If you follow the main road from Newport towards Sandown, or perhaps more wisely the opposite way, you’ll see at Hale Common some alluring new signs proclaiming FARM SHOP. Accept this invitation and you’ll travel down a long driveway, through some industrial-looking quarry landscape until you arrive at what appears to be an architect’s concept drawing brought to life. The huge, airy spaces of Harvey Brown’s make it one of the most remarkable purpose-built venues to open on the Island for some time. Inside one can find a vast food hall, a butchery, and of course a café, which you will appreciate is why we were there.
In the spacious and shiny new environment of Harvey Brown’s, guests walk past the pass on the way in, getting a glimpse into the busy kitchen. For if you’re thinking that a farm shop will merely be serving cream teas and warmed up local pastries, think again. We chose a sunny lunchtime table outside with views over the nearby tree-lined lake, and pondered what was an unexpectedly extensive menu.
Crab and trout gravadlax starter was a generous spiral of home-cured chalk-stream trout wrapped around a courgette strip, bookended by two rich spoonfuls of crab mayo. Pink grapefruit morsels and slices of heritage radish gave both taste and texture contrast; and a couple of warm slices of sourdough toast made this quite a substantial starter. Beautifully presented, the dish would not have been out of place on a white linen tablecloth at a fancy hotel. On the sunny Harvey Brown’s terrace this was an auspicious start.
The tasty and generously-applied crab mayo made a reappearance in the main courses with a big crab and avocado sandwich. This simple construction was all it promised, and the kitchen had wisely resisted the temptation to contaminate the subtle crab with anything to mask its taste.
Crab and gravadlax £9
Lamb shoulder £15
Crab and avocado sandwich £12
Moroccan spiced lamb shoulder had a distinctly north African feel. The advertised date and olive tagine was reduced to a handful of olives, and the charred baby romanesco looked rather like a bit of regular broccoli with a suntan. This might be put down to an overambitious new menu, because the lamb was an outstanding dish regardless. A sumptuous gravy covered the big piece of lamb with Moroccan spices and peppercorns, and the pot of pomegranate and almond tabbouleh alongside was an inspired touch.
After our lunch we took a stroll down by the nearby lake and enjoyed views of the new building which, despite its size, seems to be a great improvement to the landscape of what was an abandoned mineral works.
The dining experience on offer is far better than one might expect from a humble farm shop. Given the proud farming heritage of the Brown family we might have expected to see more local produce identified on the menu, but as this is a brand-new venture perhaps this is coming in due course. Harvey Brown’s, currently open for breakfast and lunch only, is a remarkable new addition to the Island’s attractions, and we say it will be a big success.
This is the full-length version of the review first published in the Isle of Wight County Press.
- Diverse and ambitious menu
- Excellent venue
- Not open in the evening
- Not as much local produce as expected