • Paul says:

    Went to Fox’s today for a family lunch, we sat in the very nice garden and two of us had local plaice on the bone cooked to order by the chef and one chicken also cooked by the chef (no boil in the bag here). Great tasting local plaice and cooked to perfection as was the chicken. We will be back soon.

  • Seb, Susan and Persephone says:

    We had a very enjoyable meal at Fox’s. The set menu at lunch was excellent value and offered some tempting options – the grilled Char was particularly tasty. Would definitely go back next time we are on the Island.

  • Madge and Kaz says:

    We are frequent visitors to Foxes over the past six years, we have never had a bad meal or found the portion size a problem, the whole idea of this kind of meal is to leave you with a sense of delightful enjoyment and wanting to return!

    Service has always been relaxed and friendly and always efficient. Some people, like us, appreciate good food, others are the pie and mash brigade who think they do!

  • Bob says:

    Fox’s is now open ,Sunday lunch ,roast sirloin of beef for £7.95 ” very nice” home made roasted potatoes and real gravy . It was so good I rebooked . Good choice of dishes .
    Lots of home made dressers , well worth a visit .

  • Debbie says:

    I visited Fox’s with a friend of mine last Thursday night. We had heard good things about the restaurant and were keen to try it for ourselves. We were not disappointed. The service was very friendly and informative, but in a nice relaxed way. The menu choice was good and varied but not too long and there was a starter and a couple of main course specials on offer. We both enjoyed our meal immensely and it was terrific value for money, my friend had a beautiful Fillet Steak “special” and the chef made her a fresh peppercorn sauce which wasn’t on the menu, all for an amazing £9.95 (the waitress said they’d got a great deal on the steak form the local butcher. The Raspberry Pannacota to finish was very nice too. Well worth a visit and I would highly recommend a visit.

    Matt and Cat respond:
    Thanks for your comment, Debbie. Cat’s eye’s positively lit up at the thought of fillet steak for £9.95!

  • dickie says:

    Went to Fox’s in Bembridge on saturday with friends for lunch. I was pleasantly surprised to see the place had been redecorated and had some very nice art work by a local Island Artist on the walls. It still has the same relaxed atmosphere and friendly staff. The restaurant looks fresher and more modern. Coupled with the two course lunch for £8.75, it is excellant value for money. There is a good selection of starters, mains ( including a roast) and desserts, and as one of my friends was a vegetarian it also catered for them. We all had a good time and will go back again.

  • Lester says:

    No never eaten at Fox’s but heard great things, I will try it one day it’s on my list along with so many places Mat and Cat have reviewed. I don’t care how the staff dress as long as it’s professional. But the food I do care about.

    Why waste £4.50 at the Folly when you could buy a carrier bag of chips, no that’s not enough, buy a bin liner of Supermarket value pasta, or 6 loafs of bread and sit in your car stuffing your face. Get the most food for the smallest amount of money. Why bother going out to eat at all…its meant to be an experience, a night or lunch out, enjoying yourself, good company, savouring the ambience, the atmosphere and good food & wine on offer.

    Just eat at pubs where the microwaves will be ringing more than Christmas bells, and the food is huge and cheap. These pubs offer great value and have their place, we all use them, but do not compare restaurants and cheap fodder to restaurants who I would think have taken great time to create a menu, source ingredients, and cook with much care for their customers, anyone can shove it in a microwave!

  • Desperate Dan says:

    Good to encounter a kindred spirit Paul. We can see the emperor’s not wearing any clothes – it’s a pity the self-styled foodies can’t! We’ll be giving the Folly a try in the new year.

  • bruno1cat says:

    Whilst I am not complaining about the standard of the food which was very nice. I feel that maybe cutting how much you charge so tight means you cut out on basics. I too prefer to eat at places where the food is quality over quantity but two roast potatoes with the Turkey and two new potatoes with the Pork is a little stingy

    As for the dressing up, I wasnt expecting a scene from Dickens but maybe a little smarter.

