Matt and Cat\'s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide
The design of the interior of a pub or eating establishment will often influence the type of clientèle that patronise it. A bar with...

The design of the interior of a pub or eating establishment will often influence the type of clientèle that patronise it. A bar with traditional beams, horse brasses above the fireplace and a floridly-patterned carpet may appeal to the older punter; a bistro-style establishment with stripped-wood flooring, ten varieties of coffee and copies of The Guardian scattered about may attract the trendy middle classes and a pub, like the Horse and Groom, with about 50% of its outdoor area dedicated to entertaining children will undoubtedly be the preferred watering (and eating) hole of families.

Horse and Groom, Ningwood

Despite not being part of the preferred demographic, Matt and Cat went to the Horse and Groom to eat one tea-time during half term. The pub was packed yet they managed to squeeze themselves into a corner seat for two. It was easy to see why that particular seat had not been taken as all of the other occupants of the pub had children with them, in pushchairs, prams, slings and free-range and consequently needed a lot of space for their offspring and accompanying accessories.

And, if you are in any doubt as to the child-centricness of the place, you only have to look at the menu. Most main meals were available in smaller (and cheaper) portions for children and those with a smaller appetite. Main meals could also be blended for very young children and, for babies whose grown-up minders ordered an adult meal, there was a free jar of baby food.

To the aural accompaniment, not of Phil Collins, but of the gentle buzz of children whining and at play, Matt and Cat perused the menu. The pub offers lots of good old favourites such as burgers, chicken and chips, fish and chips, curry and pie of the day. There is also a small selection of vegetarian meals, such as lasagne and goats cheese tart. And, if that’s not enough for you, there is the specials board. The menu proudly boasts the term ‘local produce’ at the bottom of each page, however Matt and Cat were unable to find specific details of any. Usually, locally sourced ingredients will proudly have their exact provenance trumpeted in the menu, but not this time.

Vacillating between the specials board’s gammon steak – with beefsteak tomato, mozzarella and pineapple – and the menu’s roast chicken, Cat plumped for (you guessed!) chicken. Matthew had his default meal too – beefburger with cheese and bacon. Whilst waiting, M and C tried to work out which part of the vast building was the original pub. A satisfyingly rustic stone wall by their table suggested that they were sat in the oldest part; the conservatory and other extensions being non-contemporaneous.

As well as its enlargement, the pub has also undergone a transformation outside. Adjacent to the car park is a very well-appointed children’s play area with a free bouncy castle, crazy golf, tyre swings and, over the fence, some sheep(!). Children can run around outside to their heart’s (and parents’) content, whilst mum and dad keep a watchful eye from the sunny patio.

Considering how busy the pub was, Matt and Cat got their meals in quick time. Cat’s half roast chicken was vast along with a very generous portion of skinny fries and a more modest side salad. The chicken was flavoured with a hickory-smoked barbecue sauce, which seemed to be a later addition rather than a marinade. None-the-less, the meat was lovely and tender, the salad nice and crisp and the chips piping hot.

Matt’s seemingly home-made burger came with an equally generous amount of fries but, somehow, his weren’t as hot as The Cat’s. And, interestingly, he had a piece of succulent orange in his salad where she had none. Both declared their food to be in good order and at a pretty standard price. Before long the food was scoffed and, to make way for the next load of people, Matt and Cat left.

So, to sum up: a nice clean pub with good service and generous portions of standard pub fare – with a very strong emphasis on family dining. In Matt and Cat’s experience, just the sort of place that gets very busy; you might be advised to book!
Horse and Groom, Ningwood

  • Islander says:

    Ate here last night. Had a table for 7 and the food arrived quickly. Best hunters chicken we’ve had on the island (and we’ve tried many!). Very nice chips, big portion size and good service.

  • IW Regular says:

    A pop in visit for a light lunch as we are saving ourselves for the eight course tasting menu at Robert Thompson’s this evening. During our last visit 2 years ago, service was poor and food wasn’t great. Back on form this time. We both just had starters (although at £5.95 each more like main course prices!). I had nachos with beef, salsa and sour cream, topped with melted cheese. Delicious and a generous portion justified the price (and confirmed that we didn’t need a main course as well). Mrs IW Regular had Salt & Pepper Squid, which she very much enjoyed. Service was friendly and efficient. 8/10.

  • Ian A says:

    Popped in the other day as was parched. Initially had a orange juice and lemonade mix but felt peckish so ordered a basket of chips. These were the best chips ever and cooked with their jackets on. Highly recommended.

  • IW Regular says:

    We returned to the Horse and Groom last week having very much enjoyed our first visit there last year.

    Although the service was friendly, it was inefficient. Two of us ordered, one paying for 3 guests and the other 2 guests. We ordered one after the other (same table number) and stressed that we wanted the meals to arrive together. The pub was quiet and we were assured this was no problem.

