Although they may imagine themselves to be legends in their own lunchtime, the truth about Matt and Cat is pretty mundane; they’re just a couple of people who eat out then write about their experiences.
They always try to turn up unannounced and neither expect, nor usually get, any special treatment. Even on the rare occasion they are ‘clocked’ during a meal they hope that they will be treated no different from anyone else, because frankly, that’s the the point.
However it isn’t always possible to maintain the mystique. One such time was when Matt and Cat made their second visit to Newchurch’s Pointer Inn in almost as many days. The first time was as part of an exclusive tasting panel, corralled by veteran columnist Keith Newbery to sample the Island’s newest dish: Newchurch pie. Having at that event been introduced to the managers, Robert and Rachel Burrows, it was unlikely that they would be able to make a return visit without being sussed.
Those of you with long memories or with a particular interest in meteorological statistics may recall the only two consecutively sunny days of August 2010 which, for once, coincided with the Bank Holiday and Ryde’s scooter rally. After days of being cooped up watching the rain gush down their tent flaps, everyone was out in force, enjoying the brief but welcome glimpse of the sun. This sudden explosion in Ryde’s population meant that Matt and Cat were displaced; all of their usual Ryde haunts were fully booked for dinner and they were compelled to look beyond their postcode for somewhere to eat. They’d not started off with any intention of reviewing a new place but, as is often the way, things turned out differently. So having booked the last available table at the Pointer Inn, M & C headed out of town – the opposite direction to the hordes of scooterists.
The Pointer Inn, an archetypal village pub in the heart of Newchurch, was known for its good food and particularly its vast portions. Apart from the pie-tasting event, Matt and Cat hadn’t been there for a few years so knowing that new management had recently arrived they were interested to see how the Pointer team would perform. Although they’d booked under somebody else’s name, that was as far as the anonymous review went this time as the cheery landlady Rachel at once recognised M & C as her pie-sampling guests. They were soon settled in at a cosy table, Matt was quaffing some good real ale, and the menu was under scrutiny.
One of the great things about this village pub is the community feel; it’s quite clearly a pub that does food, and local drinkers still prop up the bar and gossip, as they have done for generations. Regulars are even encouraged to swap produce from their gardens for beer! A blackboard trumpets the day’s contributions and names the numerous donors; Matt and Cat were confident in the knowledge that they really could take a bite out of Alistair’s plums. On the pub’s website it claims “Rob uses the veg for inspiration for his specials, you can’t get more local than across the road!”. As they read the menu and the specials board the diners certainly gained an encouragingly positive impression of local produce being used. Although as it happened most of the specials on offer that day were unlikely to be from Newchurch unless the villagers have taken up sea-bass farming or fishing for Cornish scallops.
It was from the specials board that Matt made his choice: the strikingly named “Rump the Works”, described as a 10oz Havenstreet rump steak, home-made onion rings, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, chips and salad. Cat, having overindulged earlier asked for something from the starters menu – Isle of Wight home-made crab cake with smoked salmon and dill crème fraiche. The waitress helpfully suggested that it could be served as a main course, but dainty Cat decided to have it as a starter size anyway.
She was glad she did, because the crab cake that arrived was a most impressive specimen and more than enough for her. More like a crab ball than a cake, it was a delicious medley of flavours and textures, complemented very well by a varied and extremely fresh salad – surely the beetroot and little gem lettuce were the same ones announced on the local veg donors’ roll of honour on the wall.
Matt was pleased to have been asked how he wanted his steak, and given the option to have it ‘blue’. This isn’t a choice in many places, and it indicates that the kitchen has confidence in both the meat and their ability to prepare it. In this instance the confidence was well-placed because this was a really great steak which Matt savoured. Seared on the outside, and piping hot, it was very rare on the inside, but neither cold nor dripping. Maybe the chef was bringing it on because he knew that the meal was being given extra scrutiny, but to be sure this meat demonstrated that the Pointer kitchen is more than capable of producing something exceptionally good. Alongside the meat itself came ‘the works’, which in this case proved to be some endearingly fluffy freshly-cooked onion rings, a single colossal mushroom, and some perfectly cooked cherry tomatoes, just bursting out of their skins. The whole lot was topped off with a tangy sprig of fresh watercress. The chips which served as the carbohydrates of the dish were average, but with all the other ‘works’ in its favour, Matt had no doubt that this was a really good way to eat rump steak.
Rump the Works £15.95
Coffee x 2 £3.30
Desserts? The chirpy waitress popped back at just the right moment, stretching Matt and Cat’s resolve almost to breaking point… but the excellent main courses had done their work, and they declined. Sipping coffee they almost recanted when the kitchen door opened and a home-made meringue went by that was shaped like a mushroom cloud and only slightly smaller. But no, enough was enough – just as in days gone by there is no doubt that diners at the Pointer can be absolutely guaranteed not to go away hungry.
So Matt and Cat are delighted to herald the rebirth of a long-established favourite dining pub. The Pointer Inn, under its new management, seems to be keeping the best of the old Pointer tradition and adding to the mix some exciting new developments. It’s a pub with atmosphere and charm, but one which knows the value of good food: the well-crafted and reasonably-priced menu is delivered with cheerful and attentive service. This one’s going to take some beating.
See a more up-to-date account of a visit M&C made to the Pointer via US food blogger Another Pint Please.
- Consistently amongst the best pub grub on the Island
- Great service
- Hyper-local food
- Very good beer
- You WILL have to book.
- A cramped old building - you won't get buggies, wheelchairs or big dogs in here easily