The Island deli is now closed. If the Isle of Wight is twenty years behind the mainland then in 1989, the north island must...

The Island deli is now closed.

If the Isle of Wight is twenty years behind the mainland then in 1989, the north island must have been awash with trendy tapas bars, cheap carveries and boutique Indian restaurants.

Island Deli; baguette with chorizo

Matt and Cat are pleased that the Island may be in a time warp – perhaps this little oasis will buck the national trends of redundancies and property slump. Certainly the number of new eateries has shown no sign of diminishing.

Joining the plethora of new venues is the Island Deli, one of three delicatessens in the small seaside town of Ventnor. Ryde – the Island’s largest town – could do with a shop where M and C might purchase supplements to their extravagant diet; olives, local cheese, maybe home-made jam. However, they’re not afraid to go south in search of such fine fare and, following a bracing walk along the Canute-style sea defences on the Ventnor coastline, they stopped at the Island Deli for some refreshment.

As well as specialist foods, fresh vegetables and vegetarian staples, this clean and well-stocked little shop sells food to eat in – at two stools at a small counter and a large window-side table. Fortunately for Matt and Cat, they knew the people at the refectory-style table; room was made and both parties sat together to chat. It’s perhaps a reflection on the small-town pleasure of Ventnor that as well as these friends, three other people they knew passed by and said hello during Matt and Cat’s meal. At least one had to be restrained and ‘shushed’ after getting very excited at discovering your reviewers in flagrante. Really, what’s to be done? If you spot Matt and Cat eating out, dear readers, they’d love to say hello, but at least wait until the proprietors are out of earshot. And refrain from cover-blowing gurning and pointing.

Before they had sat down, Matt and Cat were approached by the waitress, keen to bring them lunch and a drink. However, they preferred to first read the menu, which was clearly marked ‘breakfast and lunch’; enticing and well-laid out with homely headers such as ‘yoghurty things’. A specials board had a few extras on offer, but Matt was drawn to the sandwich menu, usefully divided into ‘The Meat Ones, ‘The Veggie Ones’, and ‘The Fish Ones’. A baguette with chorizo, Manchego and tomato was his choice – and he didn’t even ask what Manchego was. It’s sometimes a kind of ‘Call My Bluff‘ when it comes to menus, and Matt is getting pretty good at spotting Spanish cheese.

Swiss cheese and balsamic mushroom sandwich

Cat chose a Swiss cheese and balsamic mushroom sandwich, although there were plenty of other items that caught her fancy including goats cheese panini with caramelised onions.

Island Deli has a rare feature on Ventnor High Street; a big window at the back of the shop which faces south so, unlike almost every other shop in the street, patrons of Island Deli can enjoy sunlight. This made for a relaxing and enjoyable environment and showed off the attractive food. However, sometimes the light of the sun can be unforgiving. Take for example the case of craggy Yorkshire chatmeister Michael Parkinson who was once seen in the street by two women who were heard to say, “he doesn’t take daylight”.

Mushroom and tomato on toast

Soon enough the food turned up, and the diners tucked in. Matt’s baguette was fresh, and the Manchego was a suitably Iberian accompaniment to the chorizo. A clump of rocket made a refreshing peppery garnish to a well-presented lunch. Cat’s balsamic mushrooms and Swiss cheese was similarly satisfying. The white bread was a good doorstep wedge and the cheese nice and nutty. The difference between balsamic and non-balsamic mushrooms might be one that requires a certain amount of expertise to detect, but overall the sandwich and its garnish were pretty good.

Keen to prolong the tea drinking and chat, Matt and Cat chose from the delightful range of what appeared to be home-made cakes. Cat’s lemon drizzle cake was not particularly juicy and alas did not compare to the Best Lemon Cake on the Isle of Wight made by Mrs Ridd and sampled at the Isle of Wight hedgelaying competition. Matt had rhubarb and ginger crumble with cream, which was excellent and, washed down with a very decent cup of tea – chosen from a good selection and poured from a capacious pot.

Matt and Cat’s bill (for 3)
Chorizo baguette £3.50
Cheese and mushroom sandwich £3.50
Tomato on toast £2.25
Mushroom on toast £2.25
Tea for 3 twice: £7.20
Lemon drizzle cake: £1.50
Cake: £1.25
Cream: 25p
Total: £21.70

When your reviewers could hardly think of any excuse to sit and chat any longer, and had eaten and drank enough to refuel them for the coming walk back that afternoon, it was time for them to settle up and set off again.

At this point some confusion about the bill arose. After some analysis it became apparent that there were three rogue drinks on the bill and some other items that should have been on it but weren’t. Also, Matt and Cat’s companion had been taken with the section of the menu called ‘Things on Toast’, and, unable to choose between mushroom and tomato, opted for both – and had been charged for both as two separate meals. Not unreasonable, seeing as she ordered and ate them, but the charge wasn’t what she expected and some warning might have been helpful. Similarly, the cream Matt had rather greedily asked for on his crumble been added as 25p extra cost. Again, some warning would have helped. Cat spent some time working out the discrepancies with the lady at the till and even after much head scratching she was not entirely sure that the correct amount was paid – but it was not far out.

Island Deli, Ventnor

So M & C left Island Deli, having had some really good food in a relaxing venue. The puzzlement over the bill was a minor niggle, and certainly won’t put your reviewers off from a return visit – and perhaps they might even buy some of the other delicacies on offer, too.

The Island deli is now closed.
Archive review: Island Deli, Ventnor