Going to Totland Bay at midsummer must be like going to the moon. Matt and Cat blasted off from Newport and headed in a...

Going to Totland Bay at midsummer must be like going to the moon. Matt and Cat blasted off from Newport and headed in a near-straight trajectory. Reaching jowl-bothering speeds of nearly 40mph (except through Shalfleet), they went west towards the setting sun. The light from our brightest star was dazzling and, to preserve their rheumy old retinas, the astronautical pioneers lowered the sun visors on the vintage BMW. Once they could go no further, they parked up and gawped at Dorset.

Trout, The Waterfront, Totland

Finding themselves far from the metropolitan hustle and bustle, M and C had switched to holiday mode the moment that they crossed Yarmouth bridge. It was a particularly pleasant evening; the clouds scudded across the sun in a very picturesque way, a boy played with his dog on the sandy beach and gulls pecked at random stuff. As the Waterfront was the only venue around, Matt and Cat went in…

Smoked salmon starter

M and C were greeted by a very friendly waitress who directed them to a table in the sun room. One seat faced the bay and the other faced the interior of the room. Taking first choice, as only Cat knows how, she plonked herself in the west-facing seat and instantly experienced eyeball burn from the reflection of the sun on the sea. She should have kept her space helmet on! Matt was happy to swap and he found no problem staring at the distant resort of Bournemouth. Let this be the first bit of advice to would-be visitors – go in the evening for spectacular sunset views; but take your sunglasses!

Offered a modest menu, Matt and Cat asked about specials. The waitress obligingly trotted off and returned brimming with the knowledge of two of the day’s dishes. A further trip elicited the rest of the selection and Matt and Cat decided to go all piscetarian as they were within a tiddler’s breadth of the sea. Matt also went all out and had the enigmatic-sounding beetroot salmon starter. He didn’t even bother asking what it was -pink and purple, probably. Only one way to find out. Actually, within a few moments the chirpy waitress returned and pointed out that what was supposed to be ‘home-cured salmon’ would today in fact be just smoked salmon. Matt was given the option to change his mind, but persisted. The dish was modestly presented with a handful of stalked capers interspersed with beetroot cubes, some lollo rosso and a little mound of smoked salmon. It was OK, as far as it went, but Matt thought it was a bit basic, although it was fresh and tasty.

The boy and his dog on the beach below provided the entertainment while Matt and Cat waited for their main course. The energetic labrador (is there any other kind?) seemed have endless enthusiasm for fetch. The boy threw a ball into the sea, the dog splashed excitedly after it. The boy threw the ball on the sand, the mutt skittered in its wake. When the boy threw the ball at a groyne the dog bounded head-first into the solid wooden structure, and cracked itself on the noggin to a chorus of ironic cheers and laughter from the Waterfront’s punters*.

The main course was duly served and what a spectacle it was! Cat had grilled rainbow trout and Matt had a brace of grilled mackerel. The fish looked great, both presented identically; laying rigid on a bed of salad with a scattering of the sweetest cherry tomatoes and a few sautéed potatoes at the plate’s circumference. The leaves were dressed with a mustardy concoction which added a good contrast to Cat’s earthy-tasting trout. Her animal’s pink flesh was beautifully tender and moist, and was easily released from its skin and bones. Despite succumbing to the Ultimate Sacrifice, the trout seemed to be grinning up at Cat with its tiny razor-sharp teeth.

Matt’s mackerel were small but they tasted good. This was very straightforward food indeed: cooked fish on the simplest of salads, done well. Food purists will find little to complain about here – although by contrast anyone seeking novelty might do. There were plenty of non-fish things on the menu, but M & C can’t comment on those, having deliberately gone for the finned food, inspired by the venue. And this was turning out to be a very good choice.

Matt and Cat’s bill
Beetroot salmon starter £4.25
Trout £10.95
Mackerel £8.95
Drinks £3.20
Total £27.35
Waterfront, Totland Bay

At the end of the meal a trio of cartoon fish skeletons was left; heads and tails connected by spiny spines plus a pile of skin. There was something really fundamental about eating fish by the sea, knowing it had been caught off the very waters that the Waterfront overlooks. Making enquiries at the end of their meal, Matt and Cat discovered that the seafood had been truly local. In fact, when Cat asked if the menu’s crab was from Bembridge, the proprietor spluttered “No, it’s local – from Yarmouth”.

