Matt and Cat\'s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide
ARCHIVE: Monsoon, Ryde High Street ARCHIVE: Monsoon, Ryde High Street
ARCHIVE POST: Monsoon is still trading (Jan 2020), but as a takeaway only.  Ryde is a curious town in layout – a long, thin... ARCHIVE: Monsoon, Ryde High Street

ARCHIVE POST: Monsoon is still trading (Jan 2020), but as a takeaway only. 

Ryde is a curious town in layout – a long, thin chain of shops, pubs and restaurants snakes its way uphill from the esplanade – where the visitor arrives fresh from the ferry – thence up Union Street and along the High Street. Typically, the tourist traps, high-class joints and overpriced venues are down the bottom, presumably because visitors with heavy pockets will not want to walk far. Further up into the town the shops become more esoteric, sometimes tattier and cheaper, relying more on locals than on passing trade.

Monsoon has become Matt and Cat’s favourite sit-down Indian meal on the entire Island

Bucking this trend, a 2007 addition to the further extent of the High Street was Monsoon. Rebuilt on the site of a previous unassuming Indian takeaway, Monsoon is now a large and modern Indian restaurant. It has an impressive presence, with big windows revealing to the street outside coloured lighting gleaming on Ikea-style furniture.

Since 2007 things have continued to go well for Monsoon. With consistently good food, a great atmosphere and service, Monsoon has overcome its out-of-the-way location with style.

Matt and Cat trotted into Monsoon to give the new place a try. A phalanx of waiters immediately moved in and showed them to a table: proudly positioning their visitors right in front of the gleaming new big screen showing Bollywood classics. Matt and Cat rather ungratefully elected to sit with their backs to the screen, remarking that otherwise it might be a bit like the Wightlink ferry. Good food is not usually made better by television, although possibly the blaring box might distract attention from bad. As a consolation, they were pleased to note that Monsoon’s interior is quite softly lit, making for a more intimate atmosphere and a pleasant change from the sometimes clinical bright white lighting of some refurbished curry-houses. In fact, as the meal went on they began to realise that the soft coloured lighting was, if anything, too much – it made the curry look a funny colour.

Lamb dansak

The attentive staff brought drinks, and complimentary poppadoms. The smart new menus had the usual range of Indian restaurant essentials, alongside a few more unusual treats such as whole trout or lamb balls. Cat played it safe with chicken korma and pillau rice, and Matt thought to try a favourite, lamb dansak. For some reason this dish was ordered with rice included. It’s a perennial mystery of both Indian and Chinese menus which dishes come with rice and which do not. If there’s any pattern to it Matt and Cat would be pleased to hear of it. A mushroom bhaji to share completed the order.

Sitting back to enjoy the ambience, your reviewers were pleased to note the sizeable restaurant gradually filling with visitors, which gave the six waiters something to do. At around this point a fine old gentleman emerged to take a proprietorial stroll around the aisles – surely this was the owner? So it transpired, as he stopped and passed a few words with some regulars at a nearby table. They were full of gushing praise – “Oh, will you tell us the name of your architect?” pleaded one portly old customer, raising the unlikely prospect that he was contemplating building an Indian restaurant himself. The gracious restaurateur acknowledged that he had brought a designer all the way from Birmingham for the refurbishment. A worthwhile investment, it would seem, by the delight of his customers.

Chicken korma

The food was very well-presented, with a (tepid) plate-heater, and beautiful pillau rice served out onto the plate by the teeming waiting staff who queued up to deliver the dishes. Cat’s korma had generous chunks of meat – but with little sign of the normal cream and coconut, and surprisingly spicy. Korma is traditionally the dish for those who really don’t want anything spicy at all, and so she was a little taken aback by the kick in this one. She enjoyed her meal but suggested afterwards that it was more like a smooth curry than a traditional korma. Matt, by contrast, got exactly what he was expecting with a rich, lentil-based sauce complementing the tender lamb pieces. Like Cat’s korma, it was very smooth and homogeneous; but unlike Cat, Matt was anticipating the spicy flavour which was delivered in spades.

Three times a different waiter courteously interrupted Matt and Cat’s meal to enquire if everything was in order. Doubtless the staff’s impressive commitment to customer service was tested by the slightly waspish dismissal that the third unfortunate waiter received, but undaunted, at the end of the meal two different waiters enquired separately whether or not the diners wanted coffee, and finally only one brought a single bill, which turned out to be satisfyingly reasonable.

