Shanklin Esplanade is one of the quieter of the traditional beaches on the Isle of Wight, where visitors still enjoy the golden sands, amusements, crazy golf and ice creams. It’s Matt and Cat’s recurring pleasure to stop off on the way home from work at such a place where they can spend a few moments enjoying that holiday feeling – and the Island presents many such opportunities. After a stroll along the warm sand they worked up an appetite, and the Steamer Inn heaved to at just the right moment.
The Steamer is a large, family-oriented pub right on the esplanade, with wide terraces overlooking the beach. Signs on the door suggest that tops and shoes must be worn indoors – but outside visitors had obviously walked straight off the beach and sat down. A pleasantly relaxed venue. Perhaps the downside of this was that the terrace was furnished with cheap and rather wobbly plastic furniture, and the tables were distinctly sticky. But undeterred Matt and Cat took a seat outside.
The menu was big, and comprehensive. All pub grub life was there aplenty – sandwiches, salads, burgers, children’s menu, jacket potatoes and ploughman’s. There was a big seafood selection, and Matt picked from that crispy fish cakes in prawn and dill sauce, for £8.25. Cat was attracted to the homemade vegetable tortillas in tomato and basil sauce, for £7.95. A pint of Ventnor Golden for Matt rounded the order off – this turned out to be a little nearer the end of the barrel than he’d have liked – but drinkable nonetheless.
Whilst they awaited their meals Matt and Cat enjoyed the views out to sea, watching passing boats and bathing tourists. They were diverted by the arrival of an extended family of Londoners settling in on the terrace, obviously enjoying their Island holiday but also not quite having managed to adapt to the quieter style of the Island – there was much good-natured hollering and cackling, the highlight of which was hearing a splendid old fellow yell ‘Gor Blimey!’. That kind of expression is now very rarely spotted in the wild, especially so far south as this. A most satisfactory record.
The food was delivered precariously to Matt and Cat’s terrace table by a polite, if rather unsteady, young waiter. Both meals were well-presented and piping hot. Cat was delighted with her tortillas – more like a lasagne than the pancakes she had been expecting, but still an enjoyable pile, dripping with cheese and packed with tasty Mediterranean vegetables. Matt found his modestly-sized and pricier fish cakes less inspiring. The chips and peas were up to the mark, but the fish cakes seemed to be more like potato cakes, being floury and bland with only a hint of fish. The prawn and dill sauce, by contrast, looked and tasted great – but it was more a necessary camouflage than a dressing.
As the shadows crept over the beach, and the families began packing up the people-carriers, Matt and Cat strolled back down the strand to enjoy a few more holiday moments before leaving Shanklin behind. The jolly lights of the Steamer behind them highlighted a good place for a beachside feed – especially if you’ve got a big party. It’s not the cheapest place to eat, nor is the food of the highest quality, but it’s a great location.
Steamer Inn, Shanklin