For once Matt and Cat aren’t going to start a review of a Cowes eatery with jibes about yachties and DFLs. Instead, let them tell you about how lovely this waterfront town was looking on an unexpectedly clement Saturday in May. The sun was shining intermittently though fluffy clouds and it was warm enough for The Cat to finally dispense with her trademark mittens.
‘Twas a day for weddings and Matt and Cat made way for troupes of be-suited chaps with their clip-clopping consorts. The precinct was turned into a human aviary with the clucking and squawking of women wearing this season’s fascinator hats; feathers bobbing in the light breeze. M and C dodged into a junk shop to escape the nuptial flash mob but, without much to sustain their interest amongst the piles of dusty tat, they soon left.
A chance encounter with fish fryer and Twestival compère Richard Quigley led Matt and Cat to lunch at The Fountain. This prominent hotel is part of the Greene King chain which Matt and Cat have found to be patchy in both service and food. How will the Cowes branch fare?
According to its website, The Fountain Inn, “Isle of White”, has recently been refurbished. It’s not possible to say when this information was posted to the world but Matt and Cat surmised it may have been some time ago. The entrance to the hotel, although grand from the outside, turned into a gloomy and uninviting corridor as soon as they were through the doors.
Like a pair of lost souls wending their way to their just reward they hurried towards the pinprick of light at the end of this dark tunnel. Disregarding the bar to the left of them, they emerged blinking into a pleasant sunny room at the back of the hotel, which itself led onto a terrace. It was pretty busy at this end of the venue and Matt and Cat waited for a table to be cleared before making camp. With the previous occupants’ crockery removed promptly but alas no sign of a damp cloth, M and C sat at the sticky but now cleared table and studied the menu.
Club sandwich £5.45
Tandoori chicken wrap £4.95
Like the other Greene King venues, there was plenty to choose from with lunch offers, sarnies and a particularly impressive children’s menu which was subdivided for tinies and juniors. Matt and Cat had plans for dinner so they were only after a modest lunch and the sandwich menu seemed the place to choose from. Matt had a club sandwich and Cat chose a tandoori chicken wrap. Giving their order at the counter, Cat was amused to see that, as there was no button for her unorthodox drinks order of tap water, the barman had to type a little essay into the till for the bar to process.
Back at the table Cat overheard the adjoining customers moaning about the wait; their children were getting fractious. The Fountain was certainly busy and there was a lot of activity from the three visible staff. M and C watched them replenishing the sauce sachets and wiping the other tables as they became free, but there was no sign of their drinks or food.
After about forty minutes the food arrived but still no drinks. Cat prompted the waitress. Apparently it was a case of ‘computer says no‘ and the lady took the trouble to get their drinks the old-fashioned analogue way by going to the bar and talking to the barman.
Cat’s tandoori chicken wrap was very nicely presented with a little heap of leaves including some tasty purple shoots and half a cherry tomato. The wrap’s potentially dry chicken was effectively lubricated with a lovely cool yoghurt dressing and it dripped satisfyingly out of the bready tube.
Matthew’s toasted club sandwich was contrastingly arid and came with a pile of tasty but equally dry vegetable crisps. The big bacon and chicken sandwich was made on dry, crumbly toast, very light on salad and mayo, and was the worse for this lack of juicy innards. Thankfully his bitter shandy was at last on hand to help its passage down his eager throat.
So, another patchy offering from the Greene King juggernaut. Cat’s lunch was a better meal than Matt’s but the service was let down by the long wait, sticky table, lack of cutlery and ‘computer error’. However, as they left through the rear of the hotel, the terrace was still busy with diners watching bustling harbour and relaxing over drinks. Obviously the pub chain knows what it’s doing.
The Fountain Inn, Cowes