Matt and Cat\'s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide
One winter’s day a few years ago, M&C were on a business trip to Royal Tunbridge Wells, of all places. Sounds posh? Well, expensive,...

One winter’s day a few years ago, M&C were on a business trip to Royal Tunbridge Wells, of all places. Sounds posh? Well, expensive, certainly, if that means posh. Inevitably, they ended up strolling through the town centre round about dinner time, looking to see what was on offer.

Tirol salad

Although it was in the depths of winter, they expected that this affluent Kentish town might have something to impress. It did not. Before too long the casual saunter had become a rather hungry march to find a decent place to eat. The problem was this: they’d already had a nice lunch at some Italian place, and were looking for somewhere that wasn’t an Italian. Guess what? In Tunbridge Wells, there’s nowhere to eat that isn’t an Italian. Nowhere. Well, not that M&C could find that night anyway. You doubt this? Luckily, Tunbridge Wells Borough Council have a handy directory, categorising eateries. As of today, in this market town there are nineteen Italian venues. Yes, nineteen. Compare this with British (only fourteen), Indian (eleven) or even fish and chips (a measly four) – you see the pattern. And what’s more, of those they saw, a significant number were chains or franchises, staffed by local youngsters and serving generic pizza and pasta. Not much taste of real Italy there.

Eventually, and very reluctantly, Matt and Cat settled on some Italian place, had a reasonable meal, and paid through the nose for it. They were glad to get home from Tunbridge. It’s not like that on the Isle of Wight – Island diners are lucky enough to have a real diverse variety of eateries in most towns, and not too many franchises. Take Ryde; there’s really no possibility of a would-be diner walking around Ryde hungry for long without finding something that would suit them.

Seabass fillet sautéed in white wine with creamy saffron sauce

Despite this range on offer in their home town, Matt and Cat are creatures of habit. Although they often eat out at new places, they also seem to end up in the same trusty venues: Hong Kong Express, Liberty’s and Olivo’s. Sometimes Cinnamon or the Blacksheep Bar get a turn. Recently, however, Matt and Cat decided to make a long-overdue return visit to seafront eatery Michelangelo. They’d long forgotten that dreadful night in Royal Tunbridge Wells, and this time were most certainly in the mood for Italian food. Like another of their favourite places to eat, Alamo, Michelangelo is slightly off the well-worn track of Union Street and, like the steakhouse, is a quirky place that’s worth sidestepping for.

Perhaps the best thing about Michaelangelo is the feature that sets it apart from the vast swathes of Italian eateries that populate the High Streets of middle England: Michaelangelo is a Northern Italian restaurant. The restaurateurs come from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. So whilst it does indeed do pizza and pasta, there is also a lot on the menu here that you might not find elsewhere. The décor similarly has a slightly Tirolean feel about it, with plenty of wood and candlelight.

After a very friendly welcome from the chatty Italian staff, Matt and Cat were soon comfortable at a window seat, nursing some drinks and studying the menu. A jolly group of young executives were at the adjacent table, getting louder and livelier throughout the night – possibly lubricated courtesy of the flexing of a corporate credit card – and providing M&C with some entertaining eavesdropping. Bloke: “I thought he was quite young but he’s actually 38”. Bird: “Ooh, that IS old”.

The waitress, well-versed in her craft, came and explained the specials, successfully tempting Cat to order the special starter of the day, a Dolomite salad, which was Tyrolean ham on marscapone whipped with beer, with a powerfully peppery scattering of rocket. This was a delicious success, and the diners shared one starter, which was a generous portion anyway.

Pollo al Marsala

For her main course, Cat stuck to what she knows and loves, picking pollo al Marsala: chicken breast in a creamy Marsala wine sauce. Matt was persuaded by the special of the day – fillet of seabass with courgette and red onion in a creamy saffron sauce. Both main meals came with a single veg option, and so M&C chose one dish of sautéed potatoes and one of spinach to share between them. No extra charge for the veg: another point for Michaelangelo. While they awaited the main course, there was more outrageous posturing from the young bucks on the next table. “I have trouble sleeping,” opined one jovial chap, before adding in a conspiratorial whisper “except when I’m in Abu Dhabi or Switzerland.” Well, obviously. M&C suppressed giggles.

