Matt and Cat\'s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide
ARCHIVE: Robert Thompson, The Hambrough, Ventnor ARCHIVE: Robert Thompson, The Hambrough, Ventnor
This is an archive review. The Hambrough is now run by a different team and Robert Thompson now has his own restaurant.   Bring to... ARCHIVE: Robert Thompson, The Hambrough, Ventnor

This is an archive review. The Hambrough is now run by a different team and Robert Thompson now has his own restaurant.  

Bring to mind, if you will, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Special Envoy Terry Waite; Our Very Own Frankie Howerd; and Robert Thompson The Hambrough. Institutions that have all acquired titles with words inextricably linked together.

Roasted cod with Romanesco cauliflower, Iberian ham and saffron sauce

Sometimes food writers seem overly obsessed with who cooks their food. Matt and Cat usually don’t feel the need to find out, but sometimes you just can’t avoid it. The Hambrough in Ventnor has placed the famous chef’s name above the title to create Robert Thompson The Hambrough. This has set the Isle of Wight a-twitter; with breathless tributes to this talented young man coming thick and fast. And it’s far from empty hype: the Michelin judges awarded Thompson’s restaurant a coveted star.

Matt and Cat could hardly miss out on this opportunity. Neither had eaten Michelin-starred food before, and they decided it was time to do so. So Matt had a shave, Cat put on a skirt and, having scraped a dead fly from the windscreen of the BMW, they made their way to Ventnor’s Robert Thompson The Hambrough restaurant.

Cat once went for an interview for a job at Liz Earle, a Ryde-based soap factory. The headquarters were very smart; all stripped wood floors and muted pastels. The Hambrough is similarly decorated in a corporate, clean and minimalist style. Like Liz Earle’s, the hotel is situated in a smart Victorian seaside building, subtly and sympathetically restored – and maybe smelling slightly of heritage paint.

Entering the Hambrough felt like entering a church – a church dedicated to food. Like unaccustomed worshippers arriving on Christmas morning, Matt and Cat stood helplessly in the lobby until an immaculately-uniformed acolyte came forward to murmur a few words of welcome and take their coats. Matt and Cat gingerly took their seats in the restaurant. The sun had yet to set over the English Channel so your reviewers had a nice view of the tail end of the day, as they sat and waited for something to happen. Their table was bedecked with an impressive range of equipment; but there was a conspicuous absence of menus, drinks being offered and other regular restaurant activity. Perhaps this was a pause for awe? Looking for something to keep her occupied, Cat flipped her empty handmade glass plate. The reverse revealed the words ‘Robert Thompson The Hambrough’ and individual numbering (Cat’s plate was number 50). Cat wondered if there was to be a raffle later – this plate could be her ticket to a fruit basket or flowery sponge bag.

Cat wondered if there was to be a raffle later – this plate could be her ticket to a fruit basket or flowery sponge bag

When the appropriate amount of time had been spent admiring the table setting, Matt and Cat were offered the menu by another of the smooth but almost silent staff. Two courses for £38, three for £45 and a tasting menu for two for £80. Matt and Cat had done their homework; plenty of the dishes appeared on the the Hambrough’s website sample menu.

Matt’s choice was fillets of red mullet with seared scallops, Kalamata olive and smoked garlic sauce. Knowing enough to realise that he didn’t know enough about wine, Matt was determined to get the full experience. So he asked for guidance from the somellier. To draw on such knowledge is a rare treat, and Matt was anticipating a bit of dialogue about this important decision. However, a single recommendation was given without any embellishment: Cooper’s Creek Pinot noir. This proved to be excellent advice, and differed from what cautious Matt would have chosen. Still, your reviewers were beginning to understand that in the temple of Thompson, nothing was to disturb the atmosphere of reverent anticipation: and evening service was about to commence.

The waiting staff fetched the craziest-looking bread sticks ever. A towering brace of squid-ink-black brittle sticks were delivered in a glass, held in place by a handful of seeds. The salted sticks were at least a foot long and flat and wavy like starched ribbons; lumps of sea salt glistening up the shafts of the bread. They were like elongated pretzels; nice and licky. Matt and Cat daringly snapped their bread into their individually-numbered handmade glass plates and dabbed butter on the ends, sucking the sea salt lumps like cattle at a saltlick.

After the bread sticks came more bread. This time a basket of the kitchen’s finest, warmed to perfection. Cat chose a white roll with elongated ends, like a mermaids purse but with only two tails. Eaten with the remains of the butter, it was delicious and had a great dual texture; the extremities were crunchy and the body nice and soft.

Chicken and asparagus

The glass plates were taken away after the second bread course and were soon replaced with tiny cups and saucers containing wild garlic soup, compliments of the chef. Little white flowers bobbed in the vivid green – a divine visual treat that also tasted rich, fresh, and subtly garlicky. Was this Isle of Wight ramsoms? It was not made clear, but it was certainly a delicious appetiser and boded well for the rest of the meal.