  • Peebee says:

    I have read with interest the recent comments regarding Fox’s in Bembridge. I have been in the catering industry for many years on the Island and eaten in a lot of Restaurants, Cafe’s and Hotels, some with huge overflowing plates of overcooked cheap produce and others with smaller portions of superbly cooked high quality and well presented food.
    A dish should look good and be full of taste, which indicates fine produce prepared by a well trained Chef that cares. I have eaten at Fox’s and consider their food to be exactly this.

    Fox’s food is neither giant plates of mush, or tiny portions of OK food, it is high quality ingredients prepared by a proper Chef, with a real knowledge of taste and presentation, plus the bonus of very reasonable prices.

  • PAUL MULLERY says:

    I have been to the Pointer Desperate Dan and the food is good and plentiful. I now use the Folly. Last week my wife and I had two steak meals with plenty of veg and a pint of bitter and glass of wine thrown in for £18. Come January the Folly starts its 2 for one from the main menu. You can have 2 steak meals with all the veg for less than £9 No wonder the place is always packed out.

    With these “mouse portion” restaurants there is a lot of snobbery involved. You go to somewhere like the Fat Duck at Bray, pay £200 for a slice of this and teaspoon of that but you can demonstrate to your friends that you can afford to go. It’s like paying £40 for a Christmas Pudding from Harrods when you can get the same in Tesco for a fiver.

  • Desperate Dan says:

    Hallelujah brother! This nouvelle cuisine nonsense is the greatest con trick ever perpetrated on the eating public. Why does so-called ‘quality cooking’ automatically equate to miniscule portions? What’s wrong with ‘quality cooking’ and a good plateful? Nothing – and if you want both just go to the Pointer Inn at Newchurch. Best-value eating place on the Island by a country mile.

  • PAUL MULLERY says:

    This is my beef with certain restaurants. They call their menu nouveau cuisine and the food tastes delicious. The problem is always quantity. Nouveau Cuisine means a bit of this and a bit of that on oceans of white platter. I had that problem with Dan’s Kitchen. A 4 inch square of fish and 6 chips. I have a big appetite and that nonsense does nothing for me. I don’t know how they have the nerve to serve up those miniscule portions. Give me pub grub anytime for a gut-busting meal which doesn’t necessitate going to a takeaway afterwards.

  • bruno1cat says:

    Have just visited Fox’s for a christmas party dinner. The food was overall very nice, but just not enough of it. Many of our party went to the chinese after to top up!
    At £14.50 for 3 courses I know it didn’t break the bank but maybe if they charged another couple of quid they could have given three pebble sized potatoes instead of two. Also please serve toast with pate and brown bread with Prawn cocktail not cold rolls.

    There was no atmospher, no christmas music and the staff hadn’t bothered to dress up.


  • Johnn says:

    Nice lunch £8.25 for 2 cr menu
    well cooked and very busy .

    Matt and Cat respond: Hi Johnn, thanks for your comment. With Matt and Cat’s Dining Club you can get 5% off all food at lunchtimes and 10% off food in the evenings at Fox’s 🙂

  • Lucy says:

    Had a lovely meal at Fox’s and thought the staff were superb, kept a nice relaxed vibe and were not pestering our table every five minutes!

  • Mary says:

    ate at foxes last Saturday, 23rd of july, food was excellent, i had the plaice and my husband had chicken, both were freshly cooked and real value for money. Service relaxed and very friendly, prices very reasonable. Also noticed they have a two course lunch menu for £8.25 which if as good as dinner would be brilliant value. We’ll definitely be going back and would recommend a visit.

  • Michael says:

    Consistently great food, superb value for money & brilliant service second to none.

  • kurt gänzl says:

    A definite Yes

    Simple food, nicely cooked .. go when the fish soup is on ..

    And you can lunch from 7.75 .. not hour, Money

  • Pat & Rog says:

    Why no indication of the costs / prices / value other than the moan about charging for a roll? One of the most important factors in a review would be value for money, wouldn’t it? It would be helpful to know what ‘reasonable’ means to M & C as it may not be the same for us.

    Matt & Cat respond: Thanks for your comment. We agree. It’s a good idea. So we’ve devised new ‘Matt and Cat’s Bill’ feature which we shall be including where appropriate – it’s now included in the Fox’s review above. We haven’t kept all the receipts for the last three years but we’ll try to give some indication in other reviews in the future.

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