Matt and Cat’s bill
Special starter £7.10
Pollo al marsala £12.50
Seabass special £15.50
2 x desserts @ £5.20 £10.40
Moretti beer £3.25
Fruit juice £2.25
2 x coffees @ £1.70 £3.40
Total £54.40

The seabass fillet looked great, served with a splendid creamy blanket which hid slivers of onion and courgette over a substantial bit of fish. The chicken similarly was a hunk of meat with a generous helping of an aromatic and interesting-looking sauce: Matt and Cat were impressed. The veg portions were slightly less exciting – the potatoes were adequate, if a little limp, whereas the spinach was little more than standard frozen spinach dusted with grated Parmesan cheese. Not bad in itself, but a bit workaday by comparison with the exquisitely-prepared mains. Still, your reviewers polished the whole lot off and enjoyed it greatly: this was comforting, substantial food.

After two good courses, M&C were not going to shy away from the final straight. Matt ordered pannacotta, and Cat had the special meringue with lemon and cream. Both of these exceeded expectations – and both were obviously made in the kitchen: you don’t get a fresh, moist meringue like that out of the freezer.

meringue with lemon and cream

Coffee rounded off the meal, followed by complimentary liqueurs. As the commercial travellers’ table began to calm down, Matt and Cat said their goodbyes to their hosts, and slipped away to view the lights of Portsmouth twinkling across the Solent.

So Michelangelo gets good marks from Matt and Cat. It is a characterful and welcoming place, with a reasonable menu which breaks the mould of generic Italian food. It’s not the cheapest meal in town, but it’s got a bit of class and is well worth a visit. Even if you’re from Tunbridge Wells.
Michelangelo, Ryde

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  • Jeff Yalden

    16th February 2016 #1 Author

    Dined here on valentines night (on Sunday last) with another couple who like this venue very much. We have also been before and enjoyed t he food and atmosphere. The only criticism this time was the minimal size of the food portions! In particular, my partner ate from the ‘Valentines menu’ and chose the stuffed pepper dish. whilst sounding appetising, it fell a bit short for a main course. it comprised of purely a stuffed pepper and some leaves spread over the plate to cover it- the potatoes were merely a part of the stuffing. Whilst i enjoyed my pasta dish, it was just about sufficient in quality, and the garlic bread i hastily ordered turned out to be more like a pizza base rather than proper baguette with garlic butter! We thought £12.00 a bit much for a starter sized main course. We dont in fact like huge platefuls but after arriving home im afraid we felt like a snack before bed!

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  • da yw wyth

    20th January 2015 #2 Author

    Must mention the wonderful cabbage soup I had here the other lunchtime. A balm for the soul and a tonic for the digestive tract! The proprietress and most of the staff here are totally charming, welcoming and efficient – too bad the odd one or two exude pure hostility and grumpiness. Presumably the majority of lovely ones are just far too nice do anything to tackle this!

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  • Andrew

    3rd January 2013 #3 Author

    I am another regular here and can honestly say that I have never had a bad meal or poor service.
    Everyone is always friendly even when rushed off their feet.
    Excellent wines – not cheap but well selected.
    I guess that nowhere will ever please everybody but they certainly get 10/10 from me.

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  • Georgeous

    31st December 2012 #4 Author

    We think Michelangelo is a fabulous local Italian. We have been many times and always enjoyed a great meal there. Truly delicious ultra thin crust pizzas, great homemade pasta. Very authentic and good prices-certainly does not deserve the harsh comments from some posters. We recommend it. Very child friendly too. A Ryde special

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  • Sam

    29th December 2012 #5 Author

    I went here once with my family, and I won’t be going again. The food was ordinary – I’ve cooked better pasta at home – and for what it was, overpriced. Our bill came to just short of £125 and quite frankly I’d have been better off at the Indian place over the road.