Usually at this point in a review, Matt and Cat will digress with tales of other diners’ conversations or amusing observations about the decoration. However, at the Hambrough, there was little of either to remark upon. Although other supplicants were sitting at the nearby tables their conversation was in suitably muted tones, making Cat’s covert photography probably a little obvious. The décor, although pleasant, was also a bit soulless. There was one picture on the wall – so far so minimalist – and a vast spray of synthetic orchids on the mantelpiece of the stone fireplace. The dining room, like every other aspect of the Hambrough, was merely the conduit for the revelation to come: the food. This was, after all, the reason people were there, wasn’t it? The one concession to the populist eating experience was the oddly muffled warblings of Dido, whose aural wallpaper is as ubiquitous as Phil Collins for those wanting music to talk over.

Starters were next. Velouté of Jerusalem artichoke with truffle and Parmesan for Matt. The heirophant approached the table bearing a steaming jug of velouté. A dish appeared before Matt’s nose with a handful of ingredients in the bottom, and the ritual pouring began. The staff withdrew and left Matt to contemplate what was before him. He dipped in his spoon, put it to his lips…

In one mouthful Matt was a convert to Thompsonism

…had the Hambrough really been a church this would have been the moment the full peal of eight bells sounded forth. In one mouthful Matt was a convert to Thompsonism. The garlic soup had been impressive, but this was something else. Complex, earthy flavours of artichoke and truffle jostled to enrich the classically velvety sauce; and the nuggets and slices of crisper vegetable hidden within gave a combination of contrasting textures. Matt dug deep into the pale swirls, delighted. To crown it all, as the heat of the velouté began to sink into the Parmesan, the strong, acid taste of cheese gave an extraordinary finish to the little bowlful. Matt sat back, rapturous.

Starter was roasted cod with Romanesco cauliflower, Iberian ham and saffron sauce for The Cat. She was excited about the impending cauliflower. These fractal foods are fascinating structures to look at – and tasty too. Surprisingly, when her plate arrived, although the dish was well-presented, the Romanesco was not on show – perhaps it was mashed up to the point of invisibility. A shame, as it’s such a visual treat. Nonetheless, the Iberian ham was delicious, nice and sweet. The vivid yellow saffron sauce almost made up for the lack of cauliflower but Cat felt that its unusual citrus flavour, for her, didn’t quite match with that of the delicate cod.

Next up was the main course. Matthew’s red mullet was perfectly complemented by his Pinot noir, and two generous fillets were decorated with a good handful of scallops. The smoked garlic sauce was subtle to the point of bashfulness, but with the seafood taking centre stage this was probably as it should have been.

Cat had black leg chicken with cannelloni beans, asparagus and stuffed morels. Unlike Matt’s starter, which had been crafted with some kind of cheese and truffle alchemy, Cat’s dish had no mystery – all the ingredients were immaculately laid out for inspection. A well-balanced pile of meat was delivered, woven together with sticks of white and green asparagus which were curiously sharpened at one end. Is there a culinary device for shaving the ends off asparagus? Maybe M & C should do some research in Hursts. The sublime morel, stuffed and halved, showed off its interesting texture. It was a really evocative ingredient, soft and subtle, its taste unmistakable yet indescribable.

Cylinder of white chocolate and passion fruit with tropical fruits

In an effort to engage the efficient but at times inaudible staff, Cat asked about the origins of the morel. The waiter seemed stunned by this approach – so far the staff had all demonstrated a robot-like delivery of the food as follows: deliver plate; softly mutter a description; waft away. However, Cat was not to be put off by his coyness. Matt’s attempts to banter with the wine waiter had fallen at the first fence; Cat would surely succeed where Matthew had failed. But no luck – on returning from a foray into the kitchen to enquire, the waiter’s definitive but succinct answer was one word, “France”. Although Matt and Cat like to feel that they are involved in the dining process, doubtless this abstract yet unflappable manner of service is just another carefully considered aspect of the Hambrough experience.

The smoked garlic sauce was subtle to the point of bashfulness

Still, it was notable that the waiter had to ask in the kitchen about the mushrooms – in a restaurant as obsessed with the quality and origins of food as the Hambrough, one might have expected the staff to have at hand every fact about these extraordinary creations. Another anomaly concerned the provenance of the food. The only local produce identified on the menu was Dunsbury lamb ‘nicoise’ and Ventnor stout ice cream. Maybe the other local items were just not labelled, as the website states, “the restaurant’s gourmet menus focus on using only the finest and freshest ingredients available daily from the market – where possible produced locally on the Isle of Wight.” Local provenance is big business everywhere these days and M and C do like it to be made clear if their meal contains locally-sourced food or not.

One complaint that cannot be made of the Hambrough is about the size of the portions. Both picky Cat and greedy Matt were comfortably well fed, leaving just enough room to squeeze in one of the delicious-sounding puddings. In the interregnum between giving their order and the sweets being delivered, a further complimentary dish arrived. Unfortunately its name was lost in the mutterings of the waitress but it appeared to be a wonderfully sharp, fresh apple posset with a foamy, impossibly sweet sugar hat. Fantastic!

By this time, Cat really was full. So when her blackberry soufflé arrived she knew it would be a challenge to eat it all – a challenge she simply would not refuse. The eggy mound was being held up mostly with air and skill. A single blackberry had been artfully positioned at the apex of this inflated structure. Cat took great delight in watching the soufflé slowly sink as she poked in its innards to find the other blackberry. It was subtly flavoured; like the finest soufflé the experience was as much about the texture as the taste. The Ventnor stout ice cream was an excellent accompaniment.

