Matt and Cat\'s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide
Archive review: the Wishing Well is now The Isle of Wight Distillery at The Wishing Well, the home of Mermaid Gin. Matt and Cat...

Archive review: the Wishing Well is now The Isle of Wight Distillery at The Wishing Well, the home of Mermaid Gin.

Matt and Cat first reviewed the Wishing Well in spring 2006 when it had just been taken over by new owners. The earlier review is at the bottom of the page.

Wishing Well

Writing their food reviews is hardly an arduous chore. Matt and Cat enjoy eating out and part of the pleasure is chatting during their meal about what they might say about a venue. If a meal is good, they get the benefit of nice food. If a meal is dismal they get the benefit of giving a place a good kicking on this very website. Fortunately, the latter rarely happens. Most Isle of Wight eateries are of a very high standard with only one or two exceptions.

So, when they visited the newly reopened Wishing Well at Pondwell, Matt and Cat jabbered to each other about how they could say it’s newly opened; and how, when chatting to the bar staff they learned that they had just taken on the venture (rather than it being a straight refurbishment). About how the venue had a clean if slightly impersonal interior, with vast picture windows. However, when reading their 2006 review, M and C were stunned to see that was exactly what they had written last time! So what new things can be said about this cavernous roadhouse?

Prawn and crayfish madras

When Matt and Cat tottered over the threshold of the Wishing Well, it had only been re-opened a matter of days and, judging by the number of patrons, it had been sorely missed. The place was pretty full and there was the choice of just two empty tables in the whole place. It’s possible that the diners had been lured by the promise of curry night; certainly there was a lot of naan bread being eaten. Matt, always keen for a good ruby, did not hesitate to order one. However, his interest was piqued when he was asked which curry he wanted from a list of several choices. Usually pub curry night is the equivalent of a carvery: you buy a ticket and then help yourself at a spicy buffet. The Wishing Well avoids this food free-for-all and treats curry, quite rightly, as a dish which needs preparation rather than simply being slopped out by rote. To ensure an equitable test of the food, Cat decided against curry this time, and chose from the regular menu.

Matt and Cat’s bill
Prawn and crayfish curry
plus squash and beer £10.60
Mushroom tagliatelle £8.50
Apple and sultana crumble £4.50
Lemon cheesecake £4.50
Mushroom tagliatelle

Taking their cutlery and sauces to their table in a cute little metal bucket, Matt and Cat settled in next to a group of riotous Londoners. Much merry squawking emanated from this neighbouring table but it was in good jest and livened the place up. A little girl seated with her mother and a friend behind Matt and Cat was having her 10th birthday party.

Those with a high cholesterol level, look away now!
Lemon cheesecake

Despite the pub being pretty full, it wasn’t long before the meals arrived. Matt had chosen prawn and crayfish madras which came with a little bowl of plain rice, scattered with grains of wild rice which gave it a really nice visual effect. A poppadum, naan and a selection of excellent chutneys plus a freshly-prepared onion baghee finished off this surprisingly comprehensive portion of pub curry. Matt thought the curry was a very good meal, significantly better than the standard pub ‘curry nite’ curry, which one suspects normally comes out of a bottle.

Cat had the vegetarian option of mushroom, spinach and toasted pine nut tagliatelle with garlic ciabatta. Again this seemed very freshly prepared; big slices of flat mushrooms lay in a creamy sauce with wilted spinach offering a good colour contrast and vitamin boost. This was a lovely dish, the pine nuts adding a touch of texture – although they didn’t seem to be toasted as promised. Another thing which wasn’t quite as described was the garlic ciabatta – as spectacularly garlicky as the dough-based accompaniment was, it wasn’t ciabatta but an ordinary slice of bread. However, it was tastier than many garlic breads that The Cat has eaten so she was not inclined to make a fuss.

