Matt and Cat\'s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide
Following a flurry of contrasting comments from their readers, Matt and Cat decided to revisit the Sportsman’s Rest to see if they’d made a...

Following a flurry of contrasting comments from their readers, Matt and Cat decided to revisit the Sportsman’s Rest to see if they’d made a mistake. The original review from December 2006 is at the bottom of the page.

Mixed grill

February 2009 review
Could it be possible that Matt and Cat have reviewed everywhere on the Island? Thankfully, far from it. There are plenty of new and hopefully exciting places that M and C can turn their attention to. Also, in the course of writing this eating out guide, it’s sometimes necessary to revisit a venue. If, for example, an eatery was particularly dismal, Matt and Cat might have another meal there to see if things have improved. In the case of the Sportsman’s Rest, a range of alarmingly vitriolic remarks arrived on the blog, leading your reviewers to wonder, was their enthusiastic review justified or were readers’ comments that included the words ‘vile’, ‘poor’ and ‘salty’ nearer the mark? It was time for Matt and Cat to have another look…

Fillet steak

The last time your intrepid reviewers visited the Sportsman’s Rest they were extremely happy with the venue, the service and particularly the food. It was pub grub with a pinch of charm. Decent food served in a homely environment with just enough touches of olde worlde appeal to make it stand out from conveyor belt hostelries.

Luckily for Matt and Cat they landed by chance at the Sportsman’s Rest on steak night. Result! Once again entering the cosy bar they were greeted by a cheery lady who happily passed the time of day with them whilst their eyes roamed across the chalked menu. Matt, instantly distracted by the cask ale (noted from the review of 2006), ordered a pint of Bombardier which, at £2.70 for a glass of the nutty nectar drawn straight from the barrel, was excellent value.

Matt and Cat’s bill
Fillet steak £12.95
Mixed grill £12.95
Bombadier £2.70

The steak night fare was prominently displayed, touted as Island meat from Hamiltons Fine Foods. Like Matt with the real ale, once Cat’s eyes had alighted on the word ‘fillet’ she knew she need look no further for her choice of supper – fillet steak it was. Matt, with his moustache soaked in Bedfordshire brew, asked about the meat quotient of the mixed grill. A rather vague list of fleshy fare was listed, which included sausage, lamb chop, egg, mushrooms and some other stuff. Another cheery lady emerged from the kitchen to join the debate, and after a quick chat with the chef established the full extent of the ‘other stuff’ – gammon, rump steak, chips, peas and tomatoes. Matt was determined to rise to the challenge once the barmaid mischievously told him that a 97-year-old lady had gamely had a go at the platter and managed to gnaw her way through a considerable amount of it. “Is that the 97 year old woman you had to carry out?” wagged a cheeky bar-side winker, to chuckles from the locals.

In a little booth near the fire, Matt and Cat listened to some middle aged ladies boasting of driving within the speed limit but moaning about codgers that insist on motoring well below. There was talk of overtaking on perilously straight roads at speeds reaching 45 mph in national speed limit zones. Those crazy silver speeders, eh?

M and C also listened to yet more nasal whining from Phil Collins. Why, they mused, is it always Phil Collins in pubs? Surely not out of any desire to hear his music? They concluded that some artists must have a discounted fee for the Performing Rights Society. Also that their music was possibly piped from some central broadcaster into pubs and restaurants across the land or, with the technological tool of t’internet – maybe the world! Is it also conceivable that some people genuinely like drivel like Sussudio?

Soon, the dinners arrived. Just as before, Matt was transported back to Hampshire pubs of his youth by the sight of chips in a basket. Like the prawn cocktail, this retro-fodder will soon be making an ironic comeback. In the Sportsman’s Rest the chip-wicker was holding its own, like a boy who steadfastly wears flares in 1984.

As for the food, it was lovely. Cat’s fillet steak was fantastically tender, just bloody enough and with no gristly bits. Mushrooms, tomatoes, peas and chips were also excellent – a good pub meal.

Matt’s mixed grill was good: basic pub food served well. The individual pieces of meat were small but, because there were a lot of them, collectively they made for a decent-sized meal. The egg was just the right side of snotty. Thankfully for the bar staff there was no danger of Matt either not clearing his plate or needing to be carried outside!

Once the meal was eaten the plates were cleared promptly. Although tempted by some homely-sounding puddings, (including Christmas pud!) M and C decided to go back out into the winter’s night, their tummies full of meat and a satisfactory glow. Despite a change of management the Sportsman’s seemed as good as it ever was, if not better. It would seem that once again Matt and Cat disagree with the naysayers when it comes to the food in this delightful country pub. Who’s right? Perhaps you should go and make your own mind up. Comments please!

Review from 1 December 2006
The Sportsman’s Rest nestles in the tiny village of Porchfield; a quiet, heavily wooded part of the Island a little way away from the main tourist areas. It’s small, and it is a rare delight. For this reason Matt and Cat are almost tempted, for the first time ever, to really criticise the place simply for the pleasure of keeping it to themselves. But don’t worry, readers, they’ll tell you the truth as ever.

