Matt and Cat\'s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide
If you were to visit East Cowes marina and its Lifeboat Inn by boat, it would be easy to imagine that you were in...

If you were to visit East Cowes marina and its Lifeboat Inn by boat, it would be easy to imagine that you were in a cosmopolitan waterside town, wealthy from development money. However, approaching the marina from the east, through streets of red brick terraced houses, past tall factories and finally winding through the tiny cul-de-sacs of a small housing estate with serried Wimpey homes, you might think that East Cowes was a bit, well, mundane.

But despite the fiddly land-based route, reminiscent of that to the Crab and Lobster, Bembridge, the Lifeboat Inn is worth the journey.

The Lifeboat Inn, East Cowes

Cat had one previous experience of this venue, not long after it first opened and before it was run by the current management. Her over-riding memory was of a tongue-searing lemon sponge pudding so thoroughly nuked that it resembled the nugget of concentrated evil that features at the end of the film ‘Time Bandits‘.

However, that shrivelled sweet was from a different era; Matt and Cat’s experience of the food at the Lifeboat one recent summer evening was far more positive. The pub has undergone a refurbishment since Cat’s last visit. The florid carpet has been replaced by wooden floors, and the flowery walls are now clad in stylish tongue-and-groove in a pleasing muted blue. The exterior of the pub has also been repainted, although if you were to have a seat on the ample terrace you would most likely turn your back on the pub to enjoy the view of the marina and Cowes, across the busy Medina.

The pub’s menu had a very interesting variety of food including a squid and scampi salad, seared lambs liver and Vietnamese five-spice noodles. In addition to these exotics, there were also steak options, pasta and daily specials. Matt was tempted by the seared lambs liver and Cat could not resist the curry of the day – chicken korma.

Seared lambs liver and bacon

With barely a moment to eavesdrop on their nearby diners, your reviewers’ meals were delivered. Matt’s grill heralded its own arrival by sizzling excitingly on a piping hot skillet – a tower of meat, mushrooms and onions with an accompanying bowl of ‘shoestring fries’. Matt had been surprised at being asked how he wanted his liver cooked, the other surprise of the dish was the unexpected but welcome seam of bacon nestling under the liver. Cat’s chicken korma was equally well-presented; a generous bowl of creamy looking curry and rice with a separate dish of chutneys and a vertical poppudum, hove into view like a galleon in full sail!

Chicken korma

Avast me hearties!

The korma’s thick sauce was very creamy and covered plenty of big lumps of tender chicken. It was topped by a handful of chopped fresh coriander. The rice was fluffy and not at all sticky. And it was delicious. Really, really nice – slightly hotter than one might expect for a mild curry, but that is not a complaint. The poppadum was crispy and the chutneys were tasty and cooling. Excellent!

Matt’s liver and bacon was an perfect rendition of the classic combination. Freshly fried onions partnered battered onion rings to make a splendid counterpoint to a sizzling pile of thick bacon and succulent liver. The shoestring fries would have been even better if they had been real chips with sensible names and proportions, but were perfectly adequate nonetheless.

As soon as Matt had finished his grill, his plates were removed by the attentive waiting staff. As Cat was still eating, this led to a discussion about whether this was diligent service or bordering on rudeness. What do you think? This was a tiny blip in what was a very good eating experience. Pleasant surroundings, delicious and interesting well-cooked food, reasonable prices. Thumbs up!

  • Lee Atkins says:

    Not a good experience. Not usually one for moaning but ruined my birthday.We could not order the starter a main together had to order separate which we found very strange. All three of our steaks came out tough and burnt after asking for them to be medium to rare. We sent them back as was told that the chef would cook them exactly the same the second time. Not a very good attitude. In stead of being offered something different we were left gob smacked. So we had to ask for something different. We were not offered anything as an apology. To top it all off the bottle of house wine was like vinegar. I was very disappointed with the Life Boat. It ruined are night.

  • Kelvin says:

    UPDATE –
    Power to the people! Have had confirmation from the manager at the Lifeboat, Rowena, that all vouchers issued from now on will include int eh small print ‘Voucher must be used in one transaction’. Thankfully she was happy to swap our voucher for 2 smaller ones so that we can use them over 2 occasions.

  • Kelvin says:

    This review isnt about the food (as we never got to eat!) but more of a warning to those who have a voucher to use here at the Lifeboat.
    This evening, less than an hour ago, my mum and I (just the 2 of us), went for an evening meal down at the Lifeboat. For her birthday, my mum and received a £40 voucher to use at the Lifeboat, and the plan was to use the voucher on 2 occasions, using around £20 each time. We placed the order, which came to around £22, but were told that, to be able to use the voucher, the whole of the £40 had to be used in one transaction. As we didnt want to spend £40 on a meal for 2, and because we didnt have any cash on us, we left without having a single bite to eat. There was no mention of having to use the whole of the voucher in one transaction on the voucher itself or on the letter that came with it.
    Also, it seems that the menu that is on the Lifeboats’ website is several years out of date. There is also a much smaller choice on said menu, now that it has been taken over (yet again!) by another company.

    UPDATE –
    Power to the people! Have had confirmation from the manager at the Lifeboat, Rowena, that all vouchers issued from now on will include int eh small print ‘Voucher must be used in one transaction’. Thankfully she was happy to swap our voucher for 2 smaller ones so that we can use them over 2 occasions.

