The Star Inn, Wroxall has had several iterations over recent years, including a short spell as the optimistically-named Four Seasons. Undoubtedly there will be some local trade for the only pub in Wroxall. However, you want to know if they are doing anything in the kitchen to make it worthwhile stopping off there, instead of heading to the bright lights and glamorous seaside dining mecca that is Ventnor.
On a warm summer night we took a table in the front of the roadside pub. Walking past a busy public bar we ended up in the restaurant area, which was an attractive maze of little connected rooms, light and airy with some very up-to-date decor. A huge chalkboard on an easel was titled ‘Fishboard’, and this complemented the clipboard menu that was brought to our table by cheerful uniformed staff.
Matt didn’t get past the first item on the fishboard, and his scallops with saute chorizo, pea puree, Wiltshire smoked bacon and Bramley apple black pudding caused murmurs of appreciated as it arrived. The dish looked magnificent. It’s hard to imagine how the venue can be making anything on a dish with four huge, soft scallops on it for just £13, let alone the big, salty sauteed chorizo chunks; thick, crumbly black pudding and generous allowance of pea puree. Matt loved this dish, and on seeing it had no carbs on it, ordered some chips to go alongside it. It seemed almost churlish to note the expected Wiltshire smoked bacon was nowhere to be seen*, and when Matt dug into what he assumed was the listed Bramley apple he was taken aback to discover it had been substituted by a generous spoonful of… lemon curd. Lemon curd on scallops? Probably best to just leave it to one side and never speak of it again.
Cat chose from the menu page intriguingly titled Saladette. Like Matt’s main, her tandoori chicken was an attractive construction. Cos lettuce, mint and cucumber yoghurt dressing arrived with a folded flatbread wrap; and, as with the scallops, was excellent value. For less than a tenner she enjoyed a big dish of salad, with absolutely loads of tandoori chicken, plenty of pea shoots and spinach leaves. However, the chopped cos underneath was pretty stalky and slathered with a dressing that had more vinegar about it than she was expecting for mint and cucumber yogurt.
Tandoori chicken salad £9.00
Scallops and black pudding £13.00
Chocolate torte £6.95
Semifreddo torroncino £6.95
At these prices, there’s no excuse for missing dessert so we forged onwards. Cat was delighted by her semifreddo torroncino, which, as the chef explained to her on request, came with praline crunchy bits on top, a bit like baklava. Alongside was a whole fig preserved in liquor which she eagerly sucked on, and found splendidly figgy, if slightly wanting in the liquor department. Matt had a traditional chocolate torte with blood-orange sorbet, which was pleasant enough and creatively presented with a selection of sauces and sprinklings on an attractive blue plate.
It’s a bold person indeed who invests in a village pub these days. At least on the Isle of Wight there are usually some tourists to keep things going in the summer. The trick is to find a product that people will drive across the Island for, whilst at the same time respecting your local regulars who will be the ones keeping you going on those dark November nights. As we enjoyed our dinner in the Star we heard a young singer start up in the public bar, and as contemporary classics drifted from the nearby room with a smattering of appreciative applause, we reckon the Star Inn is on the right tracks.
*EDIT: The Star has got in touch with us and courteously pointed out that the lemon curd was served to complement the scallops; and the Bramley apple and smoked Wiltshire ham were in fact on the plate, as ingredients of the black pudding! We misread the Fishboard, and imagined the Bramley and ham were separate items. We think that was an understandable misunderstanding (here’s the board) but we’re very happy to put the record straight and confirm that we did in fact get everything promised – even if we didn’t notice it.
This is the full-length version of the review first published in the Isle of Wight County Press.