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!
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?
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.
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!
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.