Matt and Cat\'s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide
It’s confusing enough that the Island has so many eating-places named The Boathouse. Matt and Cat know of at least four. Of these, two...

It’s confusing enough that the Island has so many eating-places named The Boathouse.

Surf n Turf, The Boathouse, Puckpool, Ryde

Matt and Cat know of at least four. Of these, two clearly were once boathouses; one other, with some stretching of the imagination, could have once accommodated some modest vessels. But the fourth – the Boathouse at Puckpool – quite plainly has never entertained a boat in its life, unless it’s a ship in a bottle on the mantelpiece: it’s a solid Victorian pub.

It’s also proven to be a fickle mistress for quite a few owners and managers, changing hands several times in the last few years, sometimes under less-than-favourable circumstances. Matt and Cat have had both good and bad meals there, and comments on previous incarnations suggested similarly mixed experiences. At its nadir, some years ago, the Boathouse was the place that people would just love to gossip about – regularly passing on to Matt and Cat stories of heinous crimes against food that cannot possibly all have been true. Once the reputation of a venue goes that far down, it’s a very long way back. The Boathouse began its return journey to respectability last year with an infusion of sensible cooking and decent service from the Liberty’s team. This year, yet another management team is at the helm and at last, the word on the street seemed to suggest that The Boathouse really had finally settled down. So Matt and Cat set out to see what was going on at Puckpool.

The Boathouse, Puckpool, Ryde. Tilapia

One thing you can say for the Boathouse, they’ve done a nice job doing it up. In fact, that’s the one thing pretty much everyone says about it, so let’s get that over with: it’s quite trendy inside, with lots of clean, muted colours, distressed wood and tealights. M & C swanned into this Sunday-supplement style haven, feeling quite the urban socialites.

At its nadir, some years ago, the Boathouse was the place that people would just love to gossip about

Before they’d even selected a table the choice of where to sit was made for them. A couple of their friends were already seated in the restaurant area, and invited Matt and Cat to join them. They’d just placed their order, and the Boathouse gained a mark of approval when the waiter approached (yes, table service in the evenings, no queuing at the bar) and, on being appraised of the situation offered to delay the recently-ordered meals so that the new arrivals could order and eat together with their friends.

With this in mind your reviewers, already catching up on the gossip, had to make the effort to assimilate the menu and large specials board, and get an order in quickly. The menu was an impressive document. Not over-long, it was broken down helpfully into categories including pub favourites, steaks, seafood specialities and vegetarian selection. Not all of it was top price, either – in the ‘smaller appetite’ section diners could order two locally-made sausages with chips and peas for an impressively low £4.95.

Cat zoomed through the menu with unaccustomed determination, before choosing from the specials board. She’s rarely able to resist a tempting chicken dish, and this was no exception to the Rule of the Cat: pan-fried chicken breast with creamed leeks and deep-fried potato skins. Matt was too busy chatting to go over and examine the specials in detail, so he squinted across the room and spotted a perennial favourite: surf ‘n’ turf.

When it arrived there was a sensation: this surf ‘n’ turf comprised an 8oz sirloin plus half a lobster. Yes, half a lobster. Matt was agog, and very pleased. If he’d taken the trouble to read the board attentively he’d have known this de luxe surf ‘n’ turf rendition was coming, but it was all the more impressive for arriving unexpectedly. Another surprise: along with Cat’s chicken breast a massive pile of vegetables and sliced potatoes was served for the diners to share. These didn’t need to be ordered separately, and formed a very commendable addition to the meal – courgette, onion, carrot, cabbage and potato were in plentiful supply.

Pan-fried chicken breast with creamed leeks and deep-fried potato skins

Matt and Cat’s companions were also very pleased with their meals, respectively trio of locally-made sausages on chef’s special mash; and an awesome-looking orange tilapia on buttered iceberg and crab with an orange and spring onion dressing.

The Boathouse’s relaxed atmosphere was certainly working its magic – Matt and Cat were really enjoying their meals. Cat’s chicken perched for its last time on a stack of potato skins, marooned in a leeky sauce. It was a good and tasty portion, well-presented and generous.