The Sportsman's Rest, Porchfield

In the summer the pub gets packed and booking is advisable, particularly on Sunday lunchtimes. But on a dark and windy night Matt and Cat took their chances and drew up at the welcoming lights of the Sportsman’s after splashing through dark lanes and past ancient hedgerows. If you’re going here for the first time you’d be best to take a map, as unlike most of the Island, this is somewhere where you can easily get lost.

Entering the place there is immediately the comforting familiar feeling of an old country pub – a public bar on one side featuring a few locals chatting over their pints, with a small, snug lounge bar on the other. The landlady greeted Matt and Cat in a very friendly way, and a few moments of idle chat made them feel most welcome.

The menu was good, solid pub grub at reasonable prices. Once seated on a settle by the side of the fireplace, Matt chose traditional liver and bacon, and Cat ventured gammon steak with egg and chips. Matt also sampled the real ales kept in casks behind the bar, which proved to be excellent, and a real enhancement to the meal.

The food came swiftly and was very good indeed. Generous servings all round were complemented by very freshly cooked vegetables in the traditional style. No raw onion was in sight as Matt enjoyed swede, cabbage, carrot, and cauliflower cheese, all with gravy – good wholesome accompaniments to the sublime liver. He also wished he’d chosen mash from the extensive potato choice as he felt the chef would’ve made an excellent job of what can sometimes be lumpy and unpleasant.

Cat’s huge gammon steak topped with a most perfectly cooked fried egg was served with a modest salad, peas and plenty of chips. So enamoured were Matt and Cat of the food, they even ordered a dessert – the irresistible mulled fruit crumble with three scoops of vanilla ice cream.

The Sportsman’s Rest is a hidden gem, and different from many Island pubs. It was, as Cat remarked ‘like a little bit of rural Hampshire’. It was a real pub with genuine old tongue-and-groove on the walls, a dresser for the cutlery, a proper bar and centuries of unrefurbished character. The atmosphere is something quite special and evoked in both Matt and Cat all the best memories of pubs from bygone years. Commendably, the food was more than equal to the location and service – the Sportsman’s Rest is unreservedly recommended.

  • James says:

    Having been away for a bit (from the Sportsmans, not the Island) we thought we might try it for lunch today. The present landlord has only been there for 10 months, and to judge from the more recent comments at the end of his predecessor’s tenure, he may have some fences to mend. All I can say on the basis of today’s excursion is that he’s making a decent effort – the food was very well presented and commendably quick. My partner’s bacon sandwich was the best part of 3 inches thick and my bacon and mushroom melt came with a pretty decent salad for November. I can also recommend the real ale, which is well kept and includes the deeply delicious ‘Death or Glory’ ale, which at 7.2% ABV you should probably consume by the half…

    The interior, I am glad to say, is much as it was in 2007 (my earlier review) and is how a country pub should be IMO – fake antiques and ersatz oak beams are plentiful enough, thank you.

    As another James said in an earlier review, if you have been disappointed in the past I urge you to give it another go.

  • brett eastman says:

    i used to go randomly to the sportsmans rest about 4 yrs ago, i always enjoyed the food,the pub itself is very small inside but it can create a cute cosy feel,especially if the log fire is lit, but unfortunately i visited recently and it is now being run by a different staff, i wont beat around the bush i found the food of very poor quality,undercooked and it gave me the impression that it was cheap supermarket value food that had been put in the microwave, the bar staff were moody and seemed depressed but hey ho the beer was nice. being in the middle of nowhere i think alot more effort and a happier atmosphere needs to be set in place or it will remain as empty as it was when i visited

  • nick mattocks says:

    My wife and I have for the last 3 years visited many Island pubs on a whim and sampled their sometimes wonderful,sometimes average and in the case of the Sportsman’s Rest,Porchfield on this particular lunchtime,very bland food,served without a smile and to the tune of many microwaves going off in the kitchen. We admittedly arrived at 1.50pm,but were only told after we had ordered our food that the pub shuts at 2.30,making us feel that we were encroaching on the publican’s afternoon siesta. Nevertheless,we wanted to sample the fare and my wife ordered the chicken burger with a portion of chips and I had the beef chilli with rice. My wife’s burger was small,£4.50 with one slice of tomato,lettuce and onion as accompaniment and the chips were plentiful at £1.50. My chilli was very dry,as if all the moisture had been sucked out by the radiation from the microwave that so obviously had been used to warm it up. The rice was nice and fluffy,but probably a packet,warmed again by radiation. We felt as if we were being rushed into eating our meal and left virtually as soon as we had finished eating and we were back,sat in our car by 2.30pm,giving us just 40minutes from entering to leaving. In hindsight,it would have been easier for the publican to have stated that they were in the process of closing and we would have had a quick drink and moved on to somewhere else,but the lure of a quick buck helped by a lack of consideration for the customer has made us vow not to go back there again. Its a shame,but thats how we found it.

