Matt and Cat have updated their review of the Woodman Arms (or possibly the Woodmans Arms) because they felt like it. The original review is further down the page.
Matt and Cat are regularly asked if they have visited every restaurant on the Isle of Wight. With eateries changing hands, new venues being built and a few slipping through the cracks, there is usually somewhere untried by the guileless M and C.
Occasionally it seems that they have exhausted the north east corner of the Island entirely, so they will often revisit a place to see how it has fared since their first review. Sometimes no further comment is needed – or sometimes eager readers have already had their say. But every now and then a new review is worth writing. This is one of those times.
And so it came to pass that Matt and Cat pulled into the car park of the Woodman Arms, Wootton Bridge on a surprisingly stormy evening, not unlike that of their visit of January 2007. Although she often wonders what she went upstairs for, the memory of chicken supreme has not evaporated from Cat’s diminishing faculties and she was keen to have another meal in this delightful old pub. Will it have changed over the intervening years – got sluggish and indifferent with age or will it be like Madonna – er… defiantly lean and dynamic?
From the outside nothing had changed and, entering the bar, Matt and Cat had a sense of deja vu. This was a Good Thing, bearing in mind how they’d enjoyed the place last time (see original review at the bottom of the page). As before, a few old locals were garrulously propping up the bar, still adding local atmosphere as if they hadn’t moved in two-and-a-half years. Perhaps they hadn’t.
It was just on six o’clock, so your reviewers enquired as to the availability of food and were assured that the kitchen had just opened. They were led by the chirpy waitress, as before, to the homely dining room and settled at the very same table at which they had eaten in 2007. The quirky collection of teapots had dwindled – which wasn’t a complete catastrophe to be honest – but a few ceramic Disney remnants clung on.
A decent board of specials was on display, including a very creditable veggie option, asparagus, brie, tomato and brie wrapped in filo pastry. Two lots of brie! Impressive. This almost turned Cat’s head, but she finally went for another special offering: supreme of chicken stuffed with a cheese, ham and herb filling wrapped in bacon with a creamy garlic sauce. Matt looked thoughtfully through the standard menu, and couldn’t pass up the surf ‘n’ turf. Surf ‘n’ turf… the very name just makes you want to eat it. In the Encyclopedia of Bad Taste, surf ‘n’ turf epitomizes culinary kitsch: “the point…is to maximize hedonistic extravagance” by ordering the two most expensive things on the menu. The book suggests the combination is guided not by aesthetic concerns, but for the sake of vulgar display. Sounds ideal for Matt. He would counter that, coming from the same stable as the redoubtable club sandwich, surf ‘n’ turf is a classic and often overlooked dish which, done well, is a tasty and good-looking meal. The Woodman was offering 8oz sirloin steak with king prawns and garlic butter. Hmmm… predictable Matt and Cat had gone for beef and chicken respectively in 2007, too. Had they moved on so little? Or was the just Woodman just familiar and cosy?
Soon enough, the kitchen awoke and the first meals of the evening were brought over to M & C. Both dishes looked good, and were piping hot. A big bowl of chips for Matt, and a similarly generous bowl of vegetables for Cat. Top marks to the Woodman for good, fresh vegetables at no extra cost. NO. EXTRA. COST. Can you hear it yet, you fancy eateries? Veg included. Charge us extra for the whole thing if you like but don’t sell half a dish.
Cat’s large chicken breast was hugged by lean rashers of bacon and kept suitably moist with a tasty cargo of ham and herbs. The garlic aroma really set Cat’s juices flowing and she tucked in with uncharacteristic zeal, using the perfectly cooked new potatoes and vegetables to mop up the creamy garlicky sauce. Top nosh.
Matt was also more than pleased with his hedonistic extravagance. The steak was a modest size, splendidly tender and cooked perfectly. Hot, pink juices seeped out and a delicious aroma of garlic rose from the prawn-adorned meat. In fact, the garlic butter garnish was the crowning glory of the meal. Plenty of fresh garlic, not much butter. This allowed the taste and smell to permeate the prawns and the meat, bringing them together perfectly. Altogether a good example of surf ‘n’ turf – Matt ate it up slowly and appreciatively.
Chicken special £9.95
Surf ‘n’ turf £14.95
Matt and Cat were pleased to see the Woodman Arms keeping up traditions. The upper reaches of Wootton are hardly thriving with passing grockels – except possibly a few trainspotters. The Woodman is a quiet, out-of-the-way pub that doesn’t look like it gets much tourist trade – though it probably should, and it certainly has a big enough car park for the coaches. But despite this, it seems to be of consistently high quality, providing tasty good value food and prompt, extremely friendly service. Recommended.
Original review, dated 21 January 2007
The Woodman is a fair-sized pub just far enough away from the nearby sprawling suburban village of Wootton Bridge to count as a country inn. A cosy bar occupied by a few locals chatting and listening to the radio was a welcome sight.
The Woodman’s charm lies not only in its draught mild and friendly staff, but also the delightful teapot themed restaurant at the back of the pub. Not having made a reservation, Matt and Cat were invited to have an aperitif in the bar whilst a table was prepared for them.
Whilst waiting, your reviewers considered what to eat. The menu had a selection of good pub grub meals plus a few interesting specials; all at reasonable prices. Matt went for a traditional 8-oz burger with chips, and Cat chose chicken special in tarragon sauce. Whilst they waited for the food, the restaurant began gradually to fill up – the need for reservations was becoming apparent. Matt and Cat admired the eclectic range of teapots and a huge ginger cat peering in through the patio windows.
The dinners arrived and Matt and Cat once more had to remind themselves that this was a pub and not a restaurant. The splendidly presented food was piping hot and absolutely fresh. Perhaps the best reminder of the pub grub heritage of these meals was the pleasingly generous portion size – neither Matt nor Cat actually cleared their plate, despite a keen desire to enjoy the delicious fare.
The burger was an exemplary