When we started this food-reviewing lark more than a decade ago, we pretty soon spotted that quite a few venues seemingly played exactly the same unchallenging middle-of-the-road cheesy music to keep their diners in compliant mood. The familiar tones of Tina Turner or Phil Collins were the inevitable accompaniment to yet another dinner served with <gasp> single-cooked chips, which was your standard potato side back in the day.
Generally a vintage compilation CD just isn’t going to cut it these days. We’ve been in pop-up restaurants where the chefs shimmy around the open kitchen to a live set by some trilby-wearing DJ. Even in the average coffee shop you’re more likely to hear old skool hip-hop mashups or cover versions of punk classics performed by a breathless girl on a ukulele. Surprise then, when we rolled up at the massive family pub the Wight Mouse to get some dinner, and walked in to hear Phil Collins’ ‘One More Night’. Thus it continued all evening – a comfortingly familiar yet slightly anachronistic 80s soundtrack to our supper. Would it be Another Day in Paradise, or I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For?
It was hardly a Crowded House, being late in the season, and as we entered the pub from the huge outdoor play area we thought we were the only ones there. Actually, there were quite a few diners but the place is such a warren it’s easy to get a little nook to yourself. We sat by the log fire, although it appeared that it wasn’t yet time for the Eternal Flame.
The pub is owned by Hall & Woodhouse and run by a local couple. The menu is good value, standard stuff; plus commendably some local produce. What we were not expecting was the specials board. It was chock-full of seafood, including a mackerel rarebit, grilled seabass fillets and smoked haddock and mussel chowder. We were spoilt for choice; would it be the ballotine of turkey or spaghetti and meatballs?
Cat had barely had time to make her way back through the maze of rooms to our table when, in a record-breakingly quick time our dinners arrived. As it happened, Matt went straight for the lambs’ liver and bacon special. Cat was open-mouthed as it was placed in front of Matt. It was a really huge portion. The liver and bacon swamped a substantial mountain of mash. The thick gravy was more like an rich onion stew, with lashings of soft, sweet onion that went perfectly with the tasty meat, cooked just right to that pinkness that all good liver should aspire to. The mash, alas, had a curious viscous texture that let the dish down but with that much good liver and gravy Matt was willing to put up with it.
As it was the first autumn day that had a slight chill in the air, Cat went all comfort food and ordered fisherman’s pie. This is a pub staple that Cat loves, and she usually get Everything She Wants. Under a pretty solid mash and cheese topping she dug in with enthusiasm to find the pie positively burdened with fish. Crammed into a creamy dill sauce were smoked haddock, cod, salmon and several huge king prawns plus, of course, peas. So generous was the serving that the accompanying veg bowl was almost superfluous, and she pushed it aside: “I Can’t Go For That”.
Dessert time, and Sweet Dreams are Made of This. We didn’t even bother with the main menu – The Specials looked too good. Matt’s white chocolate cheesecake was a small slice that was anointed with a silky-smooth mousse and piles of white chocolate crumbs. Not strictly a cheesecake but actually the perfect light pudding after a solid dinner. The salted caramel cake was a towering layered sponge with caramel icing and buttercream filling with some trails of more salt caramel. It was a substantial sponge, not that inconsequential catering fluff you can sometimes get – in fact it had the appearance and texture of something homemade. Both desserts came with a cute white chocolate mouse – a nice little joke.
Fish pie £9.95
Liver and bacon £11.25
Salted caramel cake £5.25
Cherry and white chocolate cheesecake £5.25
Total £ 31.70
So could we rate the Wight Mouse as simply The Best, or was it just One More Night? Probably a comfortable middle ground. If you’ve got family in tow, especially youngsters who enjoy a playground, and you’re on the Military Road looking for food, this place is going to ring your bell. Although at busy times you can expect a wait, as everyone else will have the same idea as you. Nonetheless it’s well-priced, hearty pub grub with astonishingly quick and attentive service. This was a great improvement on our previous experience of the venue although we weren’t trying it at its absolute peak of, say, August Bank Holiday. Explore the specials menu and you’ll find evidence of an adventurous streak in the kitchen with a seafood edge. Oh, and do enjoy the music. You might have to explain it to the kids though.
Edit: this review was edited on 7/11/16 to reflect the fact that Hall and Woodhouse are the freeholders but not the managers.
This is the full-length version of the review that first appeared in the Isle of Wight County Press.