You must have heard us blather on about how folks on the Isle of Wight orientate themselves by where the post office used to be. One of Cat’s first experiences of being given directions followed a trail of landmarks that were no longer there; “Past where that old copper beech tree was, on the other side of the road to where the post office used to be.” None the wiser.
Well, for once we can reciprocate, but this time the place in question is distinctly where the post office still is. In fact Niton post office is quite the hybrid; a bit of post office stirred in with a real ale bar and topped with a wood-fired pizza oven. The buzz about the place had made it to our towny ears, so we decided to head to the Island’s deep south to see whether or not Joe’s Bar at Niton Post Office’s good reputation was all (wood) smoke and mirrors.
At first glance the venue looks unassuming, although we were impressed with the gold-edged hand-script signage which told us we were in the right place. We are determined not to use the words ‘Slaughtered Lamb’ in this review, but there was certainly an element of Joe’s Bar being a local bar for local people. We made our way through the sunny front lounge to the counter but it was a while before we were acknowledged – and probably quite rightly; the locals need nurturing first as they are the ones who will keep the place going in the off-season, not us occasional visitors.
Having been given (some of) the menu, we made an order of pizza, a side salad and cheesy chips. Matt took advantage of Cat’s designated driver status and had a couple of pints of draught cloudy cider from the unexpectedly well-stocked bar, which was also home to some real ales.
We’d been told that the venue was like someone’s living room but even minimalist Cat has wallpaper in her lounge. Joe’s seemed to have been created used upcycled materials from across the village, which may be a style affectation (interiors are all about the industrial luxe these days) or is perhaps down to budgetary constraints. This is certainly no criticism as one of our favourite venues, Ventnor’s Stripped, proudly limits itself to essential fixtures and fittings.
Various dogs gave us the eye as we enjoyed our post-work drink, along with assorted overall-clad chaps and one fella who had lost his mother en-route to the pub. Most people seemed to know who she was and, in fact, she phoned someone other than her son to report her whereabouts. Joe’s Bar, like the Bull in The Archers, seems to be the hub around which the village turns.
The adjoining table took delivery of a rather handsome pork steak and a pasta dish, neither of which had been on our menu. Turns out there was another menu too but, no matter, we were not disappointed with our choices when they came.
For all the venue’s ramshackle charm, there was certainly a sharp talent in the kitchen. The pizzas were not only enormous, but were generously-topped with fresh and imaginative ingredients. We argued over who was going to order the pizza tartufi and, although Matt won, Cat snaffled it off him when it came tableside. The vast disc of sourdough was topped with tasty garlic mushrooms and plenty of leafy spinach, three different sorts of cheese and truffle oil.
Pizza tartufi £12
Pizza crudo £12
Caprese salad £5
Cheesy chips £4
Our other pizza was the pizza crudo, named for the salt-cured prosciutto ham that was generously folded on top; slightly curled from the heat of the oven. More acidic than the mellow white sauce-based tartufi, this tomato-based pizza had some strong flavours. The salty ham, peppery rocket and sour parmesan made an effective combination and a bold pizza.
This dinner was all about the cheese and Matt’s cheesy chips held their own, with regulation oven-cooked chips smothered with not only grated cheddar but a creamy cheese sauce throughout. Even Matt had to eventually admit defeat.
The classic caprese salad was refreshing; smooth mozzarella and slices of big tomato were alternated with sweet fresh basil leaves, all drizzled with rich balsamic. A good rendition of this traditional Italian dish.
Not only could we not finish the chips but several slices of pizza were boxed up for us to enjoy for next day’s lunch. Our stomachs were too full for dessert either; under normal circumstances Cat would’ve been delighted with lemon posset, and Matt undoubtedly would’ve ordered deep-fried nutella doughnut strips. Not this time – but maybe the next.
Finding Joe’s Bar at the rear of Niton Post office feels like discovering a speakeasy. There’s no artifice about the place, in fact it is resoundingly authentic. It seems like a genuine locals’ country pub – because it is one. The well-stocked cellar and wood-fired pizza oven are signs that this destination is not as haphazard as may seem. We were impressed by the food and, once warmed up, the service was attentive. One of our instagram followers has asked us not to tell, but you know us – if a place is worth boasting about, then we are happy to recommend it.
- Authentic locals pub
- Excellent pizza
- A post office is included
- Takes a while to warm up to you