Monsoon is an unexpected place – a modern, large and impressive restaurant which is positioned well away from the bustling tourist trade. The food tastes and looks great – and it’s consistent. Service is enthusiastic – as is the spice in the korma – but nonetheless it manages to offer food at very good prices. Matt and Cat would be pleased if this development signified a turn-around for the Upper High Street, and other traders followed suit.

UPDATE Summer 2009: It’s still here, and if anything it’s getting better. Monsoon has a new menu with some great new stuff on it. The lights are still unpleasantly purple – and the TVs intrude – but the food is going from great to really exceptional. Don’t miss Matt and Cat’s recommendation – Butternut Bhaji side dish is a great innovation. With a hot, steaming naan straight from the oven this is almost a meal in itself.

  • Peter says:

    Oh dear! I’ve lived on the Island for 4 years and have always raved about Monsoon. I had noticed that there had been an increase of negative comments on TripAdvisor, but decided to give them the benefit of the doubt. This was a mistake, and I will no longer be a loyal customer.

    The food has gone down-hill dramatically. The quality, and freshness has been replaced for stodge and blandness. Either they have lost/changed chefs or have simply forgotten their prior quality as I have never been so disappointed.

  • Sal says:

    Monsoon is celebrating its 6th Birthday on THURS 21st NOV. FREE STARTERS, FREE CHAMPAGNE & LIVE MUSIC ALL NIGHT!
    Not to be missed!

  • Alan says:

    Very impressed once again with the food and service at the Monsoon. It was quite busy last night and had to wait about five minutes for a table. Expecting service to be slow but it was not. Food was excellent and it is no doubt the best Indian on the Island

  • Loren and Jim says:

    Had a takeaway meal from here last night and tried something different. It was fabulous! The staff are always friendly and the food is always superb. Many thanks….keep up the good work xx

  • SAM says:

    Tuesday 20th NOV is MONSOONS 5th BIRTHDAY. FREE Champagne & FREE Starters for every
    diner. Live music courtesy of Rick Stanbridge & Jules Nelson. DO NOT MISS!

  • SAM says:

    Monsoon is celebrating its 4th birthday on the 22nd november @ 6pm till late!
    Live music courtesy of iow band CONERSTONE,plus free champagne and starters!
    An evening not to be missed!

  • Downhill says:

    We ate here for the couple of years. Loved it. Had a break from curries then had one yesterday. What has happened? Have they changed chefs? It was awful. The bhajis tasted of old oil and were rock hard (in fact inedible), the portion size was poor and the curries had no taste whatsoever. We threw it away. Only good thing was the naan bread. Such a disappointment from when it was tasting so good before. Will definitely not be eating there again. Such a shame.

  • BobR says:

    My girlfriend and I ate there on Friday the 23 September. I have eaten there before but every time I return I’m shocked by the weird blue light. The television was on showing the usual Bangra movie. On the whole not ideal dining conditions. We both had mixed kebab, This consisted of a small slightly seasoned lamb burger and a small tube of the same material served with a an onion bhaji. We followed that with chicken tikka massala and a chicken dansak, they were apparently the same dish. There was a gererous amount of chicken and of a reasonable quality but dhansak used to be thickened with lentils and this had none. the nan bread and rice were the standard thing you would get anywhere. I cant say i was impressed this was easily the worst Indian food I have ever had in Ryde.

  • PAUL MULLERY says:

    Yes, the Monsoon is fantastic. If you took any notice of the hygene rating (currently 0 stars) no one would go in the restaurant. This star system is a total waste of space. Bon appetite!!

  • Joe B says:

    Monsoon is th finnest Indian Dining ive seen in my Whole Life ! That is my opinion on Monsoo!!!

  • pete j says:

    Yes, I thought exactly the same regarding Trip Advisor – the names of those commenting about Monsoon on that site were very suspicious and they then thought they could get away with it here! Well done M&C for removing the offensive comments.

    Just one little thing mentioned earlier on customer relations – it would be nice if the casual visitor was greeted in a more friendly way. We did notice that we newcomers were “left” in favour of the small-talk with the locals, but of course that goes on everywhere to ensure those returning customers are happy and it’s not a complaint. Probably the owner was not there the night we dined. However, as we enjoyed the dining experience, we will be back and hopefully treated in a friendly way then!

  • Bushy says:

    I note that you have removed the offensive rant about Monsoon that appeared yesterday. Quite apart from the fact that the behaviour referred to was quite unlike anything I could imagine from the exceptionally courteous staff, the fact that the reviewer linked his comments to Tripadvisor immediately raised my suspicions. Tripadvisor has had a bad press of late, with high-profile reports of ‘reviewers’ being paid by competitors to write derogatory comments, and I suspect that these comments may have fallen into that category.

