Years ago, Cat worked in Shanklin and took great pleasure commuting on the tiny train from Ryde through the fields and woodlands of the east Wight. However, since quitting that job for one in the great metropolis of Newport, Shanklin barely enters onto her radar except in the summer, when she and Matt like to play at tourists and have a cream tea.
One of the buildings familiar to The Cat of 1991 was Lloyd’s Bank, a stone’s throw from her previous place of work. The building ceased to be a bank several years ago and is now The Bank – a stylish restaurant in a prime spot in Shanklin’s High Street. Visitors to Shanklin in 1991 would have been astonished if they had seen, amongst the handbag shops and shell-animal emporia, such a streamlined interior with good quality furnishings and no ashtrays on the tables. However, in 2008, when Cat visited, stripped wooden floors, sexy lighting and clean cutlery are de rigeur for any modern eatery.
\Meeting a pile of friends for a very unusual celebration, Cat immediately caused consternation at the bar by asking for organic apple juice – a bottle of which could be seen in the fridge. Much clucking ensued as the drink refused to make itself known on the space-age computerised till. Tired of the fussing behind the bar, Cat offered 50p for the bottle only to be told that it was going to be thrown away as it was past its sell-by date. She had a glass of water instead.
Having built up an appetite with this commotion, Cat and friends sashayed up the wooden stairs to the upper dining area. This is a very pleasant space, open yet private, and although there were other diners enjoying themselves, they did not impinge on each others’ space either literally or acoustically. The presence of two grand fireplaces and a funky lampshade or two ensured that this stylish interior was far from characterless.
The menus were understated, ie single sides of A4 paper, which offered a surprisingly carnivorous selection – perhaps this was 1991 after all? Vegetarians might have had a job finding anything to eat apart from the puddings and a couple of starters; although Welsh rarebit is usually worth a punt for the non-vegans. The waitress kindly explained that the aforementioned did not contain rabbit. This was presumably a necessary clarification for some of the venue’s less cosmopolitan clientèle (although thankfully Cat found herself with people who could tell the difference between Leerdamer and lagomorphs).
Having studied the menu, including the puddings, Cat knew she was going to have Vairhona chocolate with cointreau mousse and lavender shortbread. In order to accommodate the sweet, she decided to only have a starter instead of a main and, on the advice of the waitress, she plumped for lamb casserole. Her friends were not so modest with their appetites and starters, mains and puddings were ordered and consumed. The two most spectacular dishes were the roasted salmon fillet on roquette crushed new potatoes and caper creme fraiche; and the poached chicken breast, spring onion, leek and broccoli tagliatelle, both of which had impressive amounts of meat wobbling precariously atop a pile of veg or pasta.
Cat’s lamb casserole was not quite as hearty but, for a starter, was substantial; lean meat in a thick minty gravy with a piece of carrot or two to break up the monotony. Carbohydrate came in the form of a chunk of bread. Cat had already been advised that there were no potatoes in the casserole and had rashly spurned the suggestion of a portion of chips. The casserole was served in a small tardis-like bowl and, when she decanted it onto her plate, Cat was surprised by the generous amount. The meat was fattier than a Jack Sprat like Cat would like and the dish could have really done with more vegetables than the honorary carrot.
The eagerly anticipated mousse and lavender shortbread was served in a cappuccino cup. A firm torte of a pudding; dense rich chocolate with an alcoholic tang. The three lavender shortbread biscuits were very pleasant; their perfumed shortness moderated the sweetness of the mousse. However, it was all a bit too rich for The Cat, who donated the uneaten half of the pudding to the wolves who soon lapped it up.
Cat’s limited choice was perhaps not enough of a sample meal on which to report: a tasty but rather monotonous casserole starter, and half a dessert. Cat’s friends certainly seemed to enjoy their food and it was all very nicely presented. The prices were slightly above pub grub making The Bank possibly Shanklin’s answer to Liberty’s.