Matt and Cat\'s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide
Matt is a proud man and one of his proudest achievements is a thing he hasn’t even done. He will crow to anyone within...

Matt is a proud man and one of his proudest achievements is a thing he hasn’t even done. He will crow to anyone within earshot that he has never been to a McDonald’s, not even poked his size elevens over the threshold. It’s not clear who he’s trying to impress with this inconsequential constraint and, for all he knows, he could really be missing out on something good. After all, people are lovin’ it!

Big Mac 'n' fries

So, in the interests of their readers and to demonstrate to the big fella what he might be missing, Cat undertook the McDonald’s mission while, a few doors up, Matt tried English fast food at Stotesbury’s chippy.

Unlike some restaurants where the shopfront doesn’t even hint at the pleasures within, McDonald’s has vast windows, showing an enticing and brightly lit world of clean tables, munching families and uniformed staff waggling a broom across the spotless floor. Cat pushed at the door and took a tentative step into the restaurant, trying not to look like a noob.

McDonald's, Newport

The layout of McDonald’s has been honed to perfection; after all, the company has over half a century of experience to draw upon. The incomer is lured towards the high-level photographs of yummy-looking food at the rear of the eatery. Cat’s eyes scanned along the pictures of crispy battered chicken nestled in perfectly browned seeded bread, with more than a hint of clean and fresh-looking salad poking out of the edges. She then glanced along to the beefy selection.

Want another picture of the Big Mac meal? Here it is!

Cat, determined to immerse herself in this universal fast food experience, forewent the healthier-looking chicken and foliage options and plumped straight for a Big Mac. This signature burger looked appetising enough from its portrait: two meat patties alternated with bread, cheese and lettuce and, as the ‘Big Mac Meal’, it came with fries and a drink. Cat asked about the drinks choices as though she was at a sophisticated bar, and the server duly reeled off the range: fizzies, hot drinks and orange juice. Unlike KFC, Cat was able to choose Tropicana without paying extra, and so she did.

Cat’s bill
Big Mac meal £3.89

While her server disappeared to find some change, another chap popped up and laid out Cat’s gift-wrapped food on a tray. Some condiments were requested and added to the meal. Cat was slightly disappointed that the Heinz ketchup was in a little tub and was not dispensed from a sauce fountain like the one she had seen at McDonald’s, Ryde. Palming her change, Cat took her meal and, spying a little counter in the middle of the restaurant, she thought, “I’ll sit at that counter”. At that very moment a third chap attended to her, “Don’t sit at the counter until I’ve wiped it for you”, said Joe. Cat was surprised. “Did you read my mind, or did I say that out loud?”, she asked. Joe explained that he’d spotted her intent as she had swivelled towards the little bar area and, in a flash he’d given the counter a wipe. “Let me know if there’s anything else you need”, he added.

Cat was astounded at all this unexpected attention. Having heard demeaning remarks about spotty teenagers dumbly flipping burgers she is very happy to renounce those clichés. That may be the case in the rest of this global franchise but the Isle of Wight McDonald’s experience was better than in some of the more salubrious places Cat has eaten.

Anyway, parking herself at the counter she examined her packages. A gaping carton of fries revealed its stick-like contents. The burger’s cardboard casket was prised open and Cat was presented with something not unlike the photo of the Big Mac. It was a tall bun filled with the aforementioned ingredients, although they were slightly deflated. The burgers themselves were thin, slimmer than anything that Captain Birdseye had ever created for The Cat in the 1970s when meat was still being rationed. The lettuce wasn’t quite as abundant and springy, looking suspiciously like iceberg rather than the curly greens of the photo. Indicating the burger’s cardinal points were four tiny yellow triangles, poking out from under the bottom burger like finches’ beaks. These turned out to be the visible parts of a square slice of cheese. The inner portion of the dairy treat had melted into a runny paste and assimilated itself with the iceberg lettuce. Cat wondered if the ‘bird beaks’ were added post-production to give the impression of solid cheese, and the sub-burger area was dressed with some liquid cheese simulation. Cat decided to eat her gherkin although it was clear from observing her fellow diners that the purpose of this vegetable remnant was to be flicked disdainfully out of the bun. It added nothing but a salty crunch to the burger and she wished she had gone native and had flung it to one side.

The bar at which Cat sat was occupied on the facing side by two young girls who, until her arrival had been quietly eating their food. Suddenly they started larking about in a noisy and, frankly, ill-mannered way; screaming at the tops of their voices with their mouths agape, revealing half-masticated food. Cat turned round to see what they were laughing at. Server Joe was right behind her, standing stock still like a statue. As she turned to face the girls, the yelling started again and it didn’t take Cat long to realise that the previously impeccably courteous Joe was behaving provocatively behind her to entertain the children. Anyone who has ever tried to make fun of a cat of any variety will understand her reaction. All of her food was still on its tray so she gathered her things and found another seat. Passing Joe, he sheepishly said sorry to her.