Because the first courses were so nice, Matt and Cat decided to have puddings. Whilst they waited for their sweets to arrive, they were kept entertained by the delivery of a flaming birthday cake to the little girl at the adjacent table and joined in the singing of ‘Happy Birthday’ (although, along with the rest of the pub, they mumbled the bit when it came to singing the name “Happy birthday dear… Thingy…“)

Matt’s apple and sultana crumble was nice and cinnamony and came with a tiny pot of cold vanilla custard that could quite easily have been home-made. Cat’s lemon cheesecake was extraordinary. Those with a high cholesterol level, look away now! This was the thickest, cheesiest cheesecake that Cat had ever eaten. It too seemed to be home-made; the crumbly biscuit base plus the discovery of a real lemon pip reinforced that suspicion. It was so overwhelming that Matt had to assist, which he did with great enthusiasm. Let’s hope that the new owners can keep up this standard of home-cooked and prepared food. The difference is noticeable, and the food in the Wishing Well certainly stands out for it.

So, how to conclude? Well Matt and Cat think that they put it quite succinctly on their last review – with a few amendments. Although the owners and the interior have changed the sentiments still hold true: The food is now distinctly better than regular pub grub, but is still made worthwhile by good and personal service, nice presentation and fresh ingredients. The pub itself is a little bland, but may improve once the new hosts have settled in. The toilets – as in 2006 – still deserve commendation!

Review first published 7th March 2006
The Wishing Well is a conspicuous roadside pub with a huge deck out the back, from which fine views can be had. Matt & Cat visited on a foggy, rainy evening and were thus unable to take enjoyment from the view. Could the Wishing Well provide interest in the winter months?

The place has recently been spruced-up, and the conversation across the bar soon revealed the fact that the hosts had just taken on the free house this very week. Their welcome was friendly, and their two young children augmented the waiting staff with the eagerness of children who have just started something. It’s unlikely they’ll maintain this level of enthusiasm, but for the first week in the job one can hardly fault their commitment.

The pub is very roomy and open, and immaculately clean. It has the atmosphere of a family dining pub with a focus on food; there are many tables and a large no-smoking area. It probably would not be the place for a romantic evening out. That said, there did appear to be a separate lounge with a large fireplace, armchairs and a pool table. Perhaps once the hosts have settled in a bit they might find a way to add some more atmosphere to this pleasant, but somehow uninspiring place. Matt and Cat settled at a window seat to watch the rain lashing on the panes – left only to imagine what a splendid view may be had in the summer.

The menu was simple pub grub, clearly explained and reasonably priced. Matt chose grilled steak and Cat, her favourite – pan fried chicken. Without much delay the meals were served by the landlord. The food was piping hot and all freshly cooked to order. Matt’s steak was excellent, perfectly done and of good quality. The chicken was similarly well-presented. Chips and salad came alongside, but also on offer were vegetables, baked or new potatoes and a selection of steak sauces.

The food is regular pub grub, made worthwhile by good and personal service, nice presentation and fresh ingredients. The pub itself is a little bland, but may improve once the new hosts have settled in. The toilets especially deserve commendation – quite spectacularly sparkling and new.

  • Andrew says:

    Just had the best carvery lunch at The Wishing Well!.We were so surprised! The ambience,the service, the food and the pricing was outstanding.
    If you’re looking for a brilliant Sunday lunch you have to try it. The menu also looks good and so tempting.
    It’s all change at this place and our feeling is that this place is setting the benchmark for being one of the best on the Island.
    Can’t wait to go back!!

  • Downsviewduo says:

    Just a quick update from our review 7/11/2012.

    We visited again and there are new menus, the tables were lovely and clean and the toilets are being decorated.

    Coincidence? Perhaps.

    If it isn’t I really respect places that take on board customer comments, good on the management if this is the case.

    We’ll be going there again me thinks!

