With its sixty miles of beautiful coastline, it’s not hard to find a place to eat on the Isle of Wight that will offer panoramic views across the Solent, the English Channel, or of Dorset, Hampshire and West Sussex’s distant shores. (Not all at once, of course!).
One such place is the Woodvale, Gurnard, from whose picture windows can be seen the distant twinkling lights and flaming chimneys of Fawley’s oil refinery peeking above the New Forest. In the mid-ground is the busy Solent and, under your nose, is the vast decked garden area of the imposing pub.
This impressive building occupies a corner plot and takes full advantage of its position, unlike the curiously orientated Somerfield Cafe in Ryde which wilfully turns its back on a jolly nice view. Despite its grandiose façade and well-kept gardens, the interior of the pub is very homely. Dark beams and olde pub ephemera add the the ambiance along with a small library of books and daily papers; a welcome touch, particularly to Matt and Cat, who are usually either extremely tardy or, as today, too early for food.
Whilst waiting for the kitchen to open M & C relaxed in a window seat with the Daily Diana and a view of the rapidly setting sun. A few locals propped up the bar and, as dinner time approached, the Woodvale filled up with eager diners. Matt and Cat had plenty of time to study the pub’s menu, with its clearly defined fish, steak and main meals sections, plus the specials board. The menu offered the usual burger, lasagne and fish and chips as well as the more tantalising duck breast with caramelised orange sauce, roasted vegetable and mozzarella timbale, and suet pudding with spinach, mozzarella and pine nuts.
Cat’s appetite for steak had yet to find its threshold so she pushed out the boat and had a very reasonably-priced fillet steak and chips. Matt, on the other hand, channelled his inner vegetarian for once and selected the suet pudding with spinach, mozzarella and pine nuts from the specials board.
M and C waited out the arrival of their dinner by idly studying human freaks and oddities. And no, this did not include the local journalist enjoying a quiet pint at the bar with his father, but those unfortunate souls whose tragic tales of circuses and humiliation were told in one of the pub’s more unusual library books.
Cat’s appetite was not diminished by the images of wolf-children and, before long, she was tucking into a hefty steak, with a big pile of chips and some deep-fried onion rings, mushrooms and a tomato, along with peas and an unexpected side salad. Just what the cardiologist prescribed! The soft steak had a fantastic meaty taste about it; the bloody centre offering a good dose of iron.
Matt’s pudding looked spectacular, with a tangy tomato and herb sauce topping off a greenish-looking pud. Once opened, the insides proved to be even more interesting in appearance. A thick green brew was within, laced with pine nuts and with the consistency of pea soup. An aroma of herbs and garlic arose enticingly.
On consumption, as is often the case with veggie stuff, the pudding was very pleasant but proved to be a little less exciting than it looked. There was surely plenty of spinach in it, but it was pulverised into gruel so it merely added a green hue to proceedings. No fragments of spinach could be detected. So, what about mozzarella? After considerable investigation a few threads of cheese were located lurking at the bottom. Pine nuts aplenty, but overall the pudding was dominated by the bland and floury sauce, and a haunting taste of garlic that hang around Matt for days afterwards. Luckily the delicious and perfectly crisp suet pastry made amends.
So a pleasant meal in a pub that is designed to make you feel at home, with its cosy interior and books and puzzles to keep the most fidgety of customers in their chairs. And what a view!
The Woodvale, Gurnard