In the Hambrough, apart from the celebrated chef himself, nothing is more important than the food
Blackberry soufflé with Ventnor stout ice cream

Matt had a cylinder of white chocolate and passion fruit with tropical fruits, another architectural wonder. The sweet chocolate had been formed into a ‘cooling tower‘ of fondant and passionflower jelly; tiny cubes of fruit were scattered about its base and a beautifully constructed spiral of chocolate completed the ensemble. M and C wondered how many chocolate strips ended up in the reject bin before a perfect one was coiled out.

Matt and Cat were stuffed. But there was no way they were going to fall at the final fence, so coffee and petits fours was ordered. The petits fours were tiny cornets of biscuit with fruit mousse, and a hazelnut truffle, all presented in curious steel holders like miniature candelabra. They were quite delicious, of course. M & C nibbled at the sweetmeats and supped their coffee – not certain whether they were sad to reach the end of this seemingly infallible series of delights or just relieved that they wouldn’t have to squeeze in another morsel. As it was, they certainly found themselves more than satisfied with their first experience of Michelin-approved dining. They were looking forward to a refreshing stroll back to the car, gazing down across the twinkling lights of Ventnor Bay… but at this point the Teflon staff just seemed to be too smooth to offer the bill or make any further enquiry, and it was only when a lady came in and started laying the tables for breakfast that M & C managed to request the bill and make a dignified exit. Perhaps, as on arrival, it was expected that diners should pause after the experience to reflect and ponder.

Matt and Cat’s bill
2 x three course dinner £90
2 x coffee + petits fours £9
Drinks £9.25
Total £108.25

So at last, making that slightly-delayed promenade back through the cool evening; M & C were able to consider what was one of the most memorable meals they had ever eaten. The Hambrough is an extraordinary place, and to dine there is an extraordinary experience. It isn’t too hard to work out that in the Hambrough, apart from the celebrated chef himself, nothing is more important than the food. Everything else is designed to allow these remarkable creations to be appreciated.

The star of the show for this meal was Matt’s velouté. Even Cat, who only got a mouthful, could only explain the splendour of this creation as ‘alchemical’. The generous amuse-bouche courses were also both outstanding and clever – the wild garlic soup being a particularly apposite seasonal touch. M & C found the remote service style to be a little wearing, and ultimately, would have preferred a little more personal attention: but perhaps if they’d had it, they wouldn’t have appreciated the food so.

And finally, the question that many of your reviewers’ acquaintances have asked of the experience: was it worth £100? With the Hambrough undoubtedly close to the top of the Island eating out cost table, M & C knew what they were expecting to pay and saved up accordingly. But what else can this buy you? Tickets to a premiership football match? A night at a musical? A period return on Wightlink? Measured against those experiences, The Hambrough seems like outstanding value for money. Matt and Cat don’t begrudge a penny of it, and nor should you. So start saving.

For Marjorie and Clement.
Robert Thompson, The Hambrough, Ventnor

  • Just had a beautiful meal here at the Hambrough.
    Raining outside but so nice to be in being treated with this amazing food.
    Will start saving for the next time!

  • Wendy V says:

    Ian and I were drawn back to the Hambrough by their February £99 dinner, b&b offer. But as it was nearing Valentine’s day, we decided to “upgrade” to the Valentine’s menu – all eight delectable courses (which added about £15 each to the bill). I had the vegetarian version, with some highlights including wild mushroom samosa with a butternut squash soup, risotto of globe and jerusalem artichokes with winter truffle, fine pumpkin tart with green sauce, and a gorgeous dessert of caramelised banana, banana sorbet and toasted pecans served with chocolate “kromeski” (that appeared to mean deep-fried chocolate balls, and I was mortified not to have room left for all three!).

    We slept in a room where you’re lulled to sleep by the sound of the sea and, after the fog of the previous day, woke to bright sunshine, views of the ocean and a delicious breakfast waiting.

    Once again, a lovely treat.

  • OC says:

    So how can a Michelin starred establishment deliver a Chritmas meal for a big, multinational family? How can they deliver something everybody has different expectations, dietary requirements and arrives at the same time en masse – and if that was not enough how can they keep up the game in the second seating on Xmas day, after a busy season with a clearly cold struck headchef?
    As we found out – no need to worry – Excellent is the only approbriate answer

