On a day like today, when winds of up to 100mph have been recorded at The Needles, it’s nice to be indoors, snuggled in front of the PC. Although a little late, the autumn weather is upon us; chilly evenings and squally days.
Hardy mainland urbanites probably don’t notice these inclement conditions, happy to spend an evening on the streets in a vest and flip flops. But for soft southerners Matt and Cat, the winter heralds a time when jumpers are taken out of storage and M is stitched into his underwear.
The night that M and C visited the Old Village, it seemed that Shanklin had been mothballed. The buckets and spade shops and some eateries were battened down, even the Rock Shop had its shutters drawn. However, the lights weren’t entirely out – the blue glow of the Village Inn enticed your reviewers deep into thatch territory.
Recommended by Matt and Cat reader ghostmoth, it didn’t take your reviewers long to get off the street and into the pub’s cosy interior. To say the venue was intimately lit is something of an understatement. The lightbulbs cast a reddish glow, mainly because they had been daubed in red paint. However, it wasn’t so gloomy that M and C couldn’t see the glass and crockery left on their table. Alas the barmaid was involved in a major session on her mobile phone (at one point she was crouching behind the bar gazing at its illuminated screen) so, helpfully, Cat cleared the table and was able to get some service from a less preoccupied member of staff.
In fact, the lady Cat spoke with was very chatty and was keen to answer Cat’s questions about the mysterious steps down to the stone-floored cellar, giving a potted history of the venue. A pint of Deuchars IPA and a fruit-based drink for The Cat were dispensed and, having already studied the menu, C was able to give the orders for food.
The menu contained a typical selection of pub favourites: food from the grill, home-made pies, and a selection of fish dishes. There was also a spectacular fish platter for two on the specials board. As it was a chilly night Cat opted for the carb-heavy chicken, leek and mushroom pie with French fries and peas. Matthew, who also needed warming up decided to rise to the challenge of Texas chilli bowl, described as fiery chilli con carne.
Chicken and leek pie £10.45
Texas chilli bowl £10.75
The barmaid turned her attention away from her mobile phone for a moment and busied herself with DJ duties. Before long, Matt and Cat’s hearts sank as the middle of the road dronings of Phil Collins filled the air. A discussion about the ubiquitousness of this elderly pop-god soon had M and C peeling off their coats as they warmed to this perennial topic. They were also thawed by the friendliness of the previously distracted barmaid as she delivered cutlery and condiments to the table.
Before the food arrived there was a bit of time for your reviewers to prime their new toy, a camera specifically chosen for its ability to take pictures in low light. Too many times M and C have been caught out taking pictures of their meals – given away by the intrusion of the flash. With the new gadget, they should be able to be a bit more covert about their ops. However, it was soon apparent that the ruddy hue cast by the painted bulb was not going to be penetrated by even the most sensitive of devices and Matt and Cat resigned themselves to flashing as usual.
Dinners were delivered with a smile and a disclaimer about the heat of the dishes. Certainly Cat’s pie’s ramekin was toasty and its leeky contents could be heard bubbling. A generous pile of French fries were alongside with a spoonful of tiny peas. Keen to avoid a scalded tongue, Cat manoeuvred the pie’s contents onto her plate to help them cool down. She was delighted to have exposed a moist pile of tender chicken and plenty of leek, all cosied up in a tasty buttery sauce. A spectacular contrast to the dessicated offering at the White Mouse. It was just the ticket for this cold night and, with a tummy full of hot chicken, Cat had warmed up to the point of discarding her mittens.
Matt’s chilli was described as fiery and, by Jove, it was! There was plenty of beef and chilli plus a sprinkling of kidney beans. The whole lot was topped off with a dollop of soured cream and sprig of parsley. Having chosen chips over rice, Matt was a bit disappointed with the skinny fries – expecting something with a bit of girth. He should have paid more attention to the menu, as French fries was specified. An accompanying mixed pepper salad was good, complementing the hot meaty dish.
Both dinners were excellent and, when the barmaid came to clear the plates, Cat asked her to clarify the meals’ provenance. “All our dishes are home-made” came the confident reply. This did not come as a surprise; a bought-in pie would probably have had an implausible and teetering puff pastry hat.
The only trouble with eating such hearty fare is that it meant that there was no room for pudding. This was a bit of a blow as Matt was certainly keen to try the home-made bread and butter pudding and Cat was equally enthusiastic about the tarte au citron, served with raspberries and marscapone. Alas, there was no more room in their stomachs at the old Village Inn so, gathering their coats and scarves and with Cat re-donning her mittens, they walked back out into the chilly air.
The Village Inn serves delightful food in a cosy, if slightly dim, setting. The service was pretty chummy and very prompt. Recommended.