Matt and Cat\'s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide
Archive review: the Windmill Inn has now closed.  The population of Bembridge may double during the summer months as second-home-owners descend on the village...
Archive review: the Windmill Inn has now closed. 
Windmill Inn, Bembridge

The population of Bembridge may double during the summer months as second-home-owners descend on the village to go sailing, catch up with their metropolitan friends who are DFL (Down From London) and eat out in the local bars and restaurants.

One of these eateries, Fulton’s Chop House, seemed to have closed down before Matt and Cat got the chance to eat there – despite several attempts. They’ve been more successful elsewhere in Bembridge: the Pilot Boat has some excellent food and the Crab and Lobster is in a fantastic spot.

So far, so seaside. But what about the permanent residents? Does the village roll up its pavements once the summer season is at an end? Fortunately, Bembridge has an indigenous, albeit elderly, population all year round and one autumn evening Matt and Cat were able to immerse themselves in its culture at the Windmill Inn.

The top of the meat was a soggy mess, with watery grey fat slumped desolately over the leaner meat below.

The Windmill is a massive hotel which has developed a thriving restaurant sideline. From the boards outside, Matt and Cat noted that the hotel has a daily carvery, a sure draw for price-conscious oldsters. On entering the capacious hotel from its big car park, M and C were impressed with its high ceilings and vast bar/diner. In fact it was slightly overwhelming; several locals chatted at the bar whilst your reviewers wandered around the rambling establishment waiting to be seated. However, it proved not to be that sort of place and they found themselves a table without any input from the staff.

The regular menu has a good range of food, which is perhaps to be expected from a hotel. Liver and bacon vie for your attention along with roast lamb, hickory-roast chicken and scampi. There is a small but interesting vegetarian selection. Also, like its sister pub, the Horse and Groom, there are options for those with smaller appetites, children and babies. The menu prominently featured OAP portions, OAP prices, and OAP specials. Perhaps a pattern was emerging here.

Roast lamb

Roast lamb

Matthew toyed with the idea of liver and bacon before settling on the roast half shoulder of lamb with mash and roast gravy. Cat, keen for steak, swerved off at the very last moment and chose goat’s cheese and vegetable tart with fresh salad and crusty bread from the vegetarian selection. Waiting to order from the very friendly barman, Matt noticed a large commercial calendar on the bar-room wall, not from the local drayman but from a ‘Hygiene and Nursing Supplies Specialist’. That’s Bembridge for you.

Perhaps because it was early evening, Matt and Cat’s fellow diners were all elderly, garrulously concerned with medical conditions – or both. In the time between ordering and receipt of food, Matt and Cat eavesdropped on the indiscreet miracles of modern medicine at neighbouring tables. An elderly couple were entertaining a still more elderly lady visitor and catching up on the gossip. “Since I had that operation,” declaimed a well-upholstered lady, “I’ve been in constant pain every time I eat.” Sympathy was soon forthcoming. “I had an op myself,” hollered the man unabashedly to his hard-of-hearing companion. “Sometimes I get this pain… right in my a**e.” It seemed unlikely that this was a metaphor. What splendid dinner-time talk.

Thankfully, the food’s arrival gave a welcome distraction from tales of gall bladders, singing legs and sleepless nights.

Goat's cheese tartlet

Goat’s cheese tartlet

Matthew’s roast lamb looked pretty good. A sizable portion of meat was covered with a rich gravy on a pile of mash, and came with an interesting-looking side-dish of fresh vegetables. These proved to be delicious and absolutely fresh, even including some unusual seasonal root vegetable chips. If Matt had known what was to follow he’d probably have spent a little longer enjoying them, for after that it was almost all downhill. Probing the lamb soon revealed that the showy exterior was the best of it – inside it was a sorry affair. Instead of crispy roasted skin parting to reveal the flavoursome fat of a good roast lamb, the top of the meat was a soggy mess, with watery grey fat slumped desolately over the leaner meat below. No herbs or garlic were detectable – this meat was unadorned. At least it was soft – perhaps for all those OAP chewers. It fell apart on the fork, with no hint of the texture or pink colour that well-roast lamb has. The Windmill for some reason had apparantly boiled this bit of meat to within an ace of inedibility. Although it was a decent size and must once have had the potential to be a really good meal, this was some time ago. Grey, tasteless hunks of meat lurked mournfully amongst the gristle, and, most bizarre of all, the rich and oddly orange-coloured gravy sauce that covered the meat seemed to have a distinct flavour of BBQ sauce – could it perhaps, have got muddled with the ‘hickory-roast chicken’? Matt invited Cat to try his gravy, to confirm this culinary clanger. Sadly she concurred – this lamb was served with smoked sauce. For nearly £11 Matt expected a lot better.

Fresh salad? Surely not...

Fresh salad? Surely not…

First impressions of the goat’s cheese tartlet were good. Two big disks of cheese slowly melted atop a diamond-shaped puff pastry flan filled with peppers, tomatoes and other vegetables. Unfortunately the same could not be said for the salad. What appeared to be a pretty small helping of what was billed as ‘fresh salad’ was made even smaller when Cat discovered and removed browning leaves stashed under a pile of sliced iceberg lettuce. Why hide them? Do they imagine that diners will not look underneath? At least one could praise their honesty and frankness if they put the mouldering relics right on top for all to see.