  • PAUL MULLERY says:

    We also visited this pub and formed the same opinion. One thing I can’t stand is sticky tables. In most pubs they wipe the tables but:

    a they don’t rinse the cloth frequently

    b very few use kitchen cleaner squirted on before doing so which lifts the grease. Just wiping over with water does nothing but spread it around. One place which always uses “squirty cleaner” is table table in Newport.

    With respect to the Wishing Well, we had the fish and chips which were excellent but the eating area is very “canteenish” plus the greasy tables. We also had the chat from the bar but fortunately the conversation was in order.

    We decided not to bother again due to the eating arrangements which is a pity as the food is excellent.

  • Downsviewduo says:

    We recently decided to revisit The Wishing Well, which is a good sign, having last been there in the summer. The idea was for an early dinner prior to a trip to the cinema, so we arrived at the establishment for 18:00.

    There were already a couple of other parties in for dinner and at the bar there was a gathering of men chatting and having a laugh. The meals were ordered and I once more noted the slightly sticky and well worn menus; I’m all for menus have detailed descriptions of what we can eat, I’m just not too keen on feeling it under my finger tips as I peruse. The Wishing Well is not alone here I hasten to add, a number of places we have visited are guilty of the same, and I will mention it if I review any of them!

    Within moments of sitting down a very polite man came over and cleaned the table, I didn’t catch his name but I know he is not the owner, he was drinking at the bar with the group of men. The meals arrived within fifteen minutes of ordering. My partner had the Fishcakes from the Specials Board and I had the Beef Burger with extra cheese and bacon. We were both very happy with our meals as we were on our last visit.

    My partners Fishcakes were generously sized and cooked well, they tasted very nice indeed and they came with a good sized salad and a decent sized bowl of chips. My Beef Burger also came with a nice salad and a good portion of chips. The chips were very nice, freshly cooked and very hot! Both salads came with a very pleasant dressing. The Fishcakes were presented on a wooden board and I was impressed that they were trying to go to an effort. The Beef Burger was well cooked, a good size and tasted lovely; the roll was very nice, soft inside and crispy in all the right places. The bacon and cheese for the Burger was good, the bacon cooked to maximum crispiness and the cheese melted perfectly; I didn’t mind having to pay extra for these additions, but I think £1.00 for each is steep and think 50p would be more like it.

    As with all good meals we cleared our plates and we had no complaints about the food. A couple of negatives from this visit though:
    1. The aforementioned group at the bar were quite loud, and although they appeared to be a decent bunch of lads their language and conversation subjects were not suitable in my opinion. Without going into any unnecessary detail I will say that the language was quite graphic, they used a fair few expletives, and the topics were not for the ears of children. I’m no prude, but the other two parties dining included children and the elderly, we were no closer than they were so the chances are they heard. The other thing that surprised me was that the owner was sat at the centre of the gathering, I only know him to be the owner because of our last visit there.

    2. The toilets were cold, dark and a little smelly; so much so that when we were leaving I decided not to use them again and to take my chances at the cinema. Overall despite these negatives I do like The Wishing Well, it has a pleasant décor, it is well sized, I like its location and it has a good menu. It is definitely one of the very best family pubs on the Island and we will almost certainly be visiting again.

  • In our mission to find a good pub for a family to eat at, we tried the Wishing Well tonight. My fish pie was excellent – they didn’t fill it with cheap fish, it was hot with lovely pastry and the peas too were fresh, not microwaved. My wife’s rack of ribs didn’t last long on the plate, either. It was a fine meal for adults.

    Where we think they have room for improvement is in their catering for children. The play area outside is superb, the food less so. Discounting our eight-year-old son’s lack of enthusiasm for his burger (it turned out he was incubating a bug), our nine-year-old daughter was served a very small portion of pasta bolognese. We supplemented it with some of our chips and onion rings. When a staff member came to check mid-meal that we were happy with our meals, we told him, and in fairness to him he offered to provide more. However, our daughter wasn’t wild about the taste either. We tried small mouthfuls and agreed there was something unusual about the taste but we couldn’t identify what it was. When our plates were being cleared away by a member of the bar staff, we were again asked whether everything was OK, and we reiterated our concerns (but mentioning that we had already told someone else). This lady said they had never had any complaints about the size of children’s portions, but this surprised us. Our daughter has a very average appetite, and we would consider her judgement reasonable.

