Matt and Cat\'s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide
The pleasant task of reviewing all of the eateries on the Isle of Wight may never end; what with establishments changing their management and...
Pudding menu

The pleasant task of reviewing all of the eateries on the Isle of Wight may never end; what with establishments changing their management and kitchen personnel and with new places opening all the time. In fact, it could almost be described as on a par with painting the the Forth Bridge. However, unlike the myth of painting the Forth Bridge, eating out is not particularly dangerous, is relatively cheap and, Matt and Cat are pleased to report shows no sign of ending…

Correspondent ‘bouncytigger’ has requested a repeat visit to the newly refurbished White Hart in Havenstreet. And, dutiful as ever, Matt and Cat popped in one evening when the notorious Havenstreet roadworks were still in place. At that time the pub’s fresh paint was only a few days old and the smell was a bit overwhelming so, after a swift drink, Matt and Cat left.

However, on a repeat visit one wintry evening, they found the painty pong had certainly gone. Instead the pleasant smell of chips wafted from the kitchen windows onto the car park, and the pub’s interior had the welcoming aroma of a real log fire.

The introduction of the smoking ban has meant the demise of the carcinogenic snug.

The introduction of the smoking ban has meant the demise of the carcinogenic snug; the pub has been opened out and is now a very pleasant bar. It retains its charming lounge/diner duality by clever use of flooring materials (carpet for the dining area, the original authentic scuffed lino for the public bar). On the night M and C visited, the bar was chock full of punters, weighted down with bags of shopping, having a pre-dinner drink and catching up with old friends. This created a very pleasant and lively atmosphere.

Beef in horseradish and Stilton

Despite the pub’s obvious division, your reviewers thumbed their noses at convention and sat down to eat in the drinking area of the pub. Matt, having got chilled after a day braving the bitter cold of the beach, wanted to take full advantage of the cosy real log fire, which gently glowed in its charming brick fireplace. Settling down with the glitter-covered menus, Matt and Cat felt comparable glows of homely pub charm.

The menu had a small selection of pub favourites such as fish and chips, lasagne, scampi and jacket potatoes as well as an entire page of food options for Matt and Cat’s vegetarian audience (and for those veggie-types that don’t read this eating out guide). Buying into the Zeitgeist, the White Hart cleverly offers most main meals in smaller portions. There is also a children’s menu (for the under 4s) which did not seem to feature fish fingers or beans! And, as for the specials – there were loads! Plenty of seafood, a rack of lamb, chicken breast topped with cranberry sauce and duck breast with brandy and apricots. For the red meat eaters, there was beef in horseradish and Stilton plus a range of steaks.

Fillet steak

Matt’s partiality to cheese veered him towards the beef in horseradish and Stilton and Cat, with memories of a particularly nice piece of meat last time she ate in the White Hart, chose the fillet steak (rare).

Matt’s beef with horseradish and Stilton was a tasty and warming stew. There wasn’t a great deal of horseradish or Stilton detectable but certainly it was a rich sauce, which complemented the well-cooked and lean chunks of braising steak. The portion was modest, and for £9.50 Matt was hoping for a bit more. The dish was redeemed by an unusually good plate of no less than six different types of vegetables, perfectly cooked and not left to shrivel under a hot lamp.

The ‘dick was simple; nice and hot and lubricated with creamy custard.

Cat’s steak was first presented to Matthew, on the presumption that only a man would eat such a bloody hunk of cow flesh. Once the dish was correctly positioned in front of Cat, she noted with approval that the steak was pretty big and nicely rare. Half a big mushroom, half a tomato and four onion rings accompanied the meat along with a small helping of over-cooked chips. Wot no peas? Although the meat was pretty good, the chips were overly crunchy and one shot off the plate as Cat tried to impale it on her fork. Still, it all went down the hole, with Matt mopping up the remnants.

Rhubarb and ginger crumble

Matt still had some thawing to go from his earlier seaside adventures and decided that spotted dick and custard would provide the internal fuel required. Cat joined in the pudding-fest with the tasty sounding rhubarb and ginger crumble. The ‘dick was simple; nice and hot and lubricated with creamy custard. Cat’s crumble was less satisfactory, as it was tepid and not as gingery as she would have liked. Still, Matthew was happy to finish it off.