    Having overcome initial fears about the unreliable weather, air traffic and the roads to Ventnor in winter and the treathening non refundability of the hefty but to say this upfront good value for money price tag we arrived at the Hambrough onChristmas day at 4 pm for the late Lunch setting hungry after a nice walk along the seaside. The Hotel was clearly busy and the new service brigade has made a huge impact by adding the relaxed and “can do” atmosphere you expect from places like this without comromising the perfect service but removing the previously experieneced somewhat “stiff” atmosphere also noticed by other reviewers here – so thumbs up for this already
    The chef – despite clearly having had a busy day and run up to Christmas – came out of the Kitchen to say hello and welcome. Despite having a fixed Menu there was enough flexibility to take care of some dietary needs (we had 2 diabetics, 2 drivers and a non seafood and a non chocolate eater) and dislikes of some of the diners, orders were quickly settled. Full Marks also for the New Sommelier who had arranged different wine arrangements to compliment the menu which did take care of everybody’s palates as well as pockets – also positive is the fact that in comparison to other places these wines were served in normal sized glasses not degustations and topped up if diners wished.
    Presentation of food, tables and Restaurant has also improved over the previous already high standard and the addition of Spiegelau Glasses is a nice touch
    As we were a large group of seven we had a beautyful table in the bay window and nice views on the moonlit Ventnor bay
    Between us we had most of the food on offer and everything was executed perfectly- from the prestarters to the chocolates
    Worth mentining especially were the scallop dish on cauliflower and black truffle, and old Ramsey favourite with a modern twist, the mosaic of IoW venison and foie gras, a lovely butternut squash soup with a chestnut foam which made a lovely difference, the “local” turbot on scampi and lasgana which (despite I am biased as I love turbot) was amongst the best fish dishes I have eaten this year and the vegetarian main course, which was stunning
    There was a pre dessert which had nuances of molecular cooking and perfectly executed desserts which were modern versions of old classics and xmas favourites with lots of orange, chocolate and ginger aromas
    All in all a perfect day – which my mum will never forget as Robert was kind enough to sign one of the menus for her and add his New Year Wishes – Thanks again for this
    I can only thank Robert and his team for arranging such a special day and wish them all the best for the next year and perhaps the 2nd. star

  • michele says:

    this was only comment about Mill Bay not anything to do with Hambrough sorry!!!

  • michele says:

    Went to Mill Bay in Ventnor Friday night for steak night would recommend to anyone best steak I have had in a long time and the price is great, they had party in conservatory so we sat in bar which was lovely, have had Sunday carvery which has to be best on Island!! First time for steak will be back ASAP.

  • Tony says:

    Sure the food is good here BUT the complete lack of atmosphere (and I can’t explain what it should feel like but like others have noted it was not a relaxing experience) is the reason I wouldn’t return. The staff are very friendly and competent but it all felt very rehearsed.

  • Nice to spot Robert on Masterchef last night!

  • Sean says:

    We wanted to say a big thankyou to Robert and his Team at the Hambrough.

    We ate there Friday to celebrate our son’s (Edd) 17th Birthday. Edd is doing catering at the IOW College and as a surprise I asked if he could see the kitchen at work for a project he is doing on Michelin Stars. On arrival they treated him so well and invited him to get some top tips from the Chef and front of house team, our son was thrilled and loved the experience.

    The food was as fantastic, as always, with the highlight for me being the oxtail ravioli served with steak, whilst my son and wife loved the quail. It was all fantastic, and at £26 for 3 courses very reasonable indeed, I encourage everyone to give it a go.

    Then whilst watching the final of this year’s Masterchef the professionals last night they had what they called the “Top 30 chefs from Europe” and we spotted Robert Thompson, fantastic for The Hambrough and the Island. Thankyou and well done.

  • Simon Tideswell says:

    Celebrating my 40th birthday on Friday i had booked lunch at The Boathouse at Steephill Cove. As the weather was looking far from conducive to eating shellfish outdoors I decided to change my plans and eat at The Hambrough.

    I wasn’t to be disappointed. The meal was excellent as I had expected it should be.

    Having read the previous comments on here about the service, I wasn’t put off. But, just a couple of small points.

    I do find it a little uncomfortable when i can here everyone’s conversation, and they can here mine. I found myself whispering my conversation to my companion. Maybe a little music just to overcome that problem?

    The service was excellent, not too fast, not too slow but, maybe just a little too formal for a lunchtime service. The restaurant team did everything I could have wanted, but a smile costs nothing, and when they served my separate courses and gave me the full description of what was on my plate I could hardly hear what they were saying.

    Overall, an excellent dining experience to celebrate the big 40!

    Matt and Cat say: congratulations Simon on your birthday, keep up your own good work and we wish you many more!

  • kj says:

    Your opinion isn’t wrong….it is just your opinion, it is not refelcted by loads of other peoples opinions…by not going back you are simply cutting off your nose to spite your face and you could be missing out on the meal of the year ( in my opinion)

  • E.S says:

    Sophie – if you read my comment you will see that I spoke to the manager about being unhappy and he didnt want to hear it. Perhaps if he had been more caring he could have spoken to Robert and he could have come out to speak to us personally.
    As mentioned for the 2ND time, my problem is with the SERVICE, not Robert’s precious perfect food.
    I wasnt actually angry about the Hambrough when I wrote my review, now everyones response telling me my opinion and experience must have been wrong has irritated me.
    People make mistakes in the industry because at the end of the day we are human beings, including Robert. It happens, im sure 99% of the time he does hit the spot, but for gods sake dont try and tell me he never gets it wrong and im not allowed to say he did.
    On the basis alone of his response and others, with so much animosity, i am now definitely not going to return to the Hambrough and this is my last comment on this matter.

  • sophie says:

    Seriously what is wrong with people?