    Our other comment is that the children’s menu costs £4.90, but unlike other establishments, this did not include a dessert or a drink. For a dessert, they would have had to have turned to the adult menu and another £5 per pudding – something that seems out of step for children’s food at most places these days.

    In summary, we found it a fine place for adults to get some well-cooked, tasty food, but we believe more attention needs to be given to the children’s offering.

  • Downsviewduo says:

    My partner and I recently visited The Wishing Well, the decision based on the large amount of positive reviews it has garnered on this site.

    We visited on a Sunday evening, so we knew that there was a good chance it would be slightly quieter and less busy, and so it turned out to be.

    On arriving at the establishment I was immediately struck by the attractive and well kept exterior, and the beautiful views of the surrounding countryside; the carpark is spacious, probably enough to cater for a full pub, although it could perhaps do with some re-surfacing work.

    On entering The Wishing Well I was immediately struck by the spacious and light open plan layout, it was very well laid out, surprisingly big and has a pleasant modern decor. There is a very nice log burner, surrounded by a healthly supply of wood, and I can imagine that when it is going on a cold winters night it it provides a warm and inviting atmosphere.

    The lady behind the bar was very friendly throughout our visit, and cleared our table promptly when we’d finished; I also liked the way she didn’t try and upsell us, I appreciate that this is the way things are often done but it does irk me, I am more than capable to determine whether I want a dessert or not!

    A couple of negatives, the tables were not particularly clean (perhaps they had a busy afternoon) and I didn’t like the menus; they were well used (ie a bit tatty), and in my opinion do a disservice to a otherwise clean and well kept establishment.

    The menu itself is reasonably extensive, and there was also a specials board that looked like it was updated regularly (ie written in chalk, it amazes me how many places write the ‘daily specials’ board in paint, who are they trying to fool?!). One suggestion on a potential improvement would be to the ‘light bites’ section of the menu; more and more establishments are now providing this type of selection, smaller versions of the main courses at a reduced cost, but the ‘light bites’ section at The Wishing Well feels more like a starters section.

    Anyway on to the food! My girlfriend had the Jumbo Cod and I had the 8oz Burger; the food arrived within about ten minutes of ordering, this would normally make alarm bells go off in my head, but on this occassion it was clearly because the place was quiet and we had the chef’s undevided attention.

    The portions were very generous, the chips were lovely, clearly freshly cooked in nice hot and clean oil. The side salads looked fresh and had a lovely dressing; my Beef Burger was really good, one of the best I’ve had in a long time, good quality burgers cooked perfectly in a lovely fresh roll. My girlfriends fish certainly was ‘jumbo’ as described, and she said it was very good; it did have a lot of bones but I don’t think this is the establishments fault because sometimes you can get a particularly boney fish!

    We had both intended to have desserts, but on finishing our main course we were both too full!

    On leaving the place the friendly lady behind the bar gave us a lovely smile, and made me glad we had spent our money there.

    Overall a postive experience, my burger being a particular highlight, some minor improvements could perhaps be made, but it is definitely one of the better places we have visited on the Island, and we will almost certainly be going back.

  • pete j says:

    Yes, agree the food and atmosphere is very good, but and a big BUT.
    There are sometimes dogs in part of the eating area, with even a dog water bowl inside the door close to the tables. A bit disconcerting and once that is addressed, it will be the ideal eating and drinking establishment.

  • sarah says:

    went for a drink here last thursday evening after a (not so good) meal at the crab and lobster and wished we had eaten here instead. The menu and specials board looked great and the food smelled and looked lovely. The atmosphere is so nice and staff and (i think they were) regulars were really friendly. We will definately eat there next time. What a lovely, friendly, relaxed place!