So, good food – albeit with a few details to work on; prices perhaps a little higher than average; but, with such a lovely homely environment, very good service and cheery clientèle, the newly refurbished White Hart is a jolly nice pub. Particularly now those knackered old seats have been archived. (See original review below).

27 March 2007: The drive through the sleepy village of Havenstreet is a picturesque alternative to the A3054 when going between Ryde and Newport. During Cat’s use of this pleasant route she would observe the new speed limit, enjoy the sight of the newly-laid hedge at the steam railway and whizz past the cows at Coppid Hall Farm.

Somehow, however, the village’s White Hart Inn has hardly entered Cat’s radar. Until now. The pub’s appearance hasn’t changed but for one thing – comical sign boards. Dodging the traffic in Havenstreet’s main road, one cannot help but notice proclamations such as “families with well-behaved parents welcome” and “best pub in the village – 1759”.

Lured by these intriguing yet corny messages, Matt and Cat decided one evening to pull into the pub’s neat gravelled car park, examine the new wooden furniture in the large and inviting garden and make their way into the bar. Much like the Sportsman’s Rest at Porchfield, the White Hart is a pub in the old tradition with its ‘public’ (smoking) bar and its lounge/restaurant (non-smoking). There are rumours of a new landlord – hence the signs outside – although it looks as if the new host’s efforts have not yet included the application of a lick of paint.

Nonetheless, Matt and Cat were greeted and seated themselves in the cosy lounge. It was quaint in an old skool way and in need of a bit of a spruce-up although it is certainly clean. The seat padding in Cat’s chair was completely non-existent, compressed as it must have been by the pressure of decades of punter’s bums. Swapping it for another chair did not give any greater level of comfort so she grinned and bore it, turning her attention to the menu. The standard bill of fare was pretty basic but there were plenty of tasty-sounding meat-based specials and one vegetarian option on the board.

Cat vacillated between beef in red wine and curry of the day (beef or chicken); Matt helped her out by choosing chicken curry for her and a steak for himself. Whilst waiting for their meals, your reviewers gawped at the pub’s memorabilia which included a roll-call of previous landlords, a bill of sale for the pub from 1917 and a cryptic history of the village in a naive gothic script. They also eavesdropped on the neighbouring table and, in moments, learned all they could ever want to know about fishing for bass from a gentleman with a penetrating voice whose fishing tales were enthralling three generations of ladies.

The curry and steak were delivered by the cheerful multi-tasking landlord/barman/waiter (who had, presumably, also written the comic boards outside). Cat’s curry was accompanied by a nice crispy poppadum and a generous helping of fluffy white rice. The curry itself was tomato-based and mild, as promised, with big chunks of succulent chicken. Matt’s steak was rare, as ordered; delicious and tender. The chips and onion rings were pretty good and the mushrooms were nice and fresh. All the food went down well and Cat, not usually a big eater of red meat, declared her taste of Matt’s steak to be sublime!

On clearing the plates, the omnifunctioning landlord asked how the steak was and, on hearing of Matt and Cat’s enjoyment of it, pronounced that it was Isle of Wight meat from a local butcher, and indeed the specials board mentioned this very fact. Most commendable.

So despite the pub’s slightly ‘lived-in’ interior, the food, though not the cheapest, was really very good – once again feeding into the discussion about whether (as in this case) a very nice meal in an average location is better or worse than an average meal in a very nice location. Probably in the case of the White Hart it was the friendly service which tipped the scales and made this a pub to recommend.

  • patrick says:

    Really cannot imagine a better country pub from a food and service point of view. The team knew we were there for a special but sad family gathering, and really looked after us most attentively. Relatives from the mainland most impressed with the quality of the food and the cleanliness of every corner, not forgetting the pictures around the walls. Perfectly done – time for another review, M&C…?

  • James Pickett says:

    I was going to write a lengthy review, but I can sum it up a lot more briefly:


    My other half is pretty handy with a skillet, and as we live within easy reach of Farmer Jacks, we don’t eat out all that often, and can be hard to please when we do.