    ES, your experience at the Hambrough I can say must be a one off and I understand that bad service often clouds decisions and judgements on the rest of a dining experience. Saying a chef’s food looked like sick on a plate? Honestly what sort of response did you expect to receive from the chef especially someone as passionate about his food as Robert!!! Also maybe the Rabbit was just not too your partners personal taste (though i struggle to see this) does not make it bad. If you had asked to speak to Robert before you left and explained your experience you may have left in a different manner as I know he would not have been happy for someone to leave as you did. However I do recommend you go again as Robert suggested and make yourself known (he did not ask you to publicly declare yourself on here only at his restaurant to ensure you had the complete opposite experience this time. Members of the general public do matter and he understands this.

    To RCG: obviously your comment was unfounded. “if Robert wants to succeed beyond the Island” being that he was awarded his first Michelin star at the age of 23 off the Island at a well known restaurant. I also believe it is not him showing his age but his passion about what he does with his response to the complaint comment.

    Also those baffled by Robert doing reviews for the Island magazine. Why not? If I was to listen to anyone’s opinions on places to eat out on the Island it would be his. Being a fantastic chef with a great palette, his is the only opinion worth knowing (in my opinion and has recommended myself to eat at other places on the Island). He does not do this to “big up” his own restaurant he does it fairly and on honest opinion. Nobody would question Gordon Ramsay or Heston Blumenthal giving their reviews as they have done.

    Robert is a talented young man and has turned the Hambrough into an amazing success. I cannot wait til I am on the Island again and will be heading to the Hambrough to dine for definite.

    You may have guessed I have met Robert and can confirm all I have said, such passion and dedication to the dining world should be hailed.

  • kj says:

    Really….so the nationwide accolades in the Sunday Telegraph, Times, Mail etc and the fact that he already cracked his trade in London means nothing.

    We should be revelling in the fact that such chefs come to our Island and celebrate that such Restaurants and food pubs like his, the Royal and the Taverners bring international standards to our doorstep.

    Of course he should have a voice and be able to review other restaurants…he’s a Michelin Star Chef, not some hack journalist ( not aimed at you, Matt & Cat 🙂 ) what better person to do a review than a professional

  • RCG says:

    I think perhaps Mr Thompson betrays his youth and inexperience by taking ES’s criticisms to heart. He will have to deal with much worse if he wishes to be a success beyond the Isle of Wight and he should learn the art of ignoring such things rather than getting into indignified scraps. However, ES is correct in one respect: Mr Thompson should certainly have declined to review his competitors in an Island magazine. It is unprofessional and unbecoming and in a small glass house like the IW one of the stones will come back to hit you, in time.

  • Sara says:

    I don’t usually write reviews, indeed this is my first. However, having followed some of the comments made regarding The Hambrough recently I felt compelled to do so. Today my partner and I lunched at The Hambrough, one of several visits in recent times. As usual the menu offered a superb choice and whilst we had planned on opting for the lunch menu we couldn’t resist the A La Carte. Service was friendly and efficient and each course was perfectly timed so that we were neither rushed nor left waiting too long. On to the food: it was visually beautiful and tasted divine, just as it has on each occasion we have visited. I’m sorry that ES does not feel the same about their visit, but I would highly recommend The Hambrough and recommend that if you get the opportunity, try it for yourself, I’m sure you will not be disappointed!

  • E.S says:

    Sorry I forgot to add about Island Life magazine.
    Im all for publicising restaurant reviews, I just dont think its fair that the head chef of one of the main Island competitors is the one doing it. It the equivalent of British Airways being asked to do a review of all other airline companies for Airport magazine….they are hardly going to be glowing reviews are they? Its not in your interest to write good reviews and say ‘oh yeah go to that restaurant its amazing’, because then you lose out on business. Thats why I dont think its fair. The reviews should be there I just dont think an Isle of Wight head chef should be doing them, thats all.

  • E.S says:

    First of all Robert – it is a ‘she’ but thanks for the assumption. There is no point making myself known because I am just a member of the general public and no-one would know who I am. If it bothers you that much you can get my email off Matt and cat and message me personally but I am not broadcasting myself on an open website.

    My partner had a rabbit dish, i cannot remember because it was about 2 months ago that we ate there, Ive only just discovered this website which is why ive added my review. Like I said I cannot remember what the starter was exactly because of the elaborate description (which im not slating by the way), but those were the main components I remember. It was a vegetarian dish. Youre missing my point anyway, the whole experience was to do with bad service, as I mentioned before if I had entered the restaurant with a positive attitude I might have thought different towards the food. With regards to the restaurant and rooms being busy all the time can you tell me then why on a saturday we were the only occupants in the bar area for 45 minutes?

    But no dont worry, youre right and I am wrong, the Hamborough is wonderful and you are wonderful and i should never have written such a terrible lie of an opinion.