  • Bushy says:

    We are regulars at the Wednesday Quiz nights, and always have a meal first. They have just introduced a new wider-ranging menu, but they are particularly good at pub grub favourites. The steaks are from Farmer Jacks at Arreton Barns, incidentally. They also have live music on Saturday nights (starting at 9.30 to give everyone a chance to eat first) and I believe they are going to introduce jazz on Sunday evenings. This is a great local pub which is also family friendly without letting the little darlings run riot! The only downside for me is the huge portions, but looking at comments on this site a lot of people obviously like it that way!

  • Sean says:

    In response to Charlie – I left the very positive comment at Xmas here, and have been back since and had another good meal, I think times were at lunchtimes, then a break, then again in the evening, but this was out of season, it is def worth a try and there are some great places around Seaview/Bembridge also

  • Clarence says:

    Hi! Yes it is still open and serving food, went there about 3 months ago and had a lovely Sausage Casserole. Decor and atmosphere is a bit strange as its so open, but food was excellent!

  • Charlie from Aberdeen says:

    Hi – we’re holidaying on the IOW from Thursday and staying near the Wishing Well pub. We’ve read good reports, but the website for the pub isn’t active. Is the pub still operating? Our friends told us they had a great couple of meals there in March and have recommended the place, including the Friday Steak Night. Any chance of an update from anyone please – like themed nights and food serving times, or with details of any alternative website? Thanks, Charlie

  • Paul says:

    Popped in with the family on Wednesday night for the first time since the summer and wished I hadn’t waited that long.
    The food was fantastic from possibly one of the best steaks I have eaten on the island to the Home made pork cider and stuffing Pie, which my wife had.
    Everyone was really friendly and the service was great
    I shall be returning next week with friends for more fantastic food.
    Oh and the deserts were to die for

  • Eric & Sadie says:

    Visited the Wishing Well for the last Steak Night – really nice food with good portions.
    As previously stated by visitors, the atmosphere was good and nice to hear chatter and laughter. The new owners are trying hard and hope they succeed.
    One thing did worry us – the dogs that were in the dining area, which weren’t all under strict control. We saw one dog sitting with eager eyes at the food (good judge all the same!!)by an adjoining table, until pulled back by it’s owner which was somewhat off-putting to those diners and us.
    Please don’t let it become like the “Crab & Lobster” dog scenario. We haven’t been back there since dogs on the seats and wet dogs frequenting the bar, but we want to go back to the WW.

  • Pauline & Dee, Sean & Jane says:

    4 of us visited and had a great lunch, the menu is varied and the food well cooked and good value. We will return.

  • pete jenkins says:

    The Roadside – we often pass there wondering whether we should give it a try, but it doesn’t seem particularly welcoming. What exactly is the problem there?
    Fully agree about the Wishing Well – excellent. We can remember it from the early days when we used to holiday at the campsite and visited there regularly. The good old days appear to be back!

  • Bushy says:

    Not just the food, but the whole atmosphere at the Wishing Well is really great. It’s now an even better all-round pub with great food, quiz nights, live music on Saturday’s etc. We are now really blessed in the Seaview area with the Wishing Well plus the excellent Boathouse, a revitalised Old Fort, and even the Seaview on form again after a bad patch. What a shame, though, that the current landlord at the Roadside seems to show no interest in any form of customer service!

  • Lee Michael says:

    went to the wishing well on the friday steak night and must say the food was exceptional with local produce,well priced, and all in all a great pub, staff very freindly…would highly recommend….will return again soon .