    Sadly, the meals for the 3 turned up around 5 minutes before the other 2 meals. Then when the 2nd meals arrived, only the veg turned up with one of the meals, with a further delay until the main meal itself arrived. This made the whole experience awkward and disappointing.

    As for the food, I ordered a Chicken Tikka Masala but it bore no resemblance to one. It was quite tomatoey rather than creamy as it should be, with very little curry flavour.

    Having thought last year that we had found a good addition to our regular haunts, we will be less inclined to visit next year.

  • Helen says:

    We have visited a couple of times this week with our 4 year old. It is that seemingly rare thing – a restaurant that caters well for children that also provides decent food for adults. There are lots of tempting options on the specials board (husband loved the black pudding and blue cheese starter), and lots of smaller appetite options as well as the children’s menu. Even the smaller appetite options are a decent size – the regular portions are pretty massive.

    Yes, there are going to be kids around, however when we visited on a Sunday, the majority of tables were adults-only. The kids were generally happily occupied and apart from the one I heard crying occasionally, I was surprised at the number that were playing outside after lunch, as I hadn’t heard a peep out of most of them.

    Definitely worth a visit if you have little ones.

  • Simon says:

    We have visited this pub a handful of times this week after previously passing by; looked like one of those places only for families with small children. However, having read a few reviews this week, we gave it a try after being let down at another local pub. Impressive choice of food, both from the menu and the specials board. Menu was full of choices with great, quality ingredients and there was never long to wait for it to arrive. Add to that the friendly staff, it is well worth a visit, even without children.

  • TJAYSTON says:

    We were driving by and decided to stop for a lunch on a rainy bank holiday. I was pleasantly surprised~ the staff was friendly and helpful, the menu had a good variety of options with many menu items including locally sourced ingredients. The atmosphere was peaceful and not suffocating regardless of its child friendly nature and I would say the quality of food was a much welcomed step up from traditional tired pub grub. My husband ordered a starter from the special board~ chili-garlic ice cream served with sauteed tiger prawns and the fantastic combination of flavors actually brought tears to his eyes when he finished. The freshly baked bread was perfect and I liked the option of ordering a full sized meal or a small portion. They offer a children’s menu and there is plenty to keep children occupied with inside (coloring and games) and outside (bouncy castle, mini golf, climbing play area, football grounds) with outside tables and benches.

  • Nick Churchill says:

    The comments I had heard were verbal NOT written down in previous reviews and based on the fact that the H&G is up for sale, I wanted to find out for myself whether the standard had dropped because of this. A massive shame if they had due to the property being on the market!

    All the reviews on this site and the comments are subjective by their nature so its not a case of ignoring reviews its making your own mind up and making comment and sharing your own opinions

  • Colin D says:

    We ate here a few weeks ago and the food was just average. By avarage I mean not particularly good but not particularly bad. The staff were all friendly enough but the pub just did not have that WOW factor. IMHO ‘The Fighting Cocks’, Arreton & ‘The White Horse’, Whitwell set the bar for family dining on the Isle and the Horse and Groom is a little way off their standards.

    I wasn’t going to bother commenting on our meal at the H&G but the previous reviewer said, “so ignore what people may be saying…..”. This begs the question, why would you visit a review site if you are to ignore any of the reviews you don’t agree with?

  • nick churchill says:

    Just came back from a very enjoyable meal…I had been told that the quality had dropped but far from it!! i had the 8oz sirloin from the specials board and Alex had the double plain jane burger. the sirloin was well cooked and presented and wonderfully tender, the chips crisp with a fluffy centre.

    I finished with aple and saltana crumble…the only criticism being the crumble was hard to find, but the apple was well cooked with a hint of cinnamon. so ignore what people may be saying the food is great and the young chap behind the bar and the ladies serving are fantastic.

  • Paul Heathcote says:

    Visited here last week, as it looked like a place that would keep the kids busy with a bouncy castle, crazy golf etc. We ordered a drink whilst we looked at the menu, but never got as far as eating. As soon as we went outside with our drinks we were inundated with wasps – so much so that we decied not to eat and to go somewhere else.
    When we mentioned to the people behind the bar why we were going, we were told that they had two wasps nests that had been treated the day before, but there were still some remianing wasps. The guy also pointed out that ‘this is the countryside, you know’ – odd wasps are normal for the countryside, two dozen aren’t!

    Once the wasps are gone I’m sure the place is lovely, but we’ll never know!