This poor array of old salad was not quite down to the level of the sad offerings at the Lazy Cow, but it was not good – and in one important respect it actually fell well below the standards of the Lazy Cow, who at least apologised when the problem was identified. When the Windmill waitress came to clear the plates, although she did not ask how the food was Cat decided to be proactive and, gesticulating at the rejected lettuce, said politely, “Some of the salad was a bit elderly, but I managed to pick out the good bits”. The waitress just said, “Oh good” and wandered off. There was an awkward moment of silence. Cat sat open mouthed.

Matt and Cat wasted no time on desserts and coffees, and were relieved to get out and leave the Windmill behind. Perhaps The Windmill had an off night. Perhaps, as it was Monday, they had some leftovers from a busy Sunday carvery. Perhaps they just find the very old are happy to eat poor food and pay well for it. Whatever the reason, Matt and Cat were disappointed, and can’t find any reason to recommend The Windmill to anyone.
Windmill Inn, Bembridge

  • George Edwards says:

    We were staying in Bembridge and wanted to go somewhere we could walk to and take our dog, meet up with some friends and have a decent meal. We visited the Windmill twice, once for an evening meal and once for lunch and both times staff were friendly, service quite good and the food good value for money. Also the tables aren’t packed closely together and work well if you have a dog with you as there is plenty of space for them to tuck themselves away out of sight and away from other diners. Recommended.

  • ClaireP says:

    Thought we would give the old place another chance as we’d heard that new management had taken over! On arriving we noticed the two familiar faces from the Crab & Lobster, and sure enough they’ve taken it over! Beautiful food, lovely staff… we will be back!!

  • Bushy says:

    This is definitely due for updating. It is now part of the New Inn, Shalfleet, empire, which surely won’t justify a ‘we don’t like’ category.

  • Ken Marston says:

    I note that all the reviews are from 2007. Since then a new management team have taken over and the food has improved greatly and is well worth a new review.

  • s says:

    PB has 5 stars!!!!! and fab food and staff!

  • Mrs Fox says:

    I have been told this place has no scores on the doors, ie no stars in its kitchen!!!! even the local cafe has 4 stars!!!
    I would never eat here after the reports that EHO have been in more then once.
    PB down the road for real food from clean kitchen for me.

  • Penny S says:
    I would never recommend anyone eat at The Windmill.

    I would never recommend anyone eat at The Windmill. Poor customer service is an understatement, and it has all the grace and charm of a nursing home. My experience of undercooked chicken and well past it’s sell by date steak, both meals served 45 minutes late with no more of an excuse from the waitress than ‘sorry, it’s a Saturday, we’re busy’ only proved to me that the chef is incompetent; I mean, how can a professional kitchen serve undercooked chicken and rancid steak. Did they not smell the meat when it came out of the refrigerator? It disgusted me. There are so many quality establishments in which to eat in and around Bembridge – for example the Pilot Boat with it’s fresh and quite often local menu, and St. Helen’s Restaurant which is quite simply outstanding.

  • Lois P says:

    I ate at the Windmill – once – and will not be going back. I had the wild mushroom risotto with shavings of parmesan – the wild mushrooms were made from dehydrated mushrooms that hadn’t been re-hydrated properly and were like eating old shoe leather and the parmesan shavings were green with mould – nice. My other half had ‘aberdeen angus beefburger’ served with yukky frozen chips (great – why dilute the nice meat with cheap as chips chips??). Why can’t people get the right combination of good, fresh, seasonal food on a menu that doesn’t have to be as long as yer arm…

  • Aurélie says:

    The food is awful and the staff is not really nice at all.
    I will never never come back again. I can’t recommend the windmill to anyone

  • Alison Popelton says:

    We always have a great meal at the Windmill, Staff are very good and the locals keep us laughing, I dont think this place will ever shake the old name Birdham!!!

  • chris markham says:

    hi we live on the outskirts of bembridge and weve given up on all of the local eateries we go to the st helens restaurant or burrs in newport give them a go i like to know your thoughts.

    Matt and Cat respond: Hi to you too, Chris! Thanks for your comment. We’ve already visited St Helens Restaurant. Read our review here.

  • kj says:

    I meant the quality at the Pilot Boat and the Crab & Lobster….one visit to the Windmill was enough for me!!

  • kj says:

    well the Pilot Boat, The Crab & Lobster and the other village pub are all up for sale. Lets see if the quality is maintained or will they just go the same way as Fultons went

  • Stephen John says:

    Like you we have beendissapointed with the Windmill.

    Had lunch there some weeks ago. The carvery meal was poor. Plenty of it but poor quality meat and pretty mediocre vegetables.

    Spoke with manageress who did not seem to be too concerned. But then we had paid at that time!!!


  • david smith says:

    The Windmill bembridge After five nights of looking for a really good resturant we came upon the Windmill.Its the best we have found this year we ate there on 6 nights out of the 14 we where there. The only reason it was not more was we had to try one or two others.The steaks were cooked just right the food was hot. The wine chilled the fish was light and flufy the half chicken was a delight the lamb shoulder fit for a king The veg selection was a real treat. and the homemade steak and kidney pie wonderful plus many others. Hope others enjoy this as much as we did.

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