The Waterfront’s location must come in for a special mention. At the time of their visit the sun was going down so Matt and Cat were treated to a peaceful sunset in Totland’s picturesque bay. It all added to the ambience – on an overcast or rainy day the view may not be so appealing but punters could probably get their kicks by pretending they were aboard a gale-lashed ship.

A combination of a fine location, excellent local food and good polite service make the Waterfront a great relaxing place to eat. Highly recommended.

* Animals were definitely harmed in the course of this review. The dog recovered with a shake of its head, but there was no hope for the fish.
Waterfront, Totland Bay

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  • Phil barker

    25th July 2012 #1 Author

    The only redeeming feature was the young restaurant manager who refused to charge for the appalling food that was delivered to our table.

    The interior was ridiculously hot , with tired decor obviously in need of refurbishment and surly and inexperienced bar staff. There were two hassled members of staff staff trying to serve drinks and settle restaurant bills with some people waiting for half an hour to reclaim their credit card and pay.

    The management of this restaurant are obviously have no pride whatsoever in what their business is delivering to their paying customers , and I would advise anybody who is seeking an enjoyable meal to avoid al all costs!

    There were foreign guests eating on adjoining tables, lord only knows what they must think of the UK.

    Luckily the restaurant were not able to influence the spectacular view…….

    Reply

  • Peter Woodford

    31st October 2010 #2 Author

    We visited as a party of four on the 30th. of October. We ordered 3x pork ribs in barbeque sauce, and a tagliatelli dish. First time round our ribs were cold.They were taken away after we notified the waitress. Second time around, they were served back to us, and were not hot.We persevered but the ribs were tough, and not cooked.
    Upon asking the manager for an adjustment in our bill for the bad servings of ribs, he deducted £15 from the bill after going into the kitchen to see how much of them we had eaten.
    The Waterfront should invest in a meat thermometer, and also a razor for the manager’s stubble.
    We informed him that we will not be going there again!

    Reply

  • Robin Hull

    11th September 2010 #3 Author

    Having read mixed reviews of “The Waterfront”, Cheryl, myself and our daughter, Holly, still went ahead with our booking (20.08.10). Boy, are we glad that we did!

    The fish (I had sea bass filets) and Cheryl had the local-caught Fish (and chips) both of which were excellent. Holly had the kids pizza.

    The food was quick to come and delicious too and we all had full-tums!

    Not sure why this restaurant has received such poor reviews? We felt the food, service and friendliness of the staff was great and the overall cost was good value.

    If you’re looking for an early evening kid friendly restaurant we cannot recommend The Waterfront enough.

    Reply

  • Ann Land

    5th September 2010 #4 Author

    What has happened to this lovly place…

    last year the food was excellent,staff friendly and helpful and the atmosphere amazing…

    We have been 2 times this summer…the food was over cooked and definatly not fresh caught fish as advertised…items had obviously been microwaved some to an inch of its life.

    Whilst the waiting staff were friendly and in the most part helpful…the bar staff/manager??Was very rude…at one point insisting that i stood up halfway through my food(literally I was fork in hand..) ,so that windows(on to the sunset we were waiting to photo were closed…)this was despite the fact that other dinners stated they were happy for them to be left open…
    I personally also like to eat my food…in a happy atmosphere…not whilst listening to the same bar person arguing with other staff and at one point using awful language.

    This is a venue we always visit on Holiday…but will not be visiting again…

    Reply

  • John & Ali

    31st August 2010 #5 Author

    Tried the Waterfront for the first time to eat. In our opinion, the food was just “OK”. The decor, however, particularly in the conservatory area really lets this place down and needs urgent attention! Carpets are threadbare and dusty; Cobwebs and the odd spider in the corners on the ceilings. The rear door was opened for some fresh air, but the dustbins are located right outside, encouraging a large number of flies and wasps! The staff were friendly & helpful, (although we had to get our own menus and ordered at the bar area).

    This is a truly wonderful location and, with a little extra time and effort spent on the interior would surely encourage more visitors to dine here? Would we go back? Yes, if changes are made.

    Reply

  • Nick Churchill

    11th August 2010 #6 Author

    My friends who live in Totland are regulars at the Waterfront and have never reported a problem, if however you still want to try other locations I can highly recommend The Sun Inn at Hulverstone (try and get a table in the old part of the pub its more atmospheric) The Horse and Groom at Ningwood is also good especially if you have kids!!

    Reply

  • nicky

    11th August 2010 #7 Author

    We’re in West Wight this weekend and thought of giving this place a try. Does anyone know if things have improved as the comments are a bit off-putting.
    If negative, is there anywhere worth looking at, apart from the middle of Yarmouth
    Thanks
    Nicky

    Reply

  • Local Family

    3rd January 2010 #8 Author

    Matt and Cat, you must have visited on a rare day!