    REALLY disappointed and not a place I would suggest to anyone or go to again.

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  • Toby

    10th November 2012 #6 Author

    Took my 3 yr old son for pizza today, he was noisy and chatty, the staff were so pleasant and treated him as if he were a regular and spoilt him with pudding, I have always found the staff accommodating to young families.

    Nice food, price seemed good for a quality mesl, outstanding welcome!

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  • rambler

    11th October 2012 #7 Author

    We’ve always thought it to be overated and certainly over priced.

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  • eric m

    11th October 2012 #8 Author

    That is a dreadful price Jane.
    Hope the service has improved. Last time we went, it was awful and we haven’t been back since.
    A shame – I think a case of what was a nice restaurant has now expanded and they can’t cope.
    However, the place always seems to be busy, so no doubt lots of £9.50 items being sold.

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  • jane

    10th October 2012 #9 Author

    hang on a minute, £7.50 for a salad, ok, but this was a handful of leaves, a small quarter artichoke cut into slivers, cheese-3 small sliceses, slim like parmesan and a SMALL knob of bread cut 3 ways, since there where 4 at table l asked for a another slice please, was asked by waitress if l wanted bread basket at another £2.00 or no chance of another!!!! went to loo and place was heaving with bread!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! [whats going on here, a small boring salad and another 2 quid forget it = £9.50!!!!!!!!!!!!!! please!!!! certainly wont be going back. we had 4 pizzas at lunch so not a bad order. pizzas dull as well. .}

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  • Graham – Ryde

    15th August 2012 #10 Author

    Glad to hear this as we’ve avoided the place since poor service on a couple of occasions.
    Let’s hope it wasn’t just a one-off good day this time. Perhaps we’ll try again after any more positive comments in the next weeks.

    Reply

  • da yw wyth

    14th August 2012 #11 Author

    Well, what a change – this time all the staff were equally attentive, and nearly all were friendly. Even the one off-hand one was clearly trying not to be, but just couldn’t get the hang of being pleasant! And as for the portions – no skimping this time! A truly filling soup followed by an epic-sized pizza. Well done all, and keep up the much improved outlook!

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  • Ryde Traveller

    6th May 2012 #12 Author

    We must have visited Michelangelo at least 20 times and we keep going back – its far and away our favourite in Ryde. We particularly like the new part of the restaurant which has nice views across to Ryde Pier. The welcome is genuinely warm and child friendly. We love the thin crust pizzas, which are far better than the chains like Pizza Express and have the edge on Olivo’s, up the road. The pumpkin ravioli’s another favourite and we really like the bruschetta.

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  • da yw wyth

    22nd April 2012 #13 Author

    Yes, good quality place – hadn’t realised the new “cafe deli” section is just a continuation of the main restaurant, not a separate space.

    “Welcoming staff”? Well, there seem to be a gaggle of folk with a dismal expression and indeterminate nationality who speak to you on arrival, and with non-changing expression explain unclearly where you should sit. That’s all any of that group seem to do. Then the enegetic and very friendly chatty hostess appears and is indeed very welcoming. With a carefully-preserved Italian accent everything is clearly explained. The food itself has that special authentic feel, but oh dear, is the portion size of the pasta really meant to be intened as a main meal for the day? Maybe for an ant….!

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  • Nikki

    20th April 2012 #14 Author

    Absolutely loved this restaurant. From the welcoming staff when we told them we had not booked and subsequently were told we could eat but we had to be out at 8 for the reserved table to have their table back to the options and recommendations made. 2 adults and 2 children, 3cojrses each set back £100 but everyone still talks about it today. A truly authentic and beautiful place to eat. Highly recommended the meat platter to start, their pizzas and salads, coupled with the cherry trifle or chocolate tart to finish.

