One of the great things about having mainland visitors is proudly showing off the Isle of Wight to them. Whether they are staunch monarchists, transport buffs or competitive children, you will find something to impress them.
And so it was when we took recent guests to Osborne House, the Bus and Coach Museum and Shanklin’s pirate golf, named – unexpectedly topically as it now happens – some years ago by Cat as ‘Rivers of Blood‘ golf due to its actual rivers of (not quite actual) blood.
We also popped into the Garlic Farm cafe for a restorative cuppa, to marvel at the miniature sheep and invest some holiday money in some fabulous garlic onion marmalade. A lot of fun for one weekend, and it didn’t end there.
Driving from the Garlic Farm towards Newport we spotted a sign for an antique fair at Arreton Community Centre. Now, the Cat’s mother is partial to a rummage through a dusty trove as much as her daughter so, sending the chaps off to find somewhere in the village for lunch, the ladies went off to sniff out some vintage bargains.
It turned out that scrutinising crested china, recently-deceased Ken ‘Doddy’ Dodd sheet music and riffling through boxes of old Isle of Wight postcards gave the ladies a bit of an appetite. No wonder Arthur Negus had such top fighting weight; like a camel, he needed to carry around a fatty layer to fuel him through appearances on Going for a Song and Antiques Roadshow.
Arriving at the White Lion, burdened with a 1972 copy of Wight Life magazine, the pages of which included an unexpected pin-up of local Island celebrity ‘Theo the Tramp’, the ladies joined the gents at their table.
Being Sunday, it was tempting to have a roast; the pub catered for all appetites and combos, with small, regular, duo and trio options. Trouble is, no matter how tempting-sounding or bargainiferous the traditional lunch was, Cat mischievously drew Matt’s attention to lamb’s liver and bacon and his mind was duly made up. Even a last minute suggestion of bourbon BBQ pork with Cajun potato wedges couldn’t shake his resolve.
Cat had a more-than-acceptable Coronation chicken sandwich, which was served with salad garnish and some rather handsome and well-above-par chunky chips. The butty’s contents were soft and creamy with a gentle sweetness yet hints of a spicier edge – just like our own dear Majesty, for whom this iconic filling was created.
Coronation chicken sandwich £7.50
Liver and bacon £12
As it happens when we reviewed the White Lion way back in 2007, Matt also had liver and bacon. Astonishing really, when you think that the pub has gone through several changes of personnel, a refurb and presumably many menu updates. But there’s no arguing about the draw of an offal offer, and Matt was particularly impressed with this one. A thick, sweet onion gravy was the appropriate accompaniment, and in the middle was an island of creamed mash crowned with some tasty lobes of liver devoid of any chewy bits. Caramelised shallots lolled enticingly in the sauce, and some peas were on the side more as a formality than because they were required. On request, some mustard was provided, and quite properly there was no interrogation about what sort of mustard was required. With liver and bacon, any suggestion of French mustard would be anathema. The supplied English mustard was powerful enough to bring tears of joy to Matt’s eyes. He blew his nose with delight and praised the insight of the White Lion for so splendidly complementing this classic dish.
Usually we only write about the food that we ourselves eat. However, special mention must go to the White Lion for its rather stunning cheese ploughman’s. We were keen to show our companions the best of the Island and this dish was a hearty assemblage which a horny-handed tiller of the soil would’ve been glad to eat. With flagship IW Cheese Company soft served alongside two sorts of crumbly blue and generous wedges of hard cheese stealing focus, the slate was also burdened with acidic pickles and apple segments, a well-dressed salad and trio of chutneys. Plus, alongside came some whopping doorstops, in your classic white and granary options. This impressive meal, which caused gasps of approval from around the table, was £10.50.
And so, as Matt used Cat’s sandwich crusts to mop up the dregs of his onion gravy and the last of the ploughman’s cheese got shared out, we considered the meal. Having been turned away from the packed house that was the nearby Dairyman’s Daughter, the White Lion was a more than acceptable sanctuary. With friendly staff, offering full table service and an interesting menu with both hearty traditional dishes and lighter bites for those who haven’t spent all day working in the fields, we’re happy to recommend this decent pub.
This is the full-length version of the review that appeared in the Isle of Wight County Press.