This is an archive review. The Countryman is now closed. Matt and Cat’s home town of Ryde is positively bursting with places to eat...

This is an archive review. The Countryman is now closed.

Matt and Cat’s home town of Ryde is positively bursting with places to eat and they’ve tried an awful lot of them.

Countryman, Brighstone

The advantage of such a densely resourced place is that if you don’t like the look of one venue you can stagger down the road to the next. Rural areas generally cannot offer such an abundance, and visitors who have driven the country mile will want to be reassured that they have landed at an agreeable destination.

Thankfully, readers can always turn to Matt and Cat to take some of the randomness out of noshing in the wilds of West Wight. Thus, purely for the benefit of their readers, they visited The Countryman at Limerstone one spring evening.

This large and rather bland-looking roadhouse nestles on a south-facing slope. It is perfectly positioned to take advantage of the glorious view across the countryside to the heritage coast and the English Channel beyond. The large extension is all windows and there are plenty of tables out front at which to catch some rays on a hot sunny afternoon. But will The Countryman be like some other venues, offering mediocre food on the back of a panoramic vista?

Spaghetti Bolognese

The landlord of the pub is called Russ and, as Matt and Cat arrived, he got up out of his chair in the sun, introduced himself with a friendly handshake and offered drinks. The vast interior of the pub is surprisingly rustic with ancient yokes and pitchforks jostling for position on the lumpy walls, perhaps ready for the moment that Frankenstein’s monster should veer off course. Still, with such a warm welcome from Russ, what might have been seen as tired old rusticalia tat took on a weathered charm.

M and C chose a table with a fine view of Blackgang and perused the menu. It was all looking distinctly pub grub; dishes under the headings of ‘From the grill’, ‘Burgers’ and ‘Omelettes’ did little to inspire The Cat although Matthew gladly went native with his fall-back option of cheeseburger and chips. There were a few surprises on the menu – chicken fajitas (£12.95) and the starter of deep-fried Camembert in home-made batter (£5.25) bucked the trend. And, away from the staples of the regular bill of fare, the specials board had plenty to tempt even the most particular of Cats. Whole rainbow trout with lemon and parsley butter (£9.95), Barnsley lamb chops with minted gravy, new potatoes and veg (£7.95) and home-made steak and ale pie (£9.50) all sounded pretty tasty. It was the spaghetti Bolognese (£7.95) which finally clinched the deal.

…the best Bolognese Cat has had on the Island, no less!
Cheeseburger and chips

Because it was early in the evening, there was no-one to eavesdrop on but the instrumental music created a certain jazz-funk atmosphere. As the car park filled up with four-wheel drive vehicles, so the view disappeared behind the iron horses. However, the arrival of the dinner drew the attention of Matt and Cat. With the waitress despatched to find vinegar and Parmesan cheese, your reviewers studied their meals.

The Bolognese was a handsome dish; two lengths of garlic and herb bread lay in formation across the blood-red sauce which was topped with a jaunty sprig of parsley adding a welcome contrasting colour. The burger looked very inviting with fresh cheese oozing from it. The two meat patties were moist, piping hot and freshly cooked; certainly above average when compared to other cheeseburgers. The chips were correctly crisp, fresh and hot, and Matt’s salad was dressed with a surprisingly subtle but tasty dressing. It had been prepared with a bit of creativity; the cucumber’s seedy heart was cut out creating green crescent-moon shapes.

Matt and Cat’s bill
Cheeseburger £8.50
Spaghetti Bolognese £7.95
2 x coffee £2.70

Cat was particularly delighted with her pasta dish. The topping was a wonderfully garlicky and meaty sauce; the mince had no gristly bits at all and it was delicious. The Parmesan had been freshly shaved; the cheese adding a piquancy to the best Bolognese Cat has had on the Island, no less!

Satisfied, Matt and Cat rounded off their meals with coffee and mint chocolates. The Countryman fell at the final fence with the UHT milk in those rubbishy plastic pots but, hey, that’s just a minor detail. The Countryman had done well and exceeded expectations: many big rural pubs trade on location and volume, going down the route of generic food indifferently served. But on both counts The Countryman proved itself significantly better than its uninspiring roadhouse exterior might suggest. Patting their stomachs and waving goodbye to the genial Russ, Matt and Cat left the bar and wended eastwards confident that The Countryman was a place to recommend.

This is an archive review. The Countryman is now closed.