  • With reference to comments made by E.S I have the following responce:-
    The review makes a number of questionable comments regarding your evening at The Hambrough, however everyone is entitled to their view. Incidently there has never been a dish served consisting of baby sweetcorn, lettuce and tomato – I think I should know as I write the menus. You also describe the puree as looking like sick – did you get commision for this review?
    Your partner was disappointed by his starter – well what was it and why was it not good? It’s very easy to say someone is not good but surely you need to back up the comment.
    If The Hambrough is a complete joke from start to finish why are the restaurant and rooms so busy?
    Regarding your final comment regarding restaurants that I am currently reviewing – If I was asked by Island Life to do these reviews and there feedback has been very positive what’s the problem? Read back through what I have written in each edition and hopefully you will see that anything I have said comes under the heading “Constructive Criticism”.
    I hope E.S can return at some point to The Hambrough. It would be wonderfull if he could make himself known and then give his feedback etc in a constuctive manner.

    The most important part of our business is listening to our customers and yes this includes bad comments as well as good. Despite this I’m quite confident that 13 years training in some of the best restaurants in the country means I don’t serve dishes that look like sick.

  • KJ says:

    I hope she ‘risks’ it…positive reviews outweigh negative ones by 95%

  • E.S says:

    Sue – I’m glad that you can see my point. The thing is the food at the Hambourough has received amazing reviews, and although I was disappointed with my starter if I had been given a reason to stay for main and dessert I could have been won over. The service is equally as important as the food and I wont be returning to the Hamborough on that basis alone.

  • Jodie says:

    Dont normally comment on such blogs however LOVE matt and cats site so here goes….

    We ate Lunch at the Hambrough yesterday (a birthday treat) with our four year old daughter. The food was excellent as was the service and the menu adaptability for our daughter. We ate there about 3 years ago and the food was like the decor, minimal and also overated and overpriced so it has taken this long to entice us back.

    The staff were plentiful and polite and attentive. We would definately welcome a trip back.

  • rob says:

    I have reviewed the Hambrough already and eaten there three times this year, the last time being in June. Our experiences are very different from those expressed by E.S and I feel sorry that there’s wasn’t as wonderful as ours. I would suggest that if you have thought about going there then do so and see for yourselves and if its within the next two weeks you might bump into us.

  • Sean says:

    I see Robert Thompson has opened a restaurant at Northwood House, working with the Charitable Trust Northwood House and parkland to enable the House’s survival for the future. We have booked for Cowes Week and cannot wait as the menus looks very good indeed.

  • KJ says:

    If you judge a place based on one review you are going to be very disappointed on your holiday….every restaurant has a bad review…very few have as good reviews as the Hamborough

  • Sue says:

    We’re visiting the Island on holiday this year and despite the high prices had considered the Hamborough for a treat. Thank you E.S for saving us loads of money! Like you we don’t mind paying a decent price for exceptional food & pleasant and comfortable surroundings with good service. However, even if the food is reasonable, bad service, rude staff and no atmosphere can ruin a good evening.

  • E.S says:

    Oh and by the way I noticed that Robert Thompson has been doing reviews of other restaurants on the Island recently in a magazine.
    I suggest he reviews his own place before criticising others.

  • E.S says:

    I went to the Hamborough for dinner, and won’t be returning.
    As it is an expensive restaurant I booked for an anniversary and got dressed up for the special occasion.
    Our table was booked for 9pm – we turned up at 8:45 to get a drink in first.
    We were shown to the lounge/bar area and were told someone would come and take our drinks order. There was 1 other table in the bar at that time who went to their table for dinner shortly after we arrived, as a result the room was silent, no atmosphere and no soul.
    After 15 mins of waiting for a drink I went a found a member of staff who told me once again to sit down and they would come to us. After another 5 mins he came in to give us the food menu and left before we got a chance to order a drink.
    Another 15 mins later – (I was starting to get annoyed now) I again asked a member of staff for a drink. Another 10 mins and he finally came in – with no apology- and got our drinks for us.
    It was 9:45 when we were shown to our table. The restaurant has some nice views but it is completely souless in there, the atmosphere is uncomfortable with other diners whispering to each other.
    We ordered our starters – I had some vegetable/tomato salad type dish, I cant remember how it was described. My partner ordered some red wine which when it finally came was served chilled in the glass where it had been in a cold cellar.
    My starter arrived and was basically some baby sweetcorn and lettuce with tomato puree underneath. The puree literally looked like sick to the point where I couldnt eat it. Not only that but at this point it was well gone 10pm and I had lost my appetite, was tired and dreading the thought of dishing out around £100 for this meal.
    My partner was disappointed by his starter too, and was still waiting on a refill of his wine. By this point is was half 10 and I had had enough. We got up and told the restaurant manager we wanted to leave and settle up because we were disappointed. He didnt even want to hear our comments and handed us our receipt with a smug expression smiling and raising his eyebrows. What a slap in the face.

    For somewhere that boasts its excellence on the Island I really suggest the service is sorted out. The whole thing was a complete joke from start to finish and the arrogance of charging those prices is beyond me. Im all for spending that money when its worth it. The Hamborough is somewhere I never want to return.

  • A. Diner says:

    Recently enjoyed a lovely lunch here for £26, three courses and every one sublime! Very visual and a real experience. Staff attentive but discreet, and judged the timing of the service perfectly leaving us plenty of time and they were happy for us to spend pretty much all afternoon there soaking up the sea view and enjoying the fabulous food. Everyone should try it once! I was expecting the portions to be microscopic but they weren’t, and we were offered a couple of bread rolls and there were breadsticks on the table too, so those people wondering if you actually get full up – yes you do!

