The Sloop Stonehouse Pizza & Carvery, Wootton Bridge The Sloop Stonehouse Pizza & Carvery, Wootton Bridge
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Remember the golden days of the theatrical farce? Comedies of embarrassment: meek hen-pecked husbands, saucy secretaries and the impromptu arrival of a vicar as the ante of chaos was well and truly upped. This genre of situation comedy was clearly fictional. No real life irritation could be compounded to become an annoyance then escalated to the realms of farce, could it?

When The Sloop first started doing ultra-cheap carvery, it was a novelty on the Island that caused some to scoff at such low-brow dining, and many more to eagerly scoff bargain dinners. Although we’ve already written enthusiastically about its carvery, we figured that its well-branded diversion into a pizza parlour was a sufficiently different beast to merit a repeat visit. Cat popped into the venue to book a table and was immediately corralled into a velvet-roped holding pen at the bar. She duly took her turn and successfully made a reservation for the premium seats at the back, the ones with daylight and a view up the creek. A rather apt metaphor as it turned out.

When dinner time came for easily-befuddled folks like us, it wasn’t entirely clear what the system was. However Cat soon established (from an efficient and friendly waitress who she was to become very familiar with) that we had to wait in the pen and order our food and drinks at the bar. Desserts and further beverages would be arranged subsequently by table service.

Having been advised of a half an hour wait, we were equipped with a piece of tech which would helpfully vibrate when our pizzas were ready. While ordering their own dinner, our dining companions were told about the unlimited salad. Cat trotted off to find her waitress to confirm the arrangements and found that this was indeed the case. Not only salad, but also the carvery’s vegetables (including chips and roasties), were part of the bottomless greens deal.

We all got up to fill our side dishes from the decent selection of warmed veg and the salad bar. This kept us busy for a while as we caught up on the gossip of the day which was all about electioneering in Newport.

However, some time after our companions had finished their meals ours had not even arrived. So Cat was up again – the promised half hour having more than elapsed. Remember team, if there is going to be a delay, always promise long and deliver short.

The chef initially thanked Cat for coming and wished her a pleasant evening, until she explained that she wasn’t leaving – she had yet to eat. He was very apologetic, assuring her of only a further five minute wait (which turned into ten) and once again Cat was out of her seat, this time to collect her pizza. Before taking it she asked the chef to remove the piece of gold foil that she spied baked on top of the cheese under the surgical glare of the hot lamps. After a few failed attempts, he gave up using his fingers and disappeared to get a spoon – finally winkling out the offending metal.

Back at her seat, Cat made a start, then came to a juddering halt. There was plenty of blue cheese, a sparser helping of mushrooms but no spinach. There were just three toppings listed on the menu yet the Stonehouse team only managed to deliver two (if you don’t count the rogue foil). Up Cat got again, taking the pizza back to the chef. A polite enquiry was made into the whereabouts of the spinach which was rectified by him putting his hand into a large bag of the vegetable and dropping an uncooked fistful on the pizza before returning the plate. Cat could only assume that the spinach (and his hands) were washed.

After all this to-ing and fro-ing, Cat had kind of lost interest and picked the middle out of the pizza, ignoring the crispy bubbled crust. Thankfully she had much earlier enjoyed her cauliflower cheese, pasta salad and chips – her side dish fusion chosen from the carvery and salad bars.

There was something remarkable about Matt’s meat feast pizza: he didn’t finish it. The oddly-shaped pizza was large but dull and unsatisfying, with piles of bland sausage on the top interspersed with fragments of ham and pepperoni. Underneath, a generic margherita pizza did nothing to complement an indifferent topping. It’s quite a feat to make a pizza tedious enough for Matt to give up on it, because cheap, trashy pizza is a meal that he, like so many others, can’t resist. Done well it’s the ideal quick dinner indulgence. Blaze in Ryde does this perfectly, for less money. Or get down to Pizza Hut in Newport if you want a meat feast plus salad worthy of your cash. We’re unrepentant after our four-star review of the Hut, and Matt would really have rather paid an extra couple of quid and gone there, even though you couldn’t help yourself to roast potatoes and onion gravy.

Some time later Cat’s waitress popped over, having spotted that we had been sat for a while at an uncleared table. “We’re waiting for our table service desserts and further drinks,” Cat explained. We gave our orders and then had to make a payment, Nando’s style, before we could have our next course. In fact the experience reminded us of the time we went to Nando’s; in and out of our chairs all night and rummaging for change rather than settling up at the end of the evening.

Matt and Cat’s bill
Meat feast pizza £8.99
Mushroom, blue cheese and spinach pizza £9.49
Mini brownie and coffee £3.49
Mini cheesecake and tea £3.49
Total £25.46

Dessert orders were placed – and there was one more slip-up just in case we hadn’t got the message yet. Our long-suffering waitress, with the Sisyphean task of keeping this shambles on the road, had to come back to the table and explain to Matt that the Eton Mess was off. One enthusiastically-microwaved brownie and a substituted cheesecake later and we were out of there.

The Sloop is a vast venue, catering for multi-generational groups. The menu is a tour de force of design: attractive, simply categorised and with photos to facilitate choice. The waitress too maintained her helpful charm throughout Cat’s simpleton enquiries. The venue itself has some nice spots, some low-lit corners and the brighter seats with that estuary view. The old-style carvery we have always found decent enough, and all the indications are that this is unchanged. But that, friends, is the end of the good news.

For us the Sloop fell woefully short of what was expected. The new pizza experience was really not a good one. The extended wait, the lack of side dish instructions, the additional underestimated waiting time, contaminated dinner, spinachgate, the food handling, the weakly bland pizza, the further wait for table service and the searingly-hot pudding: taken individually, these might be overlooked – or at least outweighed by other more positive aspects. However, collectively they rendered the experience a regrettable farce.

This is the full-length version of the review that first appeared in the Isle of Wight County Press

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For us the Sloop fell woefully short of what was expected. The new pizza experience was really not a good one.
  • Helpful and patient staff
  • All you can eat carvery veg and salad
  • Lovely view up the creek
  • Unclear instructions
  • Foil cooked into pizza
  • Over-long wait

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