  • mandy says:

    The in-laws came to visit this week and due to living on the river it was the closest place to eat. they have eaten there everyday and have taken us a few times too. have tried a large part of the menu and there hasn’t been a single complaint. the food has always been fresh and the staff welcoming.

  • Sean says:

    Having been spoilt by Sunday Roast at the Little Gloster last week, which was fantastic we went to a 21st Family Birthday meal out at The Lifeboat this Sunday. The service excellent, place full to the rafters, the food..the roast lacked flavour all round, frozen potatoes it seemed,very watery wet veg, and over cooked meat, lovely place and people, but food was pretty average. Someone commented at under half the cost the roast at The Sloop is better.

  • Karen says:

    Ate at The Lifeboat lunchtime today. Found it by accident whilst searching for East Cowes Marina and killing time before our ferry back to Southampton, after a short break in IOW. The food was excellent, as was the service and the quantities were great – we couldn’t eat it all. I had the whitebait which was delicious and arrived with huge bowl of chips, salad and coleslaw; partner had the steak with stilton sauce and said it was one of the best he’d ever tasted – perfectly medium rare.
    Oh how we wish we’d found this place sooner and not, alas, hours before we had to return to the mainland. Lovely staff, speedy service, great value for money and fabulous location.
    There’s no mention of the Lifeboat in any of the free island guides we picked up – such a shame! but maybe it should remain East Cowes’ best kept secret – we’ll be back next time we visit.
    Loved it!

    Matt and Cat respond: Thanks for your comment, Karen. We hope that you had a nice time on the Island. Don’t forget to check out our site again next time you visit 🙂

  • Will says:

    We ate here today and to be honest the food was very substandard. My Vietnamese chicken was a dry piece of chicken with what tasted like very bland but burnt allspice all over it. Very poor indeed. My partner had fishcakes, which were very bland and the vegetables were drowned in oil. All in all it was a terrible dining experience, but as the staff never bothered to ask us how the food was they didn’t get an opportunity for feedback. We only ate the food at all because we were starving.

  • Trev & Jo says:

    The portions are too small, but the food is consistantly very good. Please make the meals 20% larger and you guys will be one of the nicest pubs to eat in on the island.

  • Miked says:

    I have enjoyed many good meals at The Lifeboat, all fine but maybe the portions could be a little larger.
    Matt’s liver & bacon looks a little suspect, That liver looks a little Black and although the cook will say it’s caramalised, there is a rule that says “Brown is cooked… Black is Fooked”

  • Tony Green says:

    Had a meal with my wife in The Lifeboat, East Cowes during August. Apologies for the late posting, only having just discovered Matt and Cats website.
    Crab cakes were tasty but the side order of chips had to be the smallest, thinest, most expensive tiny bowl of chips I have every had. Service was good but I suggest the owner perhaps pay a visit to the Mill Bay Inn in Ventnor to get some idea of waht a side bowl of chips should look like.

  • Trevor says:

    Please disregard my last comment, we went to the lifeboat yesterday and had the sizzling rump, absolutely fabulous, perfect rare steak, ecellent onion and mushroom, piping hot, plenty of chips, perfect. Could not find one fault, and the staff were really good too. All in all, 10/10. One of the best pub meals to be had on the island.

  • Trevor says:

    We have always found the food here to be above average, the only complaint is that the portions tend to be small.

  • Ros says:

    My husband and I love the Lifeboat. Always great food and served amazingly quickly. Try the sizzler, or one of the specials. You will never be disappointed with the taste or presentation and it is very reasonably priced for the quality of food. The only drawback of moving away from East Cowes is not being within walking distance of the Lifeboat any more!! Boo hoo!

  • Jonesey says:

    Hi, we recently ate at the Lifeboat and have eaten there several times before but this time it was a little disappointing, I ordered the Ploughmans and it was literally half a plates of salad (lettuces, cucumber, tomato) with a triangle of cheese, a small tablespoon of coleslaw, one pickled onion sliced up, l a small pot of pickle (very sweet, more like jam!) and about 2 inches of very thin baguette…..very disappointing don’t you agree??? The rest of the family’s meals were satisfactory although we did find the childrens menu a little poor, not enough choice!

  • Martin says:

    Just had a fab meal here with friends from foreign parts (Scotland, that’s even beyond ENGLAND folks!). Peaceful atmosphere (at least until we turned up…), prompt, friendly service (but our plates weren’t whisked away too quickly) and great food. We particularly liked their sizzling platters, but puds were good too. Portion sizes are sensible, plenty of food but without leaving excess. If only they ran a boat service across the Medina we would surely visit more often!

    • Sandra Rowe says:

      We find it very sad you are now lacking on starters . White bait is now a huge main course it’s too much . Bring back tasty starters , squid , Whitebait etc , we love eating Tapas style , we live a few yards away but have to visit the Folly for wonderful selections and FILLET steak with peppercorn sauce .
      Could never complain of Life Boat staff . Brilliant , food needs to be more exciting .

  • Breda and Tony says:

    We had lunch here recently and both had soup which was really good. It was homemade and served with big chunks of wholemeal bread.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.