  • Alison says:

    Not the flashiest pub in the world, but the food is good honest food, well presented , we had to wait for each course and as they werent busy would imply to me that they were actually cooking the food fresh, which when it arrived was certainly obvious. Deserts were all home made and the cost of a three course meal was £ 10.45, with a good choice. We will definitely go there again – we werel welcomed by the staff and the locals and we felt quite at home.
    Three course meal for three with two bottles of wine was less than £ 60 and great value.

  • John (Grimsby) says:

    Just returned from the I.O.W. First time for the wife, 60 years since my last visit. Eat twice at the Sportsmans Rest.
    I had Fish and Chips. One word: Excellent, note where I come from so I know my fish. Wife had a small pie . Well satisfied.
    Returned two nights later my wife had Small scampi , very happy. I had Steak and Stilton pie. Very ,Very good.
    Staff were friendly, service quick,
    Price, good value.

  • Neil (Local) says:

    Popped in for lunch yesterday and had the curry of the day (Chicken Tikka). It was just right for me! For pud I had pear crumble with ice cream which was enjoyable. All washed down with a pint of real ale! Would deffo recommend it!

  • Andrew says:

    Four of us went there 10 July. Good food and particularly impressed by the genuinely homemade desserts. The only mystery was why there weren’t more people there. We will go again.

  • Sean says:

    We tried the Sportsmans Rest for the first time in many years over the Bank Holiday weekend. The 2 course Roast for £9 was a huge sized meal with a good selection of veg and loads of tasty meat. My mixed grill was delicious, but not for the small appetite, and we shared the dessert, as we were both pretty full. I would recommend this place.

  • Tom says:

    The pub is remarkable by traditional pub standards, and the atmosphere, food and drink is all top notch. also the landlords are very pleasent and a delight to talk to and the staff is hard at work to be sure ur food is on time. If anyone is looking for a traditional pub to relax after a hard days work or a good familys day out then i highly recommend The Sportsmens Rest.

  • JB says:

    Haven’t eaten here for quite a while so thought I’d try it again for lunch. I was very impressed by everything. It was good to have a choice of a smaller or larger portion and at reasonable prices. The food was of good quality with lots of homemade choices. There are not many pubs on the Island that haven’t just turned into Eateries. This is a ‘real’ pub complete with a roaring log fire and welcoming hosts. I am looking forward to my next visit.

  • James says:

    I have eaten at the Sportsman’s Rest twice so far this year, and have two excellent meals. The ‘smaller appetite’ option is great, there’s a good range of main courses and the beer from the barrel is great. I have to say it did seem to go through a not-so-fab spell a while back, but now it’s probably my favourite place for decently priced food in a nice homely pub. If you have been disappointed in the past I urge you to give it another go!

  • jack says:

    Having been regulars at the sportsmans, when it changed hands we gave the new owners a go the food was not up to standard so decided to go elsewhere. we were driving past the pub last week and went in, unfortunatly the food had not improved, and the service and atmosphere was poor. this used to be a very busy pub, with good food and friendly staff,sadly to say the present owners have lost all of these good qualitys in this charming unique pub,and once again we will not be going back and would not reccomend it to anyone.

  • Keith says:


    I have to agree the place has change alot and they have more on which is great it als look alot bigger inside with what they have done – however I was disappointed with the food it was not as good as it used to be, the atmosphere was also not as relaxed or friendly.

  • Lucy says:

    I went to the sportsmans last week, and it has improved
    dramatically, The food is great, And it is a lot cleaner. They
    have music and quiz nights and are also doing a halloween
    party not to mention the christmas and new year plans.

    This is just what the village needs a good family freindly

    Well done The Sportsmans rest

    Will be visting and recommending this to everyone.


  • Jan says:

    We’ve eaten at the Sportsman’s Rest a couple of times in the last year, and have no complaints at all about the food. We were particularly pleased that they do
    smaller portions of some dishes,which suited an elderly relative of ours,(who finds usual pub portions are just too big).
    They could possibly offer more choice on puddings, but otherwise excellent.Staff were polite and friendly, and the place was full on both occasions.

  • Steve says:

    What a good pub, good food, good beer, good service, every thing about this pub is good. Sham to read the silly coments left by people that complain about such things as salt or lack of. Well worth a visit.

  • david smith says:

    We only come over for our hoildays once year.We visted the sportsman about 6 years ago and were put off by the bad service..Last year we went back and we were suprised at the change. The food was good the price was fair. We shall be going again this year

  • James says:

    Like you, I’m tempted to criticise the place simply for the pleasure of keeping it to myself, but there’s not much point in commenting if I’m going to tell fibs, especially as we’ve just had the best Valentine’s Day lunch I can remember. Not only wonderful main courses, but proper puddings as well, including a brilliant rhubarb frangipane tart that will probably be my benchmark for restaurant desserts for all time.
    The surroundings are near-perfect, too – slightly faded and totally unpretentious decor (unlike the Dairyman’s Daughter for instance, which is awful IMHO) and excellent service from cheerful and hard-working staff.
    Sadly, I’m told it is up for sale, which sounds like bad news – perhaps you can lean on the owners to stay…

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