    Coincidentally we had planned to go to Monsoon last night without realising that Wednesday is ‘banquet night’, with a 3-course meal for only £9.50. Exceptional value and excellent food, well served.

    Two other important points in Monsoon’s favour: First, the house wine by the glass is proper wine, not the anonymous plonk served by many Oriental restaurants. Secondly, and most imortantly, the restaurant is properly ‘managed’ by the owner who keeps an eagle eye on the service and in general acts like an old-fashioned maitre-d’hotel. Several other noted Island venues could take a leaf out of this particular book!

  • Foxy says:

    The Prawn dish I had was in a delicious sauce and was quite different to any indian dish I have eaten before with interesting aromatic flavours. It was ruined by the fact that the prawns has been tourtured by cookery into little lumps of rubber. Not over cooking seafood is a basic thing for a chef to know. Prawns in particular should can be fresh or frozen but they should be uncooked. I know we are used to buying frozen cooked prawns but this is not what I expect when I am paying for a decent meal outside a pug or “caff”. If cooked ones are used, they should be handled with extreme care.

  • Had a wonderful dining experience at Monsoon in Ryde last night.
    It was their 3rd year anniversary and the atmosphere was fantastic.
    All the stops had been pulled out from free champagne and starters, good music, balloons and of course wonderful food.
    A wonderful start to the festive season…bring it on!

    Matt and Cat respond: Thanks for your comments, Loren and Jim. You may have seen us turned away at the door as we tried to join in the celebrations without having the foresight to book a table. Glad you had a nice evening and chose to make a comment here!

  • sal says:

    Monsoon indian restaurant in Ryde High Street is celebrating its 3rd birthday on tues 23rd november with live music, free champagne and starters!
    Not to be missed!

  • Dave says:

    Staying is Sandown we decided to give the Monsoon a try as we noticed they did the 3 course for £10.00 on wednesday evenings while on a day visit to the town. The look of the place suggested they had spent a lot of money and gave us high expectations as we were constantly dissapointed with restaurants on the Island. We booked for 7.30 and were given our table as soon as we arrived. The place was soon full and we were served our food pretty quick unlike our drinks however. Even though they had someone working the bar we found it hard to understand how difficult it could be for a waiter to give the bar tender a order and then have the drinks brought to a table. This seemed to be a problem through the whole evening with ourselves, the family next to us and the group on the table next to them. The food was ok, about average but the evening did drag out a bit with the long waits and we waited for half an hour for our desert order to be taken. When we got our bill we had been charged for a extra glass of wine we hadn’t ordered. overall compared to other places we tried on the island it wasn’t a bad evening but the long waits for drinks did become a bit of a drag.

  • mandy says:

    monsoon now doing a offer every wed and sun. £10 for 3 courses. i love it here, now do loads of mild dishes and spicey dishs for those that want them.

  • Foxy says:

    I respect your thoughts on many reviews, but the test of any modern Indian restaurant (in contrast to one that modestly define itself as a curry house) should include their speciality dishes and what the menu provides in range and innovation as well as just stock favourites. For example, those reluctant to take the hotter options many of us like, are keen to know what milder options are being offered to them other than just Korma. Perhaps a revisit and update could be offered on this establishment?

  • Rydeabout says:

    We love Monsoon! Have one takeaway a week usually. We have chicken jalfrezi and a chicken or lamb dansak, chilli pakora, saag paneer and ric plus a naan and its just delicious. Would recommend this place.

  • Sarah and Ian says:

    Tried Monsoon Sat night after being recommended but unfortunately we were pretty disappointed. Very noisy (seated us next to a birthday party of about 20!) and after an initial rush to take our order before we’d even had a chance to look properly – service then very slow (probably because of the party). Meals were OK but I’ve had better – all had our favourites and found to be more spicy than usual. Aubergine dish was swimming in oil – too fatty. So OK overall but not great so not returning. Our favourite is actually Shahanaz in Lake – simple but gorgeous!

  • Tracie Chandler says:

    I have not been luky enough to go into the resturant but do use the home delivery a lot and what can i say i love it would recomend to anyone to go in and try it.
    I will go in when i can convice my husband to take me out for a meal. very friendly service brilliant food would not change one bit off it.
    thankyou for all the lovely food u have given me now i said that i am going to go and order some food from them.
    Thankyou good luck to u all and keep it up 🙂
    Tracie Chandler

  • jeanette and darren says:

    we have tried many indian restaurants an this the best by far….food…service….everything …..we go back as often as we can

  • D says:

    With so many Indian resaturant vying for our business on the Island now and the old takeaway that used to be here offering such poor fare I wasn’t really looking forward to trying this one. I must admit that the whole bluey/purple light thing doesn’t really do it for me. So many new Indian restaurants seem to look like this that although it may seem new and exciting on Ryde High Street it just looks like a clone to me.

