Mid-February, when everyone’s thoughts turned to love – or at least the commercialised Hallmark-whimsical-heart-shaped-helium-balloon-a-thon that is Valentine’s Day, our thoughts turned to parsimony. Yes, we spend a disproportionate amount of our hard-earned on supporting the Island’s food industry, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want value for money. So, instead of settling down to eat in a restaurant on V-Day, we went the day after on the assumption that the food would be just as good but without the lovers’ premium.
The bright lights of Pendleton’s drew us in. This stalwart of Shanklin’s Old Village has been feeding tourists and locals alike with its own brand of comfortable cooking and congenial service since 2002. We popped in with a couple of pals and settled down to a night’s chat and chow.
From the moment we stepped over the threshold we knew we were in good hands; greeted and seated by a waiter whose seemingly casual patter belied a razor-sharp skill at his job. Table water arrived without being requested – always a favourite touch of ours – and legible menus decorated with pretty hand-drawn illustrations were under our scrutiny within moments.
Last time we visited Pendleton’s more than a decade ago we were particularly struck by the abundance of local ingredients on the menu. This time there wasn’t really any mention of food provenance, although there were a few Isle of Wight brews on the beer list – pleasingly offered cold or at room temperature, depending on preference. Nonetheless, the menu was broad, including a couple of salads that could be supersized as a main course. There was also a reasonable selection for meat dodgers who may have decided to extend their Veganuary efforts into F’herbivorary (not actually a thing – yet).
Cat naturally started at the pudding end of the menu. Seeing a few candidate desserts on the list, she decided to go without a starter. Her companions didn’t though and all were delighted with their choices. Matt’s baked Camembert was always going to be a crowd-pleaser. This simple yet effective dish has insinuated itself on restaurant menus over recent years and, when done well, is quite heavenly. Drizzled with regulation honey and sprinkled with rosemary, the dish was elevated by a hot, juicy, slow-roasted bulb of soft, sweet garlic alongside a ramekin of sticky onion marmalade.
Matt reverted to type and decided to put Pendleton’s steak to the test. The sirloin was an above-average rendition, with a nicely-tenderised hunk of meat served at exactly the right moment. As well as peppercorn sauce, Matt was delighted to be offered a choice of four different mustards – not every place has its own mustard menu! A heap of wilted rocket and some slivers of sweaty Parmesan made some enjoyable accompaniments, along with a slab of bacon and cheese potato cake.
Interestingly, each main came with its own type of potatoes. As well as Matt’s bacon and cheese combo, the duck breast was paired with dauphinoise, chicken matched with crushed new potatoes, the pork with leek mash (you get the idea). Similarly, Cat ordered the catch of the day almost entirely because it came with sauteed potatoes – her spud of preference.
The cod was presented in a relaxed pile; indicative of the entire restaurant – professional and considered, yet with no over-fussy twiddling. Sparks of colour flashed among the paleness of the fish and its mild creamy sauce; mangetout and cherry tomatoes, plus a twisted lemon hat all on a bed of those sauteed potatoes. The cod was as soft and flaky as you’d expect, and a reasonable heft too. Its gentle flavour was enhanced by the acidic tomatoes and citrus, plus the sweetness of the nicely-seasoned spuds.
The homemade puddings were well executed. Cat’s chocolate brownie was spectacularly rich and gooey, topped with a stiff dollop of cream studded with boozy cherries. Matt relished a homemade white chocolate cheesecake with passion-fruit sauce that was cheesy enough to be almost savoury.
Baked camembert £8
Sirloin steak £20
Catch of the day £15
Chocolate brownie £6.50
Finally, like the chatterboxes we are, we were the last patrons left, but there was no attempt to hurry us out of the door, even long after the kitchen had clocked off. In fact, we were persuaded to have a postprandial cup of peppermint tea, with teacup saucers pimped with heart-shaped shortbread – a bonus of going out to dinner the day after Valentine’s Day. Cat was also presented with a single red rose, no worse for (presumably) being leftover from the aforementioned festival of lurve. Our male companions didn’t get a rose; perhaps Shanklin is not a town to jump to potentially misrepresented conclusions.
Pendleton’s is a reliable place. The food was competently cooked if a little cautious, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing; particularly when you think its target audience in high season is a broad sweep of holidaymakers, second homers and loyal residents prepared to battle their way through the throngs bimbling about the thatches. We were particularly enamoured of the service, and we enjoyed our food. Highlights included that luscious chocolate brownie; and a companion’s whiskey and chilli tiger prawn starter is also worth mentioning in despatches. Pendletons gets our recommendation for service, good food and consistency.
Four stars: very good indeed, well worth seeking out
- Great service
- Very competent kitchen
- Cautious menu