  • Wendy says:

    The winter warmer £99pp dinner, bed and breakfast Hambrough offer was too luxurious a treat to resist, so Ian and I booked in yesterday, staying in the spacious Room 4 on the top floor, enjoying views of the wind-churned sea whipping against Ventnor esplanade. I noticed the room had been redecorated and I liked the change; not so minimalist as a year ago. Very comfy. In fact the entire place has warmed up since our last visit. The waiting staff were great – far friendlier than last time, but without being intrusive. Gone was the hushed, robot-like delivery that Matt & Cat mention in their review. I suspect Robert Thompson has been taking note of feedback and comments.

    Full marks to The Hambrough for their winter warmer. I loved it!

    We had a pre-dinner drink in the new lounge which has been added at the back of the building (functional rather than plush). I selected from the vegetarian menu, as I was keen to see what the chef would come up with (I do eat some fish, but decided to be a purist this time). The winter truffle risotto with young leeks and hazelnut was a real highlight. The cassoulet of mixed beans, Swiss chard and baby vine tomatoes with cheese fondue and char-grilled bread croutes didn’t wow me so much. In a restaurant like this I’m always thinking, could I make this at home? And in this case it wasn’t quite so removed from my own home cooking for me to be impressed. From the regular menu, Ian chose seared Scottish scallops, cauliflower and bacon croutes, with Iberian bellota ham (which he loved), followed by Dunsbury lamb with… here I go a bit vague as I can’t find it on the online menu to check, but it involved a delicious artichoke mousse which I wouldn’t have minded eating myself.

    But as with our last visit, some of the best bits came outside the main courses: the gorgeous spindly bread sticks, this time flavoured with garlic and thyme; the range of fresh warm breads (between us we tried all three – sourdough, focaccia and walnut – and couldn’t decide on a favourite). As an appetiser Ian was served an intriguing glass filled with savoury layers and topped with bacon cappuccino (eh? But yes, yummy apparently). I had something very delicately rolled around sliced vegetables which was described as cannelloni, but was nothing like the pasta bake you’re probably thinking of.

    A pre-dessert extra was a small glass of blood orange juice topped with cardamom foam, and my pudding was so beautiful I wanted to keep it. The menu says it was parfait of Agen prune and armagnac, baked chocolate yolk and brandy snap. But the chocolate yolk came as a tall cone, wearing the brandy snap as a hoop, and sprinkled with gold shimmers. I was reminded of a wizard’s hat. I can see why Matt and Cat carry a camera, because this food is hard to describe. Anyway, it tasted as good as it looked. Ian disappointed me by going for a selection of cheeses with walnut bread and membrillo (quince cheese). He was happy, but I wanted to see what one of the other cooked desserts would be like!

    And after that (phew!) I had rosebud tea, Ian had coffee and we each had the petit fours like tiny cornets which Matt and Cat describe so well in their review.

    I was not over-stuffed, oddly enough, but the half bottle of wine did pretty much finish me off, so after a very restful night’s sleep (lovely not to have to drive home), I felt like I needed to show a little restraint at the expansive breakfast buffet this morning. I chose fruit salad (inevitably very tastily done) with Greek yoghurt and tried some of the fresh bread with a selection of fab preserves. Ian showed zero restraint, and had the whiskey-glazed porridge, which he remembered fondly from last year, followed by the full English breakfast…

    Suffice to say, we’re still rather full, and Ian’s making amends by taking the dog for a walk.

    Full marks to The Hambrough for their winter warmer. I loved it!

  • sean.wilson says:

    Oops! Thanks for correcting that, the breakfast curds were not scummy at all but very scrummy.

    Matt & Cat respond: congrats, Sean, on the most amusing typo of the week.

  • Rob says:

    I have been laughing all the way through this review as it was almost identical to our experience at the Hambrough last week. The food was fantastic from the first bite to the last, in fact I’m making a Veloute tomorrow to see if mines as good as RT’s. I felt the front of house team were excellent and although we are generally broke I think it was worth every penny we paid. I don’t live on the island but visit frequently and again I agree that you need more places like this and the islanders need to support it. We have even started a Hambrough account (old tea caddy) and hope to go back there again soon.

    I was also impressed with Robert Thompson, he was in the door to the kitchen as we were getting our coats and happily chatted to us. When we were ready to leave he walked us to the door and shook our hands and as a good business man should he said he hoped to see us again and he will.

  • sean says:

    I have been lucky enough to be treated to an overnight stay at the Hamborough, which was fantastic. One of the best breakfasts I have ever eaten with the scummiest (M&C edit: surely ‘scrummiest’?) home made curds and preserves with homemade toast, and a wonderful full english using island produce. Also the 3 course £24 lunch is great value. I tell everyone it’s a must try.

  • Hambrough fan! says:

    If you only go out once this year, save up and go here!
    It is wonderful!
    We went for lunch on a lovely Saturday, and the whole experience was top notch.