The half-lobster had a modest but delicious supply of meat prepared inside, and a liberal dash of melted garlic butter anointed both meat and shellfish alike. Matt approached the lobster with a little trepidation. It wasn’t through any fear of crustaceans, but rather because his reckless ordering meant that he was painfully aware that he was about to eat a dish priced at £27.95. That’s several weeks pocket-money to say the least, and so Matt was anxious to make the most of it. He needn’t have worried. As soon as he sank his teeth into the steak he knew that all was well. This was a very, very good steak, and with the well-prepared lobster alongside, the surf ‘n’ turf was clearly a winner.

Matt and Cat’s bill
Chicken breast £10.95
Surf and turf £27.95
Lemon tart £4.50
Cheesecake £4.25
2 x pint ale £6.10
Total £53.75
home-made glazed lemon tart with raspberry and strawberry sorbet

Across the table, the tilapia in orange was going down well, and there was a certain amount of teasing from the man who had ordered a very satisfactory sausage and mash for £8.95 – a third of the price of Matt’s mega-feast.

As the conversation flowed, lubricated by the very good beer, even the generous vegetable allowance wasn’t enough to prevent Matt and Cat ordering puddings to make the most of this delightful evening. Matt ordered marble chocolate cheesecake, and Cat, predictably enough, picked glazed lemon tart with raspberry and strawberry sorbet. The Boathouse didn’t disappoint. Two well-presented desserts arrived, and were undoubtedly home-made as advertised. Matt’s cheesecake was splendidly chocolaty and, unexpectedly – and mercifully – light and fluffy.

Cat, a connoisseur of lemon desserts, was very impressed with her offering. It was spectacularly lemony, and almost induced her to pull her special lemon face as it was so citrusy. The sorbet, too, gets a special mention. Just like the tart was intensely lemon-flavoured, the iced dessert was chock with concentrated raspberries. A flawless end to a very good meal indeed.

Matt and Cat were impressed with their Boathouse experience. Expecting a decent feed in a fairly standard pub, they instead were treated to what perhaps could be an assembly of all the good bits from previous Boathouse experiences. In 2008, the place was beautifully set out, with an ambitious menu, but couldn’t deliver. In 2009, the Liberty’s crew delivered their trademark relaxed atmosphere and friendly service, plus a well-stocked bar. But in the short time they were there, the menu was never going to be anything too exciting. Now, in 2010, it seems as though the Boathouse has well and truly risen from the metaphorical ashes. It’s a place Matt and Cat are very pleased to recommend.

  • jill says:

    Went for breakfast Easter Sunday at 10.26. To be told we’ve finished breakfast I’ll check with the chef to see if we can do anything… after a discussion ho busy they were (only one other sole diner) yes we can do you breakfast but you’ll have to choose quickly cos we’re busy… another couple was turned away…breakfast ok bacon good poached eggs snotty… would I go back… afraid not..

  • Ash Sinclair says:

    I regularly eat at the boat house and keep going back for the simple reason that the food and service re both excellent!! I have never been disapointed with my food and would vote the Boat House as one of the best eating out venues on the island!

  • Shirley Valentine says:

    Tonight I went to the Boathouse on their last “Two for one” offer of the season, with 9 friends. I’d booked a table some weeks ago. We had a lovely big square table (excellent for conversing) BUT…. four of our party were expected to sit on low leather stools to eat their 3 course meal. When we complained, we were told “you should have specified when booking”!!!!!!! Am I the only one who still books a restaurant like this “Could I have a table for 10 people at 7pm please?”. HOw many of you also say “…with 10 chairs please”???? Four chairs were brought out and we were all seated comfortably.
    After this the evening improved considerably; the offer is excellent value for money and there were some very tasty dishes on the menu. (“Blanchbait” is a little pretentious though don’t you think?) The basa fillet of fish wsa good as always (can’t spell its other name-sorry) and the chocolate torte was to die for.
    It was a very busy night at the beginning of the Easter holiday but the service was still at a good pace.
    Will go again.