    Despite seemingly masses of staff flitting about the service was very slow and they obvoiusly could not cope.

    The decor aside – I went here for a friend’s birthday and found the whole experience exasperating. We were greeted to a wall of noise from the diners and television as we entered and felt as though we were shoe-horned in to our table – it was certainly snug. Despite seemingly masses of staff flitting about the service was very slow and they obvoiusly could not cope. Some of the food was no more than warm and I’m sad to say that despite a definate improvement on the old biscuity naana they used to serve and a much better menu that’s where the improvements seem to stop. It has to be said that I am a bit of a food snob any anyone who genuinely likes this food must have A, something wrong with their palate or B, been served something much better than I was. Like Matt&Cat I too was intrigued by a lamb-ball curry (sorry can’t remember the proper name) and as such ordered it. Well, if you like a very small helping of dry flavourless meat-balls with a bit of mediocre sauce slapped ob top then you’ll be very happy. I however was both jealous of the size of one of my friend’s dish’s (a byriani and about 3 times the size of my meal) and disappinted with the lack of quality. I may have just been unlucky but living in Ryde with the Tandoori and Cinnamon both offering far better food – why would I bother giving them another try?

  • Madeline says:

    Lovely restaurant and the service is excellent. However, I can only describe the food as OK. I cook a lot of Indian food myself so when I go out, I hope to be shown how it’s really done. I’m afraid it wasn’t exceptional. Good selection though.

  • Liz says:
    I have no hesitation in recommending this restaurant. It’s great.

    I had a FANTASTIC meal at Monsoon restaurant. The staff were very attentive without swamping us and the food was superb. I liked the decor and having lived on the IOW several years ago, can only see this restaurant as a long needed venue compared to the tired eating houses on the remainder of the high street.
    A real sucess story- well done to the owners and thanks for a great evening. I have no hesitation in recommending this restaurant. It’s great. Well done Mia and Sam.

  • John Waterman says:

    A big dissapointment! Expensive, Noisy, Slow. We went on Saturday night 16th Feb they wouldn’t let us book before 8.30 and we arrived at 8.20, we finally got our meals at 9.40! It was nearly full but it just seems they did not build the kitchen to cope with the number of tables. All the staff could offer was “We’re busy please be patient”!

    The food was OK I suppose but I had Prawn Korma and nearly £8 for a dish of sauce with a handful of prawns swimming in it seems poor value plus I had to pay £1.95 for some basic rice to go with it.

    The atmosphere was cacophony with a room full of people chatting away then overlay the Bollywood movie on the plasma screens and ….

    There are other places to eat in Ryde which will give you a much better experience eg Michalangelos I certainly won’t be going to Monsoon again

  • two veggies says:

    Fine Indian Dining quite frankly err no way. Anyone that has been to Birmingham or to Leicester will know exactly what we are talking about here. Most certainly the decor is up with most Indian these days, but the food….another story. Fine Indian dining is all about marinated not saturated, spiced not spicy, dry not dried out, greased not greasy. Every dish should look different and taste different. Not hotter or cooler versions of the same sauce with different veggies or meat plopped in it. No sign of fresh corriander, okra or home made lime pickle..

    A big disappointment to say the least.

  • Peter says:

    I’m really excited to have a new restaurant just around the corner. It’s even better that it’s an Indian restaurant and best of all, it’s brilliant.

    We regularly used the Curry Garden, the takeaway that the owners ran before. Its food was distinctive for being unfussy but full of character with a real home made feeling and the delivery guy was always brisk and pleasant, even in grotty weather.

    My vegetable biriani was wonderful.

    I was delighted to find that the food has stayed the same and that the young man who used to do the deliveries now has a well earned place at front of house. My vegetable biriani was wonderful; one of the few I have eaten which tasted as though it had really been baked, instead of just fried, and served with little strips of fried chilli on the top.

    You’re right about the tellies, though. Even though the music was good and at just the right volume for the level of custom, the flickering of an idiot box is distracting. Also, it would have been nice to have real milk or cream with the coffee.

    Other than that; friendly, beautifully presented and just round the corner. They’ll be getting sick of the sight of us.

  • TJW says:

    It’s worth going just for the naan…I chose to have a plain naan to accompany my Vegetable Kashmir and I think I can say it was the best naan bread I’ve ever had.

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