The Taverners has for over ten years been a consistent favourite – not just with us, but with multitudes of Island diners who relish its hearty gastro-pub food and convivial atmosphere. Our first visit to this hostelry was way back when it was called the Cask and Taverners. One for the gubbers among you to reminisce over. The ‘Cask’ was dropped when it became a destination dining experience under the impressive stewardship of Roger Sarjent and Lisa Choi.
It was with some amazement that we heard in 2019 the Taverners had been taken over by Tim and Emma Foster, owners of Ryde’s celebrated seafood restaurant Three Buoys (now the home of the Cadet Beach Club). The question everybody wanted answering was what would happen now?
It was a bold move, as both venues had solid reputations but with quite different offerings. Would the Three Buoys fancy small plates disappoint the pub-goers expecting The Taverners’ traditional hearty pub grub? Perhaps introducing a few of its famous seafood dishes might be just the filip the land-locked pub menu might need?
Classics scholars among you will know what a chimera is. Godshill’s pub goers too, will have encountered one of these mythical creatures; a combination of two other animals. A griffin, of the type that is found on the eponymous pub sign just up the road from the Taverners, is a legendary creature made up from various parts of a lion and the business gubbins of an eagle. When we visited, we found the new Taverners proved itself a type of chimera too: creating a brand new beast from the fusion of two of the Island’s landmark talents.
Beef and ale pie £15
Gurnard fillet £17
Sticky toffee pudding £7
Delightfully, both the beanbag chicken table numbers, and also the whitebait have survived any changes. The Taverners does this simple starter exceptionally well. Lightly-seasoned fish sparkle with sea salt, freshly-squeezed lemon juice and glimpses of their silvery scales. Dunking them head first into tabasco mayonnaise, we relished the plentiful fishy dishy -plenty for us to share.
The signature main at this venue has long been the outstanding beef and ale pie. More like a suet pudding in appearance, the individually-cooked pie comes cased in some of the finest suet pastry known to humankind. Outsides browned with rich juices, the copious meat inside gives this pie an overwhelming comfort-food vibe. And there’s little danger of the thick pastry case being too dry – with lashings of what is described as ‘proper’ gravy, nobody will be going away from this anything other than blissfully satisfied.
Cat’s gurnard fillet was fabulous. Like the whitebait, it had been deftly seasoned; its crisp edges pleasingly salty, while its soft flaky flesh was delicate and smooth. Cat loved the Tav’s sauteed spuds; gurt discs of potato cooked in garlicky butter. Creamed parsnip puree was mopped up with leaves of dark crinkly spinach. It was an outstanding course which ticked all of Cat’s boxes.
A chocolate brownie dessert can vary from the alas now closed Kynge’s Well‘s cake-and-ice-cream brownie sundae, to Stripped‘s soft rich sponge with its crispy carapace. Taverners brownie was a universally softer affair; almost the texture of cookie dough and with chocolate only subtly employed. Brittle nuggets of scattered hazelnut praline provided the crunch and alongside was a scoop of salted caramel ice cream, still enjoying its moment at the top of Cat’s ice cream flavour chart. Matt was ploughing straight into the classics on the menu, with sticky toffee and Medjool date pudding. The steamed pud sat in a lake of superb treacly sauce; a ball of vanilla ice cream melting enticingly into it.
We’re pleased to report that with a fresh hand on the tiller, the Taverners retains its pub charm, but with flashes of the familiar brilliance from the Three Buoys kitchen. If you’re pining for the satisfying and beautifully-wrought gastro-pub standards, be reassured the Taverners is as good as ever – if not better. What’s more, Cat saw in her exquisitely delicate gurnard hints of a subtlety and seafood know-how that befits the new owners, fresh from their popular seaside restaurant. This chimera of two great venues seems to have put all the bits together in the right order.
This is the full-length version of the review first published in the Isle of Wight County Press.
- Excellent pub grub
- Delicious seafood
- Classic whitebait