    I have written nice things here about the food at the Garlic Farm and the Taverners, but the choice, quality and service at the White Hart is the best of the lot. By ‘choice’ I don’t mean vast menus of stuff waiting to be defrosted, I mean a mouthwatering specials board, with proper pies (are you listening Briddlesford?), a steak and kidney pudding, freshly caught local fish, a curry and others. There were six vegetables plus the potatoes of the day, which on this occasion were new, with plenty of butter.

    The service was attentive, without being in your face, and although the restaurant was busy, with a big birthday party at the end of the room, there were no delays or glitches – the staff clearly knew what they were doing, and I didn’t even have to go to the bar to choose my ale, as the waitress knew them all by heart.

    The puddings were also excellent, and included Terry’s Chocolate Orange Crème Brûlée – need I say more?

  • Mike says:
    Lovely pub, lovely food, just disappointed with the service from behind the till.

    Went to the White Hart on Saturday Night. Lots of people eating in the pub, nobody at the bar, and service was quite slow. As a party of 5 we decided to eat outside. Food quality was not in question, and it was brought out fairly quickly from the point we ordered, but the elder gentleman at the till (presumably the landlord) was most sarcastic and rude. I asked if we could have a portion of chips as a side order (which wasn’t on the menu) and was told most bluntly ‘huh, well I suppose we can do that’. My friend wanted to change something on his meal as he can’t eat certain things and was snorted at derisively.

    Also quite surprised that they don’t do small and large cokes/lemonade etc, but ‘we only do one size because we don’t want the hassle’.

    Lovely pub, lovely food, just disappointed with the service from behind the till.

  • Sally and Richard Ridley says:

    We visited the White Hart for lunch with friends on fri 24th Aug.

    We were greeted by a friendly landlord and seen to our table. the food was to die for, my wife and I had minted lamb pie and 6 vegetables, all well cooked and presented. One of our friends had a tuna salad, she nearly died when she saw it arrive, on a huge fish shaped dish, wow, her husband had a tuna baked potato equally well presented.
    We had desserts which were just as good and well presented.
    All in all a great eating experience we would recommend. Our friends were from the North Island and have never so well looked after, their words not mine.

  • PAUL MULLERY says:

    A glowing endorsement Robert. Your comments read like a professional marketing executive!
    What were the prices for this gormet extravaganza?

  • Robert says:

    Weekday lunchtime – first day of Spring – busy, so glad we had booked. We had well cooked, tasty and ample vegetables with a big portion of an excellent chicken, ham and leek pie made with proper shortcrust pastry at a reasonable price for this quality by mainland standards. Desserts were good, service friendly, surroundings and loos good. The whole experience was great. We recommend this pub to all our friends.

  • Josh says:

    More of a Comment than a review –

    Having checked the opening times on website, my friends and I were looking forward to revisiting here as we had not been for some time, only to enter at 2.15pm to be told that the chef had gone home at 2pm! We understood that it would serve lunches until 2.30pm. We couldn’t have booked in advance as we were trying out a new walk and didn’t know how long it would take. We were disappointed, but drove off to the Bluebell Cafe to take our custom there. This doesn’t encourage us to go back to the pub another time.

  • Jayne1442 says:

    update: Had a great Sunday lunch there today! Top marks for the veggie Stilton, mushroom and onion suet pudding, and once again a great selection of veg.

    Impressed with the service too – my not-as-young-as-she-used-to-be Mum was offered a smaller portion of the roast pork, which was still a good size and came with all the trimmings (crackling, stuffing, apple sauce) When offered the choice of potatoes for my veggie meal it was pointed out that the roasties were cooked in animl fat (so often you need to ask, then someone has to pop out to the kitchen to check. Well informed staff are much appreciated!)

    Spoilt for choice with the puds too – I hadn’t intended to indulge but my willpower proved to have the breaking strain of a twiglet! Great home made crumble with plums, raspberries and redcurrants; the pavlova and choc lumpy bumpy also looked great!