  • PAUL MULLERY says:

    Reading the posts from David and Colin, I am confused. is David satisfied with the cooked rats in Wetherspoons and does Colin prefer his chef severed or chopped?

  • Colin says:

    @ David Smith. Sorry this is slightly off topic but sometimes I wish we could ‘like’ comments on Matt and Cat!

    I should think Wetherspoons in Ryde are happy you only visit once a year, they wouldn’t want a rat problem :-)……

    As for the Boathouse, I have never eaten there before but will make a beeline for it. I cannot wait to sample the food of a severed chef and compare its presentation to that presented by a less severed chef!

  • David Smith says:

    i ONLY COME TO THE ISLE OF WIGHT once a year. I do however rat in Weatherspoons all the time.I can assure you that while i am satisfied with my meal at weatherspoons I am more than just satisfied with the food served in the boat house it is cooked by a chief severed and presented at a far higher standard.

  • Jo says:

    Having heard different reports about this place, but mainly positive, thought I’d try it out for lunch.
    The decor is very tasteful and relaxing and the small size meals we ate were good and reasonably priced. The service was good but perhaps it did take rather a long time to get our meals, even though it was not busy. A suggestion to the management would be to put up hooks in the ladies toilets so that bags etc don’t have to be put on the floor. I will certainly be going there again.

  • Christine says:

    Had lunch here yesterday(bh Mon) and found the food to be very disappointing and overpriced. Yes the staff were friendly, puddings were delicious, but as my father put it”I’ve had better steaks in Weatherspoons” and that is, as they say, saying something.

  • Liz and Nigel says:

    We visited on a Saturday lunch time, a few weeks ago, after wandering along from Seaview. What a delightful pub and the service and atmosphere was super. The menu is varied and caters for smaller appertites, a welcome choice. The service was prompt even though they were quite busy ( full inside )and the food delicious. We come from West Wight and often go to The New Inn at Shallfleet and this sister pub does not disappoint.We look forward to returning. Keep up with the good service, that is priceless.

  • Mattfromryde says:

    We went for lunch on Monday and it was just warm enough to sit outside on their splendid patio. Roll on the summer! The food and service were as ever excellent.

  • Terry says:

    This a sister pub to the “New Inn” in Shalfleet (Isle of Wight Dinning Pub of the year, year after year) which I have also eaten in a few times. I had lunch with friends in the “Boathouse” just 2 weeks ago, and I must say I found it much superior to th “New Inn” atmosphere, staff, menue, location, etc, all a YES for me. Although I normally stay at the othe end of the Isle of Wight, (Yarmouth) the 18 mile trip is well worth the journey

  • David Smith says:

    If you want good Fine dinning this is the place to going fortnights holiday we went 6 times the only reason we did not go more was we like to try other places.The staff are pleasant and on the ball the tables are spotless. You do not feel rushed The menu is extensive Make sure you book up because it is so popular.It made our holiday.

  • mattfromryde says:

    I think what has really made a big difference to this place is the new raised patio area. You get a much better view of the sea, whilst still protected from the prevailing winds. Some really inviting sofas and chairs that are perfect for a sundowner.

  • cathy taylor says:

    had a nice romantic meal here couple of weeks ago and had seabass which was to dye for!!!really great place to have nice resonably priced meal that has romanitic setting and staf very freindly!!1i hope i get surprised again and get takingout as this will be my first choice!!!

  • Ann & Steve says:

    Returned to the Boathouse as we’d enjoyed it so much last year & the food is still very good,again the fish ‘specials’ are our favourites so my husband had the gilt head sea bream which he said was delicious,along with fresh veg in a side bowl(needed fresh butter on the new pots!)I had the hake with a crab/fennel creamy sauce which was very tasty apart from rather large chunks of fennel which didn’t need to be there as the sauce had the fennel tops already in it.Lemon posset dessert was to die for!Even asked for the recipe!Alas told it was a secret!My husband had the Raspberry creme brulee which was also very good.
    Our only gripe was that once seated,if you wanted another drink,you had to go & get it yourself as staff said they would be too busy!Guess this is their way of making you order a bottle of wine!

