Archive review: this venue is closed.  Known for many years as “Joe Daflo’s”, the Ryde branch of Joe’s was for a long time one...

Archive review: this venue is closed. 

Known for many years as “Joe Daflo’s”, the Ryde branch of Joe’s was for a long time one of Matt & Cat’s all-time favourite eateries on the Island. Another branch offering a similar experience exists in Newport – this review is about that Newport branch.

Matt and Cat had a works Christmas dinner at Joe’s, Newport (yes, in their own time, thank you). With the whole of the upper floor hired out for their festivities, a good time was anticipated. Arriving down at the bar, the large party was able to enjoy drinks and chat before ascending the classy staircase to the waiting long table, laid out for a feast. This was a really good way to do it – Joe’s is certainly well set up for this kind of event. Better still, the upstairs appears to be non-smoking, which is a good thing as the bar downstairs is still one of the few places on the Island where you can be sure of getting a good lungful of Marlboro whether you’ve paid for it or not.

Starter for Cat was almond salad – a pleasant dish which was little more than almonds and, well, salad dressed with cranberry vinaigrette. Matt took some onion soup, a hot and nourishing broth with a good texture and plenty of real onion in it. There then followed a long interval, during which the group enjoyed some waggish repartee. After even the appeal of the ‘Guess the baby portrait’ competition was beginning to wane, the main course finally began to arrive. Although the restaurant was full, given that the party had preselected their menu choices some weeks beforehand, the long wait was not really a reasonable thing. The food, however, proved to be very good indeed. Matt had chosen traditional roast goose, and was delighted with the huge hunk of perfectly cooked meat, not in any way greasy but moist and tasty with a tangy, gamey gravy that set the dish off perfectly. Piles of vegetables came alongside, including excellent roast parsnips and some rather impenetrable potatoes. Cat had chosen roast turkey, and this was served sliced, with stuffing, gravy, pigs-in-blankets and those same very well-cooked roast potatoes. A colleague who chose the vegetarian option was a little disappointed to be served potato gratin accompanied by potatoes. Mmm, double starch anyone? However, overall, once it had finally arrived the main course got the thumbs-up.

…customers are walking out rather than wait for food they’ve already paid for…

There then followed an even longer wait. Despite, or perhaps because of, the upper room, the waiting staff did not appear at any time other than to serve the food or take away the dishes, so no drinks could be ordered nor enquiries made about when the next course might be anticipated. This was not the best service. As it was, it was whilst some of the group were getting into their coats that the dessert course began to appear: they hurriedly sat down again. Matt and Cat had both chosen strawberry cheesecake. Both were served with a truly massive slab of exquisite cheesecake, accompanied unusually and cleverly by condensed milk. Even Matt was unable to finish the mighty portion on offer – although he would dearly have liked to. Coffee was to follow, but by then nobody had the time or the heart to wait for it, and the group bid their farewells and left.

So a strangely mixed experience. A good venue, no doubt. The food was really good: a traditional Christmas dinner presented very well with some innovative and enjoyable twists. However, at £20 per head the whole thing was well above the market rate for a Christmas lunch. The speed of the service, and the scarcity of the waiting staff was almost embarrassing. Everyone’s busy at Christmas, and it’s reasonable to expect delays. But when your customers are walking out rather than wait for food they’ve already paid for, it’s surely time to wonder about how you’re delivering those exquisite dishes.