We’ve long wondered about the mysterious circumflex at Shêd, in Bembridge. Does it indicate some exotic influence? Or imply some strange pronunciation that only those in the know could deliver correctly? Well, don’t get your hopes up because we still don’t know. In fact, by the time we got there some years after it originally opened, it had renamed itself as Toby’s Shêd. We never found out who Toby was either, although the menu has a big picture of a dog on it that is otherwise unexplained, we surmised that Toby might have been either a four-legged muse, or maybe the proprietor. Still, we didn’t go to Bembridge to reflect on punctuation or dog nomenclature. It was lunchtime, and we wanted feeding.
Shêd was waiting there on the High Street, with a splendid open frontage right onto the pavement. A couple of little tables were outside, a few more in the bright and clean interior, and out the back is a courtyard garden too. We were immediately welcomed by a cheerful lady, who offered drinks and settled us into a table with a nice view of the street scene from where we watched the inhabitants Bembridge promenading by. Our unscientific survey revealed that, for gentlemen, shorts and deck shoes appear to be mandatory accessories.
Shêd’s lunch menu has the usual sandwiches and toasties, but goes a little bit further than the standard lunchtime fare, offering on-trend fillings like ham hock and pink slaw, or the intriguing blue chicken – which was in fact chicken and Stilton.
Mozzarella salad £6
El Cubano £8.20
Orange juice £2.10
We started our meal with a shared bowl of blanchbait, which led us to wonder how blanchbait was different to whitebait, if indeed it is. The bowl of deep-fried breaded fish we got came with a ‘pirinaise’ dip, which was a regrettable combination of the greasiness of mayonnaise and the heat of piri-piri sauce without much taste. The fish, in turn, were cooked to the colour of ginger nuts, and not dissimilar in texture. Whilst edible, they were not the moist, lightly-seasoned fishy morsels that good whitebait should be. This was a shame as we’ve had some excellent whitebait on the Island; the Taverners does a cracking portion, lightly seasoned rather than commercially breadcrumbed. Within sight of Shêd is Bembridge Fish, the village fishmonger which was advertising fresh whitebait for sale.
Our main courses made significant amends. With the brittle blanchbait fresh in our minds we were both pleasantly surprised by some decent dishes. Matt had a ciabatta impressively titled ‘el Cubano’. Filled with seared seasoned steak, it came with fresh pepper, cheese and a zinging jalapeño aioli. This hot, fresh lunchtime delight was dripping with juice, and the meat was a tender treat. At £8.20 for a ciabatta it ought to have been good – and it was.
Cat’s tomato mozzarella and pesto salad was another well-constructed lunch. Dressed liberally with a sweet raspberry balsamic reduction plus a dollop of tangy pesto, it was scattered with cheese torn by a generous hand. That same hand had been a bit parsimonious with the tomatoes, but nonetheless it was a salad that Cat would go back for.
We finished with a coffee for Cat, and a glass of fresh orange juice enlivened with a chunk of blood-orange for Matt. Shêd was an enjoyable spot for lunch, and the dinner menu looked promising too. The venue is comfortable and stylish, service is friendly, quick and helpful, and – leaving aside that blanchbait – the food offering is well above average.
This is the full-length version of the review that appeared in the Isle of Wight County Press.
- Nice environment
- Interesting menu
- Good for people-watching
- Blanchebait a bit disappointing