  • Bushy says:

    Congratulations to the Boathouse for excelling themselves in looking after various family members and guests to our post-birthday party celebrations on Sunday lunchtime. Food and service were excellent, the sun shone, and those of our party that stayed there overnight reported excellent rooms and superb breakfasts.

  • Gavin says:

    I have eaten five times at the Boathouse over the summer months, being local to me and having the usual summer guests to treat. I enjoyed them all, especially the plaice and capers. However I dined again last w/e and was totally disappointed. Has the chef changed since summer passed? I do not dine out to have what I thought (and tasted like) was an bought in lamb shank with a totally tasteless sauce and a clearly bought in and microwaved sticky toffee pudding. The ‘cooking’ ability has collapsed. The starters we had were probably from a packet too.

    The summer menu seemed to be from good in season ingredients, the autumn one from a wholeseller of pre cooked foods. I suggest the chef visit the Jamie Oliver spicy lamb shank recipe for inspiration. Finally, charging £4.50 for a clearly microwaved pudding ( hot in the middle, warm on the outside) of suspiciously regular form rather than making a date sponge would increase the margins and importantly increase the dining experience. Poor.

  • Ann & Steve says:

    We had a lovely meal at the Boathouse last Friday evening.All the staff are very welcoming & helpful,nothing was too much bother.We both love fish dishes so this was the right place to dine as there were several specials involving fish.I started with the warm lobster & salmon terrine which was smashing,my husband had the hot garlic prawns which although they were tasty,he thought they were overpriced for the small amount served.For mains I had the Hake fillet with a crab & tarragon sauce which was fantastic!Only moan would be that the carrots served with the veg selection were way too over cooked.My husband had the whole Plaice with caper butter sauce,again very,very good & piping hot which is a great plus nowadays!
    No room for desserts even though Banoffee profiteroles sounded tempting!Just great coffee to round off our lovely meal.
    Will visit again on our next hols,maybe even stay there!

  • Amie says:

    I spent last Saturday evening at the Boathouse with 14 other members of my family.
    It was my Gran’s 80th birthday so as you can imagine an important event.
    The Boathouse provided exceptional service from start to finish, we were provided a great table on the raised area of the restaurant, which meant we had great views and could all fit in.
    The starters were out in no time at all, and were well presented and sized, as well as being extremely tasty.
    The mains came out in due course and the table fell silent, a sign of enjoying a meal!
    I had the Pan fried chicken breast with warm chorizo and roasted pepper salsa and potatoes. I had plenty for my main, the chicken was tender and the chorizo and salsa gave the meal a bit of spice!
    Not many of the party had a dessert but I have a particularly sweet tooth, so I soon discovered they did a lemon posset with shortbread which had an incredibly smooth consistency and a great lemon flavour.
    Nothing was too much bother for the staff, and my Gran had a great birthday. Which made the night a great success. I think it is a very well organised establishment with genuinely friendly, helpful staff.
    Stay exactly as you are!

  • Mat says:

    Very enjoyable lunch here. I had the Ploughmans: consisting of Isle of Wight Blue and Gallybaggar cheeses, an onion chutney, fresh bread, apple, pickled onions and well dressed salad. Good food.

    Cindy had a ‘lovely’ crab sandwich and the girls shared a generous child’s portion of IOW sausages and chips. Prompt service, very clean, food fresh. Can’t be faulted.

    Found out they do B&B here too. Would be a fabulous place to stay, one of my favourite IOW spots.

  • lamplighter says:

    visited boathouse on friday evening.took precaution of booking table.staff very pleasent and well organised.with regard to catts chicken special the staff must have known who you were to serve vegetables with this dish as none were forth coming with ours.just goes to show its who you know not what you know.apart from this the evening was a success

  • dave smith says:

    Another nice place to eat As I said in my other comments this is one of the top three I visted.It is clean well run and the food is cooked for you as you order.Try the red mullet tempera starter it has to be one of the best starters I had.For mains the chicken breasts with leaks and potato skins.or the the pork steaks in pepercorn sauce.we ate there twice why did we not go more often because we could not get booked in. But we shall be back.

