Matt and Cat\'s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide
Plenty of pubs and restaurants on the Island have a seaside location. Some even have views of the sea and fishy dishes on their...

Plenty of pubs and restaurants on the Island have a seaside location. Some even have views of the sea and fishy dishes on their menus. But how many of these places actually take fish from their local fishermen?

The Fisherman's Cottage, Shanklin Chine

Some do for sure, but few can be so very closely associated with fishing as the Fisherman’s Cottage, Shanklin. Sitting on the terrace, diners can only see the sea by peering over the small flotilla of fishing boats pulled up on the beach, where fish have been landed for generations. And these are not quaint little tourist boats either, they actually do go fishing down there, and sometimes it’s that very fish which appears on the Fisherman’s Cottage menu.

No stroll through the old village of Shanklin would be complete without a visit to Shanklin Chine, ideally in the evening to enjoy the wonderful illuminations. Playing grockles, Matt and Cat chose the only dry evening of summer 2010 and descended the winding coastal chink to the pub on the beach below.

Matt and Cat met some friends who had wisely bagged a table out on the terrace. In summer parents can sip their drinks here while kids play on the beach below. This pub is a summertime venue, so much so that, like the Chine, it closes in the winter season. But it’s not just for sunny days; the pub’s interior is characterful and cosy, so even in inclement weather the Fisherman’s Cottage is in one of the most enviable locations on the Island.

Pie and chips; The Fisherman's Cottage, Shanklin Chine

The menu contained well-described and tempting pub stuff, with plenty of fish and seafood. Indoors a sizeable blackboard bore a range of specials, and it was from here that M & C made their selection. Cat was unable to resist the sea bass fillet on chive mash with fresh vegetables and vermouth sauce. Matt took advice from his fellow-diner, a veteran of this pub and a chap with an appetite to rival his. Recommended was the chunky steak pie with garden peas, chips and ‘real gravy’. Matt didn’t take much persuading.

The Fisherman’s Cottage pie was a splendid example of the genre at its best: absolutely packed with meat, it was a faultless slice of old-fashioned pleasure

The pub was buzzing with several big groups, and more arriving all the time. Matt and Cat saw a few parties turn up and fail to find a seat: so they’d definitely advise booking if you want to be sure of getting a table. Luckily they had no such concerns, and safe in a comfy seat with a view across the beach soon fell to chatting with their companions whilst waiting for the dinner to arrive.

The business end of Matt’s classic pie and chip supper was a hearty pub pie. What’s more, it actually was a slice of pie, complete with pastry. Apologists for the pseudo-pies that some places serve in a ceramic dish with a puff-pastry hat simply don’t appreciate the uncomplicated joy of cutting into a pastry crust, or the taste of pastry that’s actually been cooked with meat juices seeping into it. The Fisherman’s Cottage pie was a splendid example of the genre at its best: absolutely packed with good meat, it was a faultless slice of old-fashioned pleasure. The chips were standard, the peas the same, and the ‘real gravy’, to be honest, tasted disappointingly like real Bisto. But in the shadow of the excellent pie, none of this dented Matt’s enthusiasm and, pint in hand, he consumed his dinner with relish.

The Fisherman's Cottage, Shanklin Chine, sea bass fillet on chive mash with fresh vegetables
Matt and Cat’s bill
Sea bass fillet £14.95
Chunky steak pie £9.95
Treacle sponge £6.95
Blueberry cheesecake £6.95
Total: £38.80 (exc. drinks)

Cat’s sea bass was a marked contrast to the solid, traditional pie. The tender and boneless fillet, draped languidly across a bed of fluffy mash, was consorted by a selection of well-presented cooked vegetables. The vermouth sauce was a fantastic compliment to the lightly flavoured fish. Tangy without being overpowering, it was a nutty, spicy, creamy concoction that mere words cannot do justice. Showing considerable restraint, Cat left some for Matt as it was too good to keep for herself. He agreed with her; it was lovely.

The Fisherman's Cottage, Shanklin Chine

Earlier, when Cat had gone indoors to order the food, her eye had been caught by the desserts on the specials board. Mindful of these, she’d saved a bit of room for a second course, and so a treacle sponge and custard was ordered for Matt, and blueberry cheesecake for Cat.

Like the main course, the dessert was full of contrasts. Matt’s treacle sponge was a simple slab of sponge awash in a vast vat of custard. Cat’s blueberry cheesecake proved to be an unexpectedly complex dish in presentation. The puddings also differed in the eating. Cat was impressed with the cheesecake, and loved the thin slice of candied pineapple that came with it. It was a sophisticated way to present the cheesecake, which in turn was very enjoyable. Matt was not so pleased with the treacle sponge, which was spongy, certainly, but had little of that delicious sticky goo for which the treacle sponge aficionado loves to delve. Equally disappointing was the custard, which certainly came in a generous quantity, but seemed sadly insubstantial, watery even.