Cat settled into the store’s ‘gangster seat’, i.e. in a corner facing the door so that she could see the whole room in one glance. It wasn’t as nice a perch as her bar stool, being as it was next to the toilets, but at least she was moderately free from torment. By now the food had gone cold; its journey from servery to stomach is probably designed to be about three minutes so there was no chance it would retain its heat for the quarter of an hour or so it had been in Cat’s possession. As she nibbled away at her cold supper, she saw Matt peering through the window; outside in the rain he was nonetheless determined not to break his duck.

Once the last of the fries had been washed down with the dregs of the orange juice, Cat took her litter and deposited it in the bin on her way out. She and Matt reconvened in the adjacent George Inn for a postprandial coffee and to compare notes. Matt described his pleasure at eating his Stotesbury’s fish supper. Cat concluded that the McDonald’s experience started out extremely well. Clear instructions, a constantly cleaned environment and very attentive staff – despite the woeful misjudgement of the children’s entertainer – were all hallmarks of an excellent establishment. As for the food itself, Cat couldn’t remember having eaten it; thereby having truly participated in the global McDonald’s experience.

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  • Jamie

    26th March 2012 #1 Author

    I do find it funny how I’ve read two reviews today out of boredom, both mentioning Joe haha!


  • da yw wyth

    1st January 2011 #2 Author

    Well, kj, I have never been to the Taverners or the Hambrough and sure I would not feel at home there if I did. The local chippie is more my style, so no accusations of snobbery please!

    Yes, a paradox, as many of life’s most profound truths are! Places like Macdonalds profess to stimulate competition, but in fact use their economic muscle to stifle and ultimately eliminate the competition.

    A locally-owned and sourced version of MacDonalds? No problem. MacAttrill’s? – bring it on!!


  • kj

    1st January 2011 #3 Author

    bit of a paradox then…ban or exclude bland uniformity – or loose the ability to descerne what is good….If every resteraunt outlet was the same as (eg) the Taverners or The Hamborough then we would have posh uniformity.

    Diversity is the answer and McDonalds is part of that ignore them is to ignore 2/3 of the worlds population who eat there…and thats just eco-friendly snobbery

    PS..I am also a very seldom user of such places..but appreciate the choice.


  • da yw wyth

    1st January 2011 #4 Author

    A bit misleading to use the words “WE like” then??? I had the impresssion up-to-now that your site promotes choice, diversity and choice. The point about these places is that that’s exactly what they’re out to destroy. By offering the supposed “good value” the idea is to undermine local competetion leaving a situation where only their bland uniformity holds sway. Just like what’s happened in the retail world, and you wonder why there is no deli in Ryde! Unlike Matt I have resorted to these places on the mainland when there has been no alternative, so I do speak from experience – and the mainland (where bland uniformity is more at home) is the best place for them in my view!


  • stuart

    25th November 2010 #5 Author

    Dear Matt & Cat,

    Are you mad? Of course you’re not, but your website is well known, well discussed by locals and visitors alike. So the phrase “MacDonalds – we like!” has to be some sort of joke! The service you received may well have been above the expected standard but consider the expected standard! The decor has been professionally designed, over many decades, to ensure that customers are not repulsed by it but feel the need to leave just as soon as the last slippery, textureless morsel of indiscriminate carbon is consumed. The principle, indeed the point, of MacDonalds is “get em in, get em out”. I note that your review either dismisses, criticizes or makes light of the actual food – are you not primarily food reviewers anymore?
    My suggestion, which you are of course free to ignore, is to stick to venues that actually has a heartbeat. Such venues may be wonderful or may be terrible, but they are at least human. MacDonalds is not. It is a big local employer, but it has ripped the soul from every community it has ever entered, closing down social links, offering only litter and disenchantment and never showing any concern for its destructive nature. This is not a rant against capitalism, nor against meat-eating. It is simply the voice of one of your avid readers aghast at the decision to include such a nasty and unworthy dispenser of non-nutritional gunk in your otherwise worthy website.
    Yours, stunned and appalled, Stuart.

    Matt replies: Hi Stuart, and thanks for your frank comments. You’ll notice this is a rare instance of Matt and Cat diverging – the review was the work of Cat, whilst I wouldn’t even enter the place and never have. That to our minds discounts me from making any judgements upon the eating out experience inside. So you may make of that what you will. I do appreciate your concerns but I wouldn’t agree that this review has no place on the website. We consider for review anywhere that offers food for money, and this is far from the first fast-food franchise we’ve ever reviewed. However I would say that we are not just food reviewers – its about eating out, and that means so much more than just food. You have correctly spotted that Cat was unable to even remember her food in MacDonalds, whilst the surrounding environment and what was going on within it was far more influential. Again, this is not a careless omission but something that readers can interpret as they see fit.


  • MintyMat

    21st November 2010 #6 Author

    Brave move. I hate the food but occasionally have coffee from there as it’s cheap and quick. I found myself in the Ryde one recently whilst writing up a load of work and needing a quiet space away from children and the office. The staff were exceptionally attentive and accommodating despite me being there for 6 hours and only drinking 2 coffees.

    Good review.