  • Sean says:

    If like us you have forgotten about this place and not visited for years, its time to take a ride out to Pondwell to sample the great food on offer. After reading the + review here we did. The new menu is varied & there was also a specials board packed with wonderful sounding dishes. We had starters of chicken wings and a field mushroom oozing in a lovely stilton sauce with crispy bacon and garlic bread for mains the curry of the day which was fab, and the cauliflower cheese with crusty bread (and a nice fresh salad). Being piggy, and the fact everything was so tasty, we shared a homemade cheesecake which finished the meal perfectly, the quality and good cooking really showed and it was good value for money. This is pub dining at its best and we will be going back soon, we plan to visit with friends before Xmas…well done Wishing Well! And good luck to the new owners!

  • rob says:

    New owners and a cosy homely feel. Rib eye steak was to die for served with onion rings and a garlic sauce. My partner had the surf and turf off the ample specials board which consisted of rib eye steak topped with 4 garlic tiger prawns onion rings and chips. For dessert we opted for apple pie and spotted dick served with a choice of cream, custard or ice cream which was delicious. Will certainly be returning soon

  • Bushy says:

    The Wishing Well is under new management, albeit with some familiar faces still behind the bar. We had a very warm welcome and an excellent sandwich at lunchtime on Friday. Perhaps Tracy caught them on a bad day…?

  • Tracy says:

    Tried the Sunday Lunch – Beef or Pork on the menu. My husband and I went for the Beef – what a disappointment. no Yorkshire Pudding and No Horseradish Sauce. The so called Roast Potatoes were deep fried (full of dripping oil) and the vegetables were overcooked. The gravy had no flavour at all and my husband who does not wear dentures had trouble eating his meat.

    They may be good at curry but not Sunday Roast. At £8.50 each very disappointing

  • Moped says:

    The wishing well, Pondwell
    Called in there recently as they are advertising 2 meals for £10. Very welcome reception. I opted for the sausages and mash. This comprised 2 large sausages on a bed of mashed potato with thick onion gravy, onion rings and cooked apple slices. Very tasty and piping hot. My partner had liver and bacon and when ordering was asked how she would like the liver cooked. She, like me found the meal tasty hot and more than adequate in volume. Both meals came with fresh garnish.
    Will certainly return there.

  • ben says:

    Really good for young families, felt really comfortable with
    our two young ones.

    Food was really tasty and plentiful, service was speedy and staff polite and

  • robert & sheilee says:

    we stayed at pondwell campsite and really enjoyed using the wishing well pub/restaurant for our meals. we couldnt believe our luck to have what we considered to be one of the best quality and value on our doorstep, we are real foodies and we tried many more restaurants around the island during our stay and came back for more each time.

    tip…. we had the belly pork and it was the best but the second time we forgot to say crisp crackling and so it was not as good but that was just a learning cuvre

    sheila robert and cathryn symmons-law

  • Mike says:

    Visited the Wishing Well yesterday and can only agree with the very positive remarks.The food was out of this world and the sweets fantastic.

    No complaints whatsoever,staff very friendy with out being in your face like The Piano Bar.Definitley the best on the IW for me.

  • Julie says:

    Had a great time at The Wishing Well. Ten of us went to celebrate my birthday – Menu was good and prices very reasonable. The service was very quick, and the childen loved the indoor and outside play area! Well worth a visit would recommend.

  • KP says:

    We went to curry night on Monday and our curry was amazing.
    Highly recommended!

  • KP says:

    The news is right. The Wishing Well has re-opened and the food is amazing. It has all been refurbished and is wowing all of its old and new customers!

  • bushy says:

    News on the street in Seaview is that the completely revamped Wishing Well will open this Friday under new ownership with a gastropub style menu. Watch this space!

  • bushy says:

    Sad news: the Wishing Well seems to have closed for good, after having been shut for what many thought was going to be refurbishment. Everything is now boarded up.

  • Amy says:

    Hi Mat and Cat,
    how funny that i came across your website when looking for a reveiw of the Wishing Well!
    Completely agree – i will be back to look when i fancy trying somewhere new on the iow again soon!

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