  • wendy says:

    I noticed The Hambrough is doing a “Winter Warmer” offer of £99 for dinner, bed & breakfast (excluding Friday & Saturday nights) till end of Feb. Very tempted!

  • David says:

    I went a few weeks ago. It was a Thursday, my guest and I were one of only two couples dining. The service was excellent. The food ‘art on a plate.’ It was a terrific gourmet experience, we too were fed additional treat dishes. Mr T is apparently shy but boy can he cook and present food.

    But.. I couldn’t help but wonder why on earth he’s here – and in Ventnor of all places. It’s just a bit to out of the way methinks. Shame, because the island needs places of this quality. My bill with a single £25 bottle of wine £150 ish. Worth it if you have it to spend is my view.

  • Steve says:

    I live on the IoW, but I also spend a fair amount of time in London on business. I regularly entertain clients in London’s fine restaurants, including those with a Michelin star, or two, or three. In my opinion, The Hambrough is the most consistently excellent, best value, and simply enjoyable restaurant that I have the pleasure to frequent.

    If your interest in food goes beyond survival then save up, book and go. It’s not only the best restaurant on the Isle (by a stretch), but it’s one of the best in the UK. Take an afternoon off and go midweek for the set lunch menu, 3-courses is £24, superb value for the quality on offer. It’s likely the restaurant will be quite quiet, and you can relax, take in the view, savour the flavours and enjoy yourself.

  • Norfolk Nick says:

    Further to Wendy’s comment, found this article on the IOW Radio website:,1&localnewsID=33707380

    Well done to all at The Hambrough!

    I look forward to eating here soon.

    Interesting to see that Mojac’s in Cowes has also been listed (not top 50).

  • Wendy says:

    Read this week that The Hambrough has made it into the top 50 restaurants in the UK in the 2010 Good Food Guide. Nice to see Ventnor on the UK culinary map!

  • Steve says:

    Great balanced review. I have yet to eat there (it was closed when we wnted to go) but it sounds well up there with some of the others I have been to on the mainland.

    We too spend less that £100 to feed our household for a week but that does not mean you cannot save up for an experience like this … and it is an experience.

  • Looby says:

    Just perfect……

  • James P says:

    It sounds a fascinating experience. The wine seems remarkably cheap, especially in comparison to the food, or was it, perhaps, just for one glass..?

    Matt replies: that was indeed one glass. And yes, fascinating is about right!

  • matt says:

    Stayed there last night and tackled the tasting menu. All courses were excellent, but the foie gras and beef fillet really stood out as the two exceptional dishes. Matching wines were sublime and the service faultless. We will definitely be returning.

  • RB says:

    If you don’t like it, go to Wetherspoons! Congratulations for putting the Island Back on the Map and raising awareness of the excellent local produce available here, quality comes at a price and ones opinion of value can only be measured by the pleasure gained from the experience. Worth every penny.

  • kj says:

    What a shame that people have to have a pop at a world class establishment on the Island….I know we have so many world class attractions that we can get a little complacent.

    For every establishment charging in excess of £100 for a meal you will find 10 charging under a fiver

  • Gordon says:

    It is very interesting to see that The Hanbrough has gained one Michelin Star for the quality and use of fresh seasonal foods, however I have never seen blackberries being used as a seasonal produce at this time of year before.

    I’d LOVE to know whos growing blackberries at this time of year!

  • Charles says:

    I’m not sure which Island you and your BMW live on but never mind tickets to musicals, I can feed a family of four for a week with £100. At least you got one thing right, that is alot of money.

    Carefull you don’t get lost amongst all those sheep guys.

    I couldn’t possible comment on whether it’s worth it or not as I have never visited The Hanbrough and I must say your review has not motivated me to crack open the piggy bank.

    You see I’m really quite confused about why you argue so strongly it was worth the money considering you managed to fit at least ten specific complaints into this review covering the service, decor and even the food.

    Yes I am aware critics are supposed to be objective and its the overall experience that counts but surely theres a limit!

    Could it be the mighty Matt and Cat are afraid to contend with the real critics over this “Michelin Starred” establishment.

    Carefull you don’t get lost amongst all those sheep guys.

  • kj says:

    had some record execs over for a business meeting desperate to go to the Hamborough only to discover it was closed for staff holidays until 1st of May

  • Annette says:

    Did the tasting menu (with wine) when he first started…..sublime!

    My only advice is – do NOT have cocktails before you attempt this!

    Have had several Michelin star experiences and this has to have been one of the best – fighting the urge to return (failed twice!) since it is all to handy being a mere 5 minute stroll from home.

  • Oliver Cramer says:

    Told you so – it is really very good

    The Michelins Star hasn’t affected the prices just yet…

    Very relaxing atmosphere, great tasting menu

  • Wendy says:

    Yay! Your vivid review brings back memories (only eaten there the once yet, but it definitely made a lasting impression). I know what you mean about the reverent atmosphere and the hushed staff. It’s like the food is another guest at the table, and you’re not quite sure if you’re allowed to crack a joke.

    We stayed overnight (a birthday treat for me – why go off the Island when you can spend a night in Ventnor?!) and Ian was really smitten with the whiskey-glazed porridge he had for breakfast.

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