There’s a new hand at the helm at Ventnor’s Hambrough. Experienced chef Ashley Randle has worked alongside some prestigious culinary names, and now plans to bring a local food twist to his modern European menu. We were invited to check out his work – well, it would be rude not to!
The restaurant’s dining room hasn’t changed from the days we described “an ascetic air to the Hambrough’s neutral decor”, although it’s not the place of hushed reverence it was a decade or so ago.
The new team at the Hambrough hopes to make it more affordable and, with starters from £6 and mains from £12, it could even give some of the Island’s fancier pubs a run for their money. In addition, we were given a few bonus treats, including these tasty porcini mushroom arancini, porky quavers with black garlic aioli, and delicious kale crisps.
One-time Priory chef Oliver Stephens was a big fan of the pebble charger. The Hambrough is keeping the faith, using a stone to deliver some salted butter and nutty beurre noisette for us to slather on warm homemade sour dough.
For Matt, the standout dish was this IW lobster and black pudding mac ‘n’ cheese. An unconventional, yet successful fusion. Lobster bisque was drizzled into the bowl from a glass teapot, giving the starter a great flavour combo.
Twice-baked IW cheese souffle appears on several of the Island’s high-end hotel menus and we know why – it’s such a crowd-pleaser. Ashley’s rendition delivers all that tangy cheese goodness, with a soft fluffy heart.
We read that Observer food critic Jay Rayner’s default main is belly pork. Matt too, is a sucker for pork and enjoyed this rindy 36-hour braised Sussex pork, with more of that lobster gravy. Looked great, tasted fantastique!
Although each dish had yer carbs and veg, the menu had a whole page of sides, so we ordered a very agreeable curly kale with flaked almonds and hollandaise; braised January king cabbage, with anchovy butter and bacon (cos all veg needs bacon!); and these fried red potato, truffle and parmesan chips.
Put all thoughts of conventional mash-topped fish pie from your minds. Here the mash was underneath a pastry globe stuffed with tuna, mussels and white fish in thermidor sauce, with a moat of that lobster bisque, including chunks of distinctive lobster meat.
It was hard not to be distracted by the unexpectedly tasty mash – a far cry from that tedious fluff served to you at school. *thumbs up emoji*
You’ve had millionaire’s shortbread, but not like this! Intense, and we mean INTENSE, dark chocolate on a salty caramel layer, tempered with smooth ice cream. Oh yeah, did we mention the edible gold flakes?
Like the earlier mash, this rice pudding is not the version you had at school. Smooth milk pudding, drizzled with aged Modena vinegar and IW honey, topped with vivid rhubarb. Matt would’ve been happy to have another splash of vinegar – not something you’d expect to go well on a sweet pudding.
The Hambrough’s dining room and logo may not have really changed since our first visit in 2009 – nor the spectacular sea view! However, this is now a venue with plans to reposition itself from exclusive high-end – and expensive – restaurant, to a more affordable proposition, but without compromising on decent ingredients and creativity. With the menu and service we had this week, we think they will achieve their aspirations.