    Will be going back 🙂

  • Barry says:

    Went for lunch to the White Hart in Havenstreet recently for the first time in a long while. The lunch chef can really cook: we had whole sea bass (in its skin, head to tail, vegetables fine, fresh, nothing special), and an absolutely great herby vegetarian spinach lasagne with good garlic bread, both off the specials board which looks big, good and not expensive. The printed menus are rather dull but the specials are comprehensive and quite original. Service was very good. There is a garden for smoking diners and dogs.

    Deserves another visit from Matt & Cat to review it as a good food place 2011.

  • Patronus says:

    That’s OK M & C! Just wondering if it has changed at all since it’s been taken over.

  • Patronus says:

    When will this new review be posted? 🙂

    Matt and Cat respond:
    Oops, you caught us out Patronus. We enjoyed our meal at the White Hart but when we’d half-written the review we realised we’d said exactly the same things. As an experience, it’s still pretty much as it was when we first visited. And that’s a good thing. So we didn’t update it. Do let us take this opportunity to remark on the two things that have changed: the place is now very clean and tidy, and the chairs are entirely comfortable.

  • Carol Flux says:

    Food was lovely, the local beef exceptional. However the atmosphere was a bit like something from ‘League of Gentlemen’.
    It seemed to go downhill when we admitted we hadn’t booked. When we left there was a note on our car telling us the the car park was ‘for patrons only’ (and we were…?) and that the car had been parked the wrong way round. What a shame.

  • mike e says:

    In response to Mr Mullery
    I assume he looked at the menu before ordering, if he thought the prices where a little steep for his budget, why would he not choose to go elsewhere.As for his experience at the Hare and Hounds what does he expect for £5.00 per head, fresh fish if that was what was used is very expensive. Also his comments about Ryde Castle, could he not tell before ordering his meal conditions where to cold for dining, perhaps he just like to moan. Are there any establisment where he can dine moan free, I would be interested in his recomendations.

  • PAUL MULLERY says:

    My wife and I thought the food and drink very good but pricey. I don’t know if the Landlord thinks he has a such a good reputation to charge these prices but one can find equally good meals elsewhere much cheaper.

  • jayne1442 says:

    Four of us tried it last night – all had different meals and were all consistently impressed.

    All meals were from the specials board … pheasant, vennison, lamb and sea bass. A decent dish of 6 different veg to share – a refreshing change from the usual carrot and brocolli (ok they were both there, but also parsnip, red cabbage, cauli and shredded leeks) The dauphinoise potatoes were yummy too, or we could have had chips, new potatoes or mash.

    As a non meat eater I found the veggie menu a bit limiting (I eat fish so that expanded my options) but the same can be said of most places! Mac cheese or veggie lasagne, however nice, are disapointing when your fellow diners are tucking in to top end pub grub with lovely fresh veg and selection of potatoes etc!

    Nice selection of puds too, so a couple of us were tempted to something naughty, and we weren’t disappointed.

    Staff were friendly and helpful; having chatted to them about Sunday lunch options I got the feeling they could improvise although they don’t offer a veggie roast (with their selection of veg, plus yorkshire pud and roasties I think many a veggie would be quite happy)

    Looking forward to my next visit!

    Matt and Cat respond: Hi Jayne, thanks for your comment. We were there this week – updated review coming soon!

  • Mistyboy says:

    We arrived at 1230 today, a bank holiday, without a booking and took the last table.
    I chose the steak, ale and mushroom pie with fresh veg, my wife had a toasted tuna sarnie, and my teenage son , macaroni cheese and chips.We werent looking for anything out of the ordinary, just good hot wholesome food.
    This is by far, the best pub food I have tasted on the Island for years. Great menu choice, lots of specials, friendly helpful staff and a great ambience. I cant praise it enough. Our lunches with the works and drinks came to £30.The reviews I read about this pub do not do it justice. It beats the other gastro pubs by miles, especially the Spyglass and Village Inn, two recent experiences, not be repeated.

