Guess we could write yet more doom-laden words about the state of dining under COVID-19. But let’s not, eh? Instead we will hold up our recently-sanitised palms to the virus and say, “Talk to the hand, cos we ain’t listening”.
We were also not listening to our fellow diners this week when we visited Ryde’s Fumo 33. Like every re-opened venue, Fumo 33 is adhering to guidance about safe eating spaces. And so it was that we found ourselves seated on the restaurant’s dais, a good two metres away from the next nearest table.
It felt unexpectedly luxurious to have that social distance. Dining out over the last few years has meant more and more diners packed into venues as they try to maximise covers or capitalise on popularity by shoehorning folks together on communal tables. A side effect of this has been – as anyone who has eaten out over the last five years will know – an increase in ambient decibels. Aural comfort drops as conversational volume rises, and eavesdropping is rife – certainly when we are on deck.
But last Friday we sat opposite each other with only our own discrete chatter to entertain us. Chatter using our indoor voices; no need to bellow or gesticulate to make ourselves understood. Just gentle private conversation; like we used to have in the olden days.
Fumo 33’s mostly meaty menu contained many euro-inspired classics, such as moussaka, calzone and spaghetti bolognaise. There were also a few twists on old favourites; dishes that hipster chefs are probably already no longer giving the moniker ‘fusion cuisine’. Hipsters though – are they still a thing? What is the new normal? Anyway, duck pizza with hoisin sauce probably didn’t originate in Naples.
It’s been so long since we had dinner in a restaurant that Cat clear forgot what carpaccio was. She expected confit; that supersoft method of slow-cooking a fattier cut of meat. Instead she got tender pink slices of smoked duck, served with a fig chutney and crostini. She was also reminded on its arrival that crostini wasn’t those skinny breadsticks – that’s grissini – so the whole dish was not really what she thought she’d ordered. The thick slices of duck were not carpaccio, but were well-served by the sweet pickle. This misunderstanding was at least partly Cat’s, but then she had entered the place preloaded on prosecco.
Matt, too, seemed to have forgotten how to eat out as, in his excitement, he had ordered almost the same thing for his first two dishes. Having polished off his simple fried calamari starter, he was presented with more calamari as a component of his fish frito main. The rings of cephalopod were complemented by some big head-on prawns and a few chunks of moist white fish, all fried in a light batter. The dish had a bit of a street-food vibe to it, Matt could imagine himself nibbling on these enjoyable fishy morsels from a cone of newspaper on some sunny seafront.
Duck ‘carpaccio’ £7.50
Fish frito £13.50
Butterfly chicken £14.50
Eton mess £5.50
Cat’s butterfly chicken was given a moisture boost by much melted mozzarella, a drizzle of tangy pesto and sliced tomato. The chicken was incubating a clutch of new potatoes and wore a plume of parsley. It was nicely-presented comfort food.
For pudding, Matt chose Eton mess in honour of the Prime Minister’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. This mess, by contrast, was welcome, and fun to clear up. A straightforward rendition came with plenty of whipped Chantilly cream, plus the usual fruit and meringue. It was nothing startlingly original but Matt fell on it like a starving man – it had been literally months since he’d eaten pudding in a restaurant and this was a great way to break the fast.
With two glasses of pop under her belt, Cat probably didn’t need the alcoholic hit she usually enjoys from tiramisu. As it was, the masala was not as perceptible as she’d have liked, but she was served a generous slice of the coffee-infused trifle. The creamy dessert rounded off her meal nicely.
As when we went to Quay Arts, our first port during the coronavirus storm, we felt very happy to be eating out again. It was lovely to be welcomed by familiar faces among the staff at Fumo 33. Our waitress was adorned with latex gloves, and salt came in little sachets, but otherwise we could almost imagine we were eating out back in those heady pre-COVID times.
We’ve seen many changes in Union Street leisure strip, not least in the old post office – premises currently occupied by Fumo 33. It’s a great-looking restaurant and spacious enough to accommodate social distancing, which certainly enhanced our experience and confidence. What we do know is that Fumo 33 is a stylish place, with a professional and welcoming team. We enjoyed what we got – the Eton mess was the star of the show. We hope that Fumo 33 will be able to keep it up. It’s going to be hard going for all dining venues in the months to come, but this is a strong start from one of Union Street’s anchor venues – our fingers are crossed for more to come.
This is the full-length version of the review first published in the Isle of Wight County Press.
- Attractive venue
- Wonderful Mediterranean flavours
- Great Eton mess
- Carpaccio was smoked duck