Update: The Wheatsheaf Hotel, Newport was one of this site’s earliest reviews so Matt and Cat decided to revisit the venue. The original review, from 4 August 2006, is below the update.
During the week, Matt and Cat regularly meet for lunch in Newport. A light snack of local produce at the excellent Island Images usually suffices although sometimes they only have time to snatch a coffee at the Quay Arts Centre or Olivo. On this particular day, M&C were looking for a place to eat and duck out of the rain – along with most of the lunchtime crowd. And so it was that they ended up outside the doors of the Wheatsheaf – one of three so-named hostelries on the Island*.
Shaking off the droplets as they entered the bar, Matt and Cat were pleased to see that the place had lost none of its charm. Although the patrons were mostly men, The Wheatsheaf had a far more genteel atmosphere than a rowdy sports bar. Pleasingly, there was no sign of a TV; only the faint warble of an eclectic selection of piped music – possibly megamixed by DJ Anachronistic, as Avril Lavigne’s Sk8r Boi was segued into some twaddle by The Beatles.
A table by the window was available and Matt and Cat settled in and passed a few moments looking at the war memorial, slightly distorted by the old glass and rivulets. The pub had a decent menu of light bites and a few keenly-priced meals on the specials board. It was all pretty standard fare, baked potatoes, toasted sarnies and omelettes punctuated by a few surprises such as corn beef hash and a bargain-priced chicken tikka. The chap at the bar persuaded Cat that the toasted sandwiches were very good so, when she placed the order, she eschewed her first choice of soup in favour of a toastie.
Ham, tomato & mozzarella toastie £5
Chicken tikka £3.95
1pt bitter shandy £3.20
Whilst waiting for their meals, Matt and Cat turned their attention again to the music. It was so varied that it put Cat in mind of the good old days of the pub jukebox – when, with the rattle of their coin in its greedy slot, the punter had control of the phonograph. The jukebox has all but disappeared and perhaps it should be revived. As well as forking out for some toe-tapping rawk, Matt would also like to be able to buy silence – say, five minutes for 50p. Wouldn’t that be great?
Supping their drinks, M and C enjoyed the pub atmosphere of the Wheatsheaf. Somehow this ancient hostelry has managed to avoid the sometimes ruinous tinkerings of ‘progress’, maintaining links with its venerable past. Even some of the overheard conversations could have come from patrons of half a century ago, such as the reflections of the old bus services… “The number 12a stopped at the old workhouse,” floated the reminiscences of the bus nerds at the bar. “…I remember him, he’d knock the bus out of gear and coast all the way to Freshwater Bay…”
Matt and Cats’ eavesdropping was interrupted by the arrival of their food. Cat’s toasted sandwich was crammed onto an oval plate, rubbing its crusty shoulders with a big pile of steak-cut chips and a plain but wholesome salad garnish. There was plenty of ham in the sarnie’s interior – and none of that thin stuff either – plus a couple of discs of tomato and some gooey mozzarella. It was all pretty good and the chips were particularly commendable; easily as tasty as those triple cooked efforts sometimes presented in a Jenga-like stack in posher establishments.
Matt’s curry was equally welcome. For only £3.95 this was good value indeed. Accompanied by a pint of real ale, a simple bowl of rice with a pile of old-fashioned chicken curry on top was just what Matt needed on a cold afternoon. The curry was flavoursome and had plenty of meat in it. Top marks for simple food well served.
As Matt and Cat ate their meals, they once again had the opportunity to enjoy their perennial pastime of ear-wigging on fellow patrons. The Wheatsheaf was a particularly fertile ground for such a practice, and the conversation at the bar had leapt forward about 20 years to the thorny subject of the introduction of decimalisation. “They should have waited for all the old people to die” was the consensus. Wiping their plates clean and preparing for the last stint of the week at the ant farm, Matt and Cat heard one last insight into that other hot topic amongst the older generation – their health. “It wasn’t keyhole surgery – more like letterbox surgery! Still, it’s a good job that my days as a male model are over,” disclosed one old chap, with a twinkle. Or perhaps it was his twinkle which was operated on?
Leaving the Wheatsheaf after a highly satisfactory lunch, Matt and Cat went back to the hustle and bustle of the twenty-first century, leaving the cosy charm of the pub behind. The place hadn’t changed at all since their last review and probably not for a few centuries before that. Recommended.
*The other two Wheatsheafs are in Yarmouth and Brading, fact fans!
Review from 4 August 2006
Sitting in the cosy surrounds of the Wheatsheaf one is compelled to imagine the ghosts of a thousand ruddy-faced farmers and merchants, stretching back over the many centuries that the pub has been a busy inn in a market town. Although spruced up a little over the years it still has the crooked staircase, flagstones, twisting corridors and low beams (ouch) which give it real character.
Matt and Cat stopped off at the Wheatsheaf with some friends for a quick bite after work. Bar meals can be taken at one of the tables in the bar, or there is a small restaurant area. Matt and Cat chose the latter, and settled down to view the menu, which came in two varieties – lunchtime and evening. Showing a pleasingly accommodating attitude the polite waitress offered the choice of either – perhaps sensing that her guests were not going to settle in for an all-nighter – and your reviewers chose the lighter lunch fare, rather than the more substantial evening list. Being a proper pub, the Wheatsheaf also offered decent beer and bar drinks, all at pub rather than restaurant prices.
Matt chose a basic cheeseburger and chips, always a good test of a pub. The price was very reasonable, and the burger, on arrival, was a decent portion and a tasty meal. Unusually, instead of the salad wilting on the chips, it was incorporated into the large bun, which made the meal appear visually sparse, but made for a more enjoyable burger.
As it was such a hot evening, Cat chose chicken salad. A decent sized sliced chicken breast was accompanied by a large portion of potato salad and a diced green salad with peppers and tomatoes. It was very nice and excellent value for money.
The Wheatsheaf is a characterful pub in an excellent central location for those enjoying the delights of Newport. It serves reasonably priced, enjoyable food. Matt and Cat hope to return to try the evening menu, and report further.
The Wheatsheaf, Newport