    Matt and Cat respond:Thanks for your comments, as always, Dave. We’re glad that you had some great food on your holiday.

  • Simon says:

    We had a meal in The Boat House on Sunday.The landlord seemed friendly enough,pointing out two members of BucksFizz in the garden and telling us they had had the considerable pleasure of Lucy Benjamin’s custom during the week.Some of the staff however were not as polite and friendly.One even ignoring my goodbye as we left the Pub and one member answering my wife with a grunt when she mentioned that the hot tap was stuck on in the ladies
    We tried sitting outside because it was such a nice day only to be plagued incessantly by wasps.I dont know if the Pub can do any thing about this problem which also seems to plague Puckpool Park.
    We ended up sitting in the nice but stuffy interior of the Pub and ordered our food.
    I choose Salmon with chorizo with spinach and fried potatoes.I was asked if i would like to order some veg with that but declined thinking that a £15 main course should be sufficient to sate my appetite.As lovely as the dish was it just was not enough to fill me up.The average sized salmon steak sat on top of the spinach and chunks of chorizo in the middle of the plate was in my opinion over priced.My friends had Sea Bream with veg but needed to fill up at the Wimpy on the way home.My wife had a nice smoked salmon salad with creme fraiche which she enjoyed and looked very nice for a tenner.The kids had sausage,peas and chips divided onto two plates at our request as there was no childrens menu which was good value for £4.95.
    Our visit was a mixed bag really with some staff friendly and some staff surly and almost rude.Some food over priced with small portions and some food seeming good value.All the food was nice however.
    My advice to the new mangement would be to cover the less friendly staff with jam and send them out to divert the wasps attention and maybe review some of the prices and portions

  • vfbb says:

    I’ve been 5 times since it opened this year and have enjoyed every meal. My 2 kids thinks that they serve the best pub fish’n’chips anywhere on the Island. The food always arrives promptly, whilst being hot and tasty (something other pubs on the Island seem to struggle with).. Bit of a shame that the prices seem to have gone up for the summer holidays.

  • Daniella says:

    Myself and my partner plus various guests have eaten here on three occasions thus far and have been very impressed. I usually stick to fish dishes and my partner to steak and we have not been disapointed by the flavours or the presentation. On our last visit we were attended to by a really lovely woman who was warm and friendly without being ‘in your face’. She admitted she was new but could not have been more helpful. The in-laws were also impressed by the food and we’re glad we’re starting to find some nice, friendly, good quality places to take them. My mum’s coming down next week and we’ll be looking to take her there too! Any excuse! We’ve found so far having moved to the IOW last September that too many places here survive on tourists who visit a place once, realise they’ve made a mistake and just never go back and this can make a place like the IOW suffer a little in terms of quality (Codfather anyone? Thought not!). This place however, along with a few other places we’ve rooted out off the beaten track are bucking this trend. Good quality food, great service, I’d recommend giving this place a try!

  • Ringo says:

    I’m all for efficiency – but when the efficiency is centred on great food, so much the better. Think the Taverners at Godshill.

  • bushy says:

    Interesting comments, these – particularly the use of the word ‘efficiency’ in a negative sense.

    To me, eating out is not just about the food: it is a total experience which includes venue, service, ambience etc. Maybe the Boathouse does not hit the gastronomic heights, but it serves good food in a friendly and ‘efficient’ way. I have now eaten there four times (two bar snacks, one lunchtime salad and one evening meal) under the present management, and I have not had a bad experience.

  • dave says:

    Oh Ringo, this is so true. Great food is never going to be found here or at the New Inn. The problem is that in order to critique food, you have to know what it is. Sadly, this isn’t the case.

  • Ringo says:

    Lovely decor, very pleasant staff – but the food is no more than adequate. Like its overrated sister pub, the New Inn in Shalfleet, this place is all about efficiency, not great food. Never trust a place that has a specials blackboard with those little pre-printed hanging appendages on it.

  • kurt gänxl says:

    it has a good way to go …


    middish-grande put food …

    Silly name

    just go to the New Inn or the Bay Grill Appley beach (not far) and great nice fresh food cokked by youngsters who are on the ball

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