  • Josh says:

    Remembering my last visit around a year ago and particularly the wonderful puddings I was really looking forward to meeting up with my old(ish) friends. The place and staff were pleasant but I was very disappointed…I opted for the small portion of vegetable lasagne with salad. All I could taste or see was some slimy looking cheddar and a minute piece of pasta. The salad was unimaginative and dry. Although the portion of sticky toffee pudding tasted ok, all it consisted of was a small square of cake – not much ‘stickiness’ about it. Maybe I was just unlucky that day?

  • aaf says:

    Friends had recommended White Hart, being veggo just called to see what was on the menu – Macaroni Cheese, Lasagne & Sweet & Sour something. Yawn. Decided against visit. Would love to go somewhere with good vegetarian choices.

  • Unimpressed guest says:

    I recently visited The White Hart and I must say how dissapointed I was. The chicken was clearly tumbled (and therefore tasted awfull) and the veg looked more than just a bit sorry for itself.

    The waitress was lovely and I couldn’t fault her brilliant service however I don’t think this made up for the poor food and suprisingly high prices.

  • derek atkins says:

    Were taken here for a meal by a visiting friend as a thank you for their stay. I was very very disappointed with my mussel starter as most were very small and there were far far too many broken & empty shells! If it was not for the fact the friend was treating us to the meal I would certainly complained about my very poor starter. Main was okay, but because of my poor starter I doubt we’ll return to the pub for a meal.

  • Andrew says:

    After hearing good reviews about the White Hart from various sources (including here), myself and a group of friends decided to have a dinner there last night. We rang up and booked a few days before as it was a party of 6 and I would suggest that if th ere is more than 2 of you it would be a good idea.

    On arrival the car parking looks like it could be a bit limited at times. Inside a nice clean setting with very polite and friendly staff. Whilst waiting for the rest of the party I browsed the specials board, well its more like a wall, and noticed a wide variety on there with more than a few making me starting to feel realy hungry.

    With the rest of the party seated we looked through the fixed menu and glad to see that smaller versions are available of some as not all of our party were large eaters. With the selection made we noted that the common practice in some places of leaving a card behind the bar is not used which, as well as the menu, is a positive.

    Onto the main meals of the party 2 had lasagna (1 a smaller version) from the fixed menu a tasty beef one with a good salad on the side and the rest of us had from the specials board. The mixed grill with enough to satify the largest of eaters but leave room for pudding. A duck with orange marmalde sauce which was just a little light on the orange taste but that might be just the eaters preference. Braised veal beatifully presented in a sauce. The duck and veal came with a 1 dish of vegetables between them which I found was enough for the two dishes and very little wasted. Sirloin steak cooked as requested beutifully medium rare with the really thick chunky chips. For main course we were all happy and the time from order taken and served a not long 15-20 minutes considering it was busy.

    After finishing the main course the pudding board was brought round and with the ladies being chocoholics (which most are it seems) the chocolate gateau was a favorite and along with Strawberry and Kiwi pavalova and a Praline cheesecake rounded off a very plesant evening.

    The biggest question at the end of the night was would we recommend it and the answer was an emphatic yes. The atmosphere was great and staff, who did not keep asking if everything was ok everytime they passed, made the evening. By our experience last night there are quite a few regulars that go there so that, in my own opinion, just proves what a place this is.

  • Jef says:

    Went to the White Hart for Good Friday Lunch, our first visit. Having been regulars at the Fishbourne Inn we wanted to try the old landlords new venture. Have to say that the excellent service and food offered at the Fishbourne Inn during his tenure is now available at the White Hart. A lovely Meal and first class service.

  • Derek and Gail says:
    We will definitely be going there again, and this is one place that gets my recommendation.

    Always looking for somewhere new to go for a meal, we thought we would try The White Hart. We were greeted warmly on arrival, and were pleasantly surprised by the wide choice on the menu, plus the specials board. Neither of us are what you would call “big eaters”, so skipped the starter, going directly into the main meal. We were glad that we did, as by the time we had finished, we were both feeling very full. However, we could not resist the temptation of the Belgian Waffle with ice cream and maple syrup. It was to die for. Served hot, with ample ice cream and lashings of syrup, it was truly delicious.
    We have been back again, taking a friend, and the quality of the food and the service is just as good. We will definitely be going there again, and this is one place that gets my recommendation.

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