    Our last and final visit we waited almost an hour for our meals even though the restaurant wasn’t busy, very frustrating as we have been consistantly disappointed all year. Very basic food, very poor soup of the day. .. had no response from our comment slip that we filled in offering our complaints, thoughts and contact details.

    The Waterfront is walking distance for us and the location is stunning. Great Summer sunsets, definetly worth going to for a romantic drink to sit and watch.

    Wish it was better for dining. …Why spend so much effort on advertising the venue without making some basic improvements first!!

    Also agree with Evans family’s previous post, the Manager makes no effort to welcome and is always grumpy.

    Reply

  • The Evans Family

    26th September 2009 #9 Author

    Today we decided to give the Waterfront another chance, mainly because of the wonderful location, after the previous disappointing visit due to the poor bar and waiting staff. We arrived and chose a table and two members of our party went to the bar to make our drink orders. After standing at the bar waiting to be served (no-one else waiting) the restaurant owner who was busy bottling up then spent 15 minutes ignoring and refusing to make eye contact with any of our party. A waitress also entered the bar area at one point and also ignored our waiting family members. I am surprised he has any restaurant at all with his total disregard for customers. We will definitley not be giving him any more chances and my advice to everyone is steer clear. There are many more restaurants on this island who are worthy of receiving your hard earned money! We decided that if he didn’t want our business we were sure somewhere else would and our party left. Its such a shame that such a miserable man owns this restaurant in such an idyllic setting.

    Reply

  • matt from ryde

    18th September 2009 #10 Author

    We lunched there today, and it was a real find. Firstly, a stunning location with clear views and crystal clear water. Secondly, very good freshly prepared food. A roasted red pepper soup was robust and spicy, moules were excellent, as was the crab salad. The waiting staff were polite, friendly, but as has previously been commented were perhaps a little too laid back in their attentiveness. However, we will definitely be making this a regular haunt.

    Reply

  • PANG

    15th August 2009 #11 Author

    We went to the Waterfront last night and had a lovely meal, there were 4 of us, we all had a starter, main meal, pudding, we also had two bottles of wiine and we thought this was quite reasonable. I had seabass which was cooked to perfection, other people in our group had duck and mussels all were beautifully cooked. Puddings were wonderful also.
    We sat looking out over the solent which was very picturesque.
    The only downside I would say – The staff were very polite but not that attentive.

    Reply

  • The Wildlife Gardener

    2nd July 2009 #12 Author

    My turn to be nerdy – those are actually caperberries not stalked capers, and I’m jealous because I love them and can’t find them anywhere!

    Reply

  • Maria & Kev Stevenson

    30th June 2009 #13 Author

    Waterfront Restaurant – Totland – 29th June 2009.
    Very, Very disappointing. Went here to celebrate our anniversary last night. Completely ignored, had to ask for the menu after 10 minutes of watching other people served before us. Then waited 20 minutes for our order to be taken We ordered mussels for a starter followed by sea bass and steak. 40 minutes later, the main meals turned up, no starter at all. We commented to the waitress, she took our food away and came back 5 minutes later with the same food saying ‘sorry the kitchen had messed up and forgotten the starter’. We just carried on with the main meal, big mistake. Steak was fatty and grissly, chips were just like the ends from a fryer and mushrooms and tomatoes were cold. The sea bass had obviously been a sardine in a previous life, one mouthful and it was gone!
    We decided this was really not good enough so complained to manager. His comment was ‘I take it there was no problem with your wine’ to which I replied ‘no’ so the agreement was that we would just pay for that. What a shock we had when we came to pay, 1 bottle of ‘off the shelf’ Pinot Grigio set us back £17.95!!!!!
    After all of the recent advertising for this place, we were both extremely disappointed. It has such a unique setting and it’s amazing to sit and watch the sun setting, it feels like you are on holiday in Greece. Despite these very positive attributes, I can honestly say we wont be going back here, food was poor.
    I can also comment that there were other diners in on the same night, who agreed, they were laughing and amazed at how bad things were.

    Reply

  • Lesley

    26th January 2007 #14 Author

    The Waterfront at Totland has to be one of the best places to view the sunset in West Wight and enjoy great food and drink. I always take friends visitng the Island there. Sitting in the sun with a glass of wine (or three!) wonderful food and excellant views. Check out the music too. Highly recommended.

    Reply