  • nananew says:

    We went to the Horse & Groom on the 23rd of August when the weather was awful!
    The main area was packed but we had reserved and were seated in the conservatory. The surroundings were pleasent enough and we didn’t mind waiting for the food because it was busy. The rain all of a sudden picked up started to pour through the roof of the conservatory onto one of my unfortunate relatives. Then it gushed through by the electric light and continued to pour down the wall. The staff quickly got us buckets. When the food came the only bad comment was the pie didn’t have any pastry but as it was busy we let it slide! There was a big group of us as it was my son’s goodbye party and the food all came within ten minutes of the first person getting their dish. As with most Island pubs I would recommend it in the winter but steer clear of it in holiday season. The staff were friendly and the pub was clean apart from the high chairs which have been well used over the evening.

  • Nick Churchill says:

    Ate here twice this week, 15th and 16th of April. On the 15th I had Steak and local Ale Pie, I am guessing Goddards Ale but it wasn’t stated, The Meat and Gravy was tasty and succulent but the pastry lid on the individual pie dish had appeared to exploded during cooking, non the less it was very good, accompanied by boiled potatoes, Cabbage, baby carrots and Broccoli. My Partner had Fish Pie served with peas and pronounced that as really really nice, lots of Salmon and Haddock in a thick sauce covered in fluffy mash. My son Alex had the Sausage and Mash in onion gravy. We went back on Friday 16th April, Nicky had the Chicken Korma with poppadom, Nann Bread and Rice and enjoyed it although there was rather a lot of rice for one person to deal with! Alex had the plain Jane Burger with chips and cleared his plate so no complaints there! I had the rather amusingly named Porky Jack, a burger served with bacon and Monterey jack cheese, with chips and salad, a lovely mix of leaves with tomato and cucumber..and a wedge of orange (like a previous reviewer I am puzzled with that too!!). Good basic pub fair served in pleasant surroundings wit very attentive staff who made us very welcome!! A must visit!!

  • Dribble says:

    Wouldn’t recommend this pub to anyone. Salad not even washed, and not sure that the plates were either. The first vegetable lasagne cooked to death in the microwave so that my fork wouldn’t even penetrate it and the replacement was gloopy and utterly disapointing.
    The lasagne dishes had black charcoal on the bottoms which ended up smeared all over your plate and salad. Extremely poor.

  • Kenny says:

    Went here the other afternoon for lunch. Nice interior, location and atmosphere, although a little bit disappointed in the food we ordered. The food was served extremely quickly, though almost a bit too quickly. Found the lasagne to be a bit too cheesed up with mozzerella, making it really gloopy and sloppy – not really how a lasagne should look or taste like.
    Other than that everything was fine except the sweetcorn was missing from the tuna and sweetcorn sandwich.
    It wasn’t too bad as pubs go I guess, friendly staff etc, but wouldn’t really go out of my way to recommend it to anyone and wouldn’t be on the top of my list of pubs to return to on the Isle.

  • Reen says:

    We first went in the evening time in the early summer and had a really good pub meal. Returned last week in the afternoon and experienced quite the opposite. The food quality had decreased and the presentation left a lot to be desired. The food looked like it had been chucked on the plate.

    With so many good places on the island, there is no need to return here.

  • Hannah says:

    We visited this establishment for Dad’s birthday, there was 8 of us and we had no booking but they were still able to seat us straight away.
    The food was good value and delicious.
    Would definatley recommend.

  • Mad Mart says:

    After a visit with a friend some months ago where we received heaps of food of excellent quality at a good price, we made a return visit this week with Grandpa waving his wallet around (a rare sight indeed). Food was good all round, with the exception of DWs Korma, which was a watery vaguely curry flavoured anonymous something. I had made the wise decision to choose the Hake from the specials board which was excellent, beautifully cooked and delicately flavoured. The kids had some enormous small portions, and played swapsies as usual, while Granma and Grandpa devoured steaks which were on special offer. Desserts followed (hey, with Grandpa paying we were not going to miss out on dessert!!) and remedied DWs poor main course, leaving her a happy bunny with tummy full of chocolate goo.

    So, after a near perfect first visit, attempt two was almost there, if only the chef knew how to make a Korma.

  • Sammy says:

    Having the day to ourselves with no objectional teen to have to drag out kicking and screaming, my husband and I decided to have lunch at the horse and groom, I could not remember what Matt and Cat had said about it and so only had my personal experience of 10 years + ago so I was a bit dubious, however! on arriving the place was very busy with all inside tables booked but a very nice man who was directing traffic to tables said we could sit at one of them as it was not booked for 3/4 of hour. we both went for the carvery and found it to be very nice, the veg was all cooked nicely and it was all hot which makes a change from some places. we then had deserts ‘Toffee lumpy bumpy’ which if you have a very sweet tooth is well worth saving a bit of space for as it is very yummy 🙂 for a very busy pub I give it the thumbs up for nice staff, hot tasty food and yummy puds.

  • hehe nice site old chap keep it coming!

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