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  • Jessica

    2nd January 2012 #15 Author

    I’m sad to report that we had a very disappointing meal on Saturday evening. A group of six of us went out with high hopes after hearing so many delightful things about Michelangelo’s. Whilst the starters were very appetising and our waitress attentive and friendly, the main course was not too thrilling. A lasagne ordered off the specials menu came out half cooked with hard lasagne sheets… perhaps its too much to ask that an Italian restaurant makes their own pasta (or at least uses fresh pasta!)
    Two of our party ordered the delicious sounding Spaghetti Carbonara (myself included)….however I don’t consider scrambled eggs topped spaghetti to be a carbonara! Not usually one to query a small mishap from the kitchen, one mouthfull of this gave more than enough reason to call back our waitress, just to be told ‘This is how Carbonara is served, you English serve it differently’. hmmmm, having eaten Carbonara in restaurants all around Europe and having a brother who works in an Italian restaurant in Guildford I’m certain this is not the case! The waitress reluctantly returned our dishes to the kitchen and offered us an alternative meal. We chose Pizza as it seemed to be a safer bet!

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  • Natascha

    11th December 2011 #16 Author

    We were slightly disappointed by our last visit. The food was okay but for the price I would expect a little better. The Tiramisu was the worst I have ever eaten. However the bread and olives were delicious. Whenever we need olives for a recipe at home we always buy them from there.

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  • sniggup

    10th December 2011 #17 Author

    We are huge fans of Michelangelos and we are so lucky it is on our doorstep, we have watched with envy at their very successful expansion onto Union St, a welcome addition to Lower Union St, an excellent, thriving, vibrant restaurant buzzing with customers, which of course it always was, but now on the main drag..as a party of eleven last night, we booked weeks ago to celebrate my dad and my aunt’s joint birthday..table booked half seven for eight, took until quarter to nine to get starters..another hour for mains and desserts not til quarter to eleven..no apology, no explanation or communication, waitress was lovely but totally over stretched, food was excellent, as expected, when it came..large party of our local fire brigade in the original restaurant well deservedly celebrating christmas so we could see what was going on, but very poorly managed, what a shame..

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  • Paul

    14th November 2011 #18 Author

    Had a great night and a fantastic meal on Saturday, service was on top form and as always the food was fantastic. Warm friendly and full of atmosphere what more could you ask for on a cold Saturday night.
    P.S Had starter and maincourse Specials on the board which were Awesome

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  • da yw wyth

    13th August 2011 #19 Author

    … and the new deli cafe they’ve opened on the corner looks every bit as scrumpious – the pizzas with aroma wafting through the windows were tempting in the extreme an I’m bound to go in soon…

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  • Sandra Webb

    24th July 2011 #20 Author

    I’ve never had a poor meal here and my favourite – butternut-squash pasta is lovely.
    Great service, freshly cooked meal with pleasant staff. Great

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  • eric mason

    19th July 2011 #21 Author

    Oh dear…. whilst I love to see a bit of “in the face” advertising, I think the guys here have got it a bit wrong in the new bistro section. Horrible day-glo handwritten posters on the windows, not only obscuring the view for the diners, but making it look a cheap establishment – which of course it is not!
    We were there at the weekend. Food was as good as usual, but those posters……….

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  • Anne Drury Hoy

    4th May 2011 #22 Author

    Michelangelo is the only Italian restaurant would we ever go to. Staff are great – very friendly and helpful, food is exquisite. We always choose there for special occasions like anniversaries as it has such a relaxed and romantic atmoshpere and the prices are reasonable too!

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  • Natascha

    3rd May 2011 #23 Author

    We recently ate there and the pizza’s were delicious. The staff were friendly and the tiramisou was one of the best I had eaten (I have eaten many!). We also got free grappas, which are often quite expensive. All in all a very nice evening.

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  • mattfromryde

    15th April 2011 #24 Author

    Great to see this place getting the recognition it deserves, I have never had anything less than a great meal here, and the wine list has some real crackers on it.

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