Dining by the seaside – it’s what we’re all here for really. Whether you’re on holiday, or you live on the Isle of Wight, be honest and admit that you just love settling down with a view of the sea and something to nibble on. Be it childhood’s sandy sandwiches on the beach itself; dining in the rarefied salons of the grand hotels overlooking it – or anything in between. The Island has so many eateries with fabulous sea views, it would be rude not to.
The undoubted capital of on-shore dining with a view is Ventnor. This is a town where pretty much the whole esplanade is now made up of eateries. And there’s one place where you can go even further. Step onto the pier of Ventnor Haven Fishery and you can buy fresh fish and chips cooked above the very harbour where the seafood is landed and prepared. So that’s what we did.
We’re both huge fans of what we were the first to call the ‘Island’s National Dish’, crab on chips. It’s a simple and excellent meal that really is as straightforward as it sounds. Why more chip shops don’t sell this delicacy is a mystery. The delight of the soft crab melting onto the hot chips is a pleasure that never fades. We both went for the crab – eschewing the more expensive but milder lobster on chips. Where we differed was in the chips. Matt went for the traditional type, Cat eagerly chose sweet potato fries.
We ate our lunches out of their disposable boxes in the lee of the wall at the Cascades. True to form, it started raining as we unwrapped our chips – but it’s the English summertime so we should’ve expected nothing less!
Both meals were excellent. Matt regularly asserts that the chips from Ventnor Haven Fishery are the best chip shop chips on the Island. And he’d know. What he’s less effusive about is the portions – there are probably only a dozen or so chips, even though they are admittedly decent large ones. By contrast there’s plenty of crab, so with chips this good perhaps it’s best to be left wanting more. Cat’s sweet potato fries were long and thin, and cooked to absolute perfection. With a delicate caramelised taste these really were a splendid accompaniment for the piles of soft, tender crab. We also enjoyed a tub of mayonnaise each: lime and coriander. As it happened the crab was so soft and juicy that it turned out to be almost unnecessary – but it made a good dip for the chips.
Cat noted with approval that she didn’t find a single bit of shell in the whole meal – unusual for any fresh crab dish. A chef at a prestigious venue told us earlier this year that his kitchen triple-picks crabmeat, to ensure a shell-less experience for the punters. Each pick is carried out by a different person too, to ensure a fresh pair of eyes. Perhaps Ventnor Haven Fishery has a similarly thorough approach? Certainly the service at the hatch was top notch; the young fella was very thorough and polite, taking his time to make sure that each customer’s needs were met.
Our lunch at Ventnor Haven Fishery may have been at the upper end of chip dish prices, but crab on chips is such a simple yet great dish it’s worth that top-end moulah. And think of the food miles – this is a dish that practically leaps from the seabed to your mouth!
A shorter version of this review was first published in the Isle of Wight County Press.
- Crab on chips - the Island's 'National Dish'
- Hyper-low food miles
- Remarkably good service
- At the upper end for chippy prices
- Small chip portions