As well-fed protagonists Matt and Cat wended their way way up the beautiful floodlit meandering paths of the Chine, they ruminated on the price of their dinner. Frankly, Matt and Cat thought that the food was bit a bit on the pricey side. Or rather, half of it was. Cat’s sea bass fillet and blueberry cheesecake would not have disgraced a fine restaurant, and the price was not at all excessive for that. Matt’s pie and pudding was of an altogether more proletariat character – not a bad thing in itself, but normally a pub sponge pudding does not cost nearly £7. So Matt and Cat deliver a mixed verdict on their supper. Overall it was good, but it was characterised by some high and low points. However the lovely venue and even lovelier way to approach it without doubt make this a pub worth a visit any summer.

  • Helen Benjamins says:

    Ahh….. fish and chips. I’d be surprised to find anyone who has not tried this most British cuisine. Although haven’t we all, at some point or another, been disappointed? I certainly have had my share of cold, chewy chips or bland fish covered in greasy, soggy batter. Less of that though as I tell you of the most wondrous fish and chips I have ever eaten. From the great and the good Harry Ramesden to my local, mainland award winning chippy, McDermotts in Croydon, I have never been served with better.
    Where is this wondrous and delightful place? Why, you lucky people, it’s here on The Island.
    Please, please take yourselves to The Fishermans Cottage at Shanklin. Everyone deserves to eat really good fish and chips at least once in their lives and I believe this is the place to have that experience.
    The only downside, if you can call it that is, that the chef (quite rightly so) observes that tradition of hibernating through the winter months so call first.

  • chri as Jackson says:

    First day on the island, suitcases unpacked,straight down to the fishermans cottage, burgers for two, chicken nuggets and a lasagne, all absolutely gorgeous, big , big portions all well cooked, lovely.
    After that we had to try a meringue with raspberries and fresh whipped cream plus four spoons, beautiful.
    All this for less than 40 quid.
    Needless to say, this place is highly recommded.

  • derek atkins says:

    I hope we do enjoy the island and have lived here for nearly 7 years. Not obvious on your site how I can say resident & not visitor?

    Matt and Cat respond: Sorry Derek, that is not supposed to be there, we’ve removed it. When it comes to eating out and opinions; we don’t distinguish between visitors and residents!

  • derek atkins says:

    Just had an excellent meal here well cooked more than enough to eat, but it was somewhat spoilt by the very strong disinfectant smell coming from the kitchen as it was cleaned down at the end of service.

    Matt and Cat reply: Thanks for your comment, Derek. We hope that you’re having a lovely stay on the Isle of Wight. We, too, sometimes have our dinners interrupted by the smell of chemicals, particularly as adjacent tables are being cleaned. It’s a tricky balance – we want nice hygienic venues but the smell of cleaning fluids can be a bit off-putting! Is soapy water the answer?!

  • colin says:

    Couldn’t find a single thing to complain about…..
    First class all the way..
    thanks for the best steak pie I’ve ever had.

  • Alex says:

    I have finally got around to eating here as I normally hit Shanklin at about 3.00 after walking on the downs. As the beach dog ban has not yet taken effect I decided to stay around Shanklin so I could have PIE!!!!!

    So often steak pie disappoints and I refuse to eat so-called pie with separate puff pastry lids. The best pie I have ever eaten came from The Royal Sailors’ Home Club in the early 1970s, many sad specimens have been eaten since and I have despaired of every finding one as good.

    How did they do?

    BRILLIANT!!!! Solid with meat, great shortcrust, a close contender (probably as good but memory plays tricks) . The best pie since the 70s without a doubt. I had the urge to prostrate myself and worship the cook but not wanting to make an exhibition of myself, made do with a handshake and a “Well done”.

    I must add that I couldn’t finish it, my dog loved the crust.

  • ACW says:

    The Fisherman’s Cottage stops serving food at 2.00pm sharp even if there is a full beach on any day throughout the summer. Have never been able to understand this, perhaps Shanklin Chine, the owners, can explain why!

  • Jef says:

    ….not a small number of pubs, I think you will find a majority of out of town pubs close in the afternoons, the reason quite simply is that not enough people use them! If they had customers they would be open.

  • alison jane arnold says:

    was so. looking forward to going to the pub but when we got there i was told lunch had finished.why in this day and age do a small number of pubs not open all day for food.was very unhappy

  • ACW says:

    I agree entirely with Eric – there is no way the FC can be regarded as dirty.
    I have often wondered, however, despite its prime location, why there continues to be a very strict 2.00pm deadline for ordering food even in the height of a balmy summer season!

  • Eric Wright says:

    I think Diana must have been in a different pub if she says it was dirty!!

  • Diane and her family says:

    Just walked out after a disgraceful show! At 1335 when I arrived I asked if my 83 year old father could have a small plate of food and was pleased to hear he could. Thinking we were all going to have a nice lunch we chose our food from the limited repetative menu and went to the bar to order to be told they were now closed. A mere 10 minutes later! No explanation as to why they hadn’t bothered to mention they were just about to close! I also as I left without an apology heard a couple with a young child complaining they had waited an hour for a sandwich! Poor, dirty and badly run, off to the spyglass for a proper holiday experience!

  • Lisa Jess says:

    We (tourists to the Island) have been to Fishermans cottage twice. The food was fantastic both times. My husband always has the fish pie which he raves about. The onion rings are fantastic the best I have ever had. Last time I went I had the stilton and steak panini which was soo good. We would definitley recommend. We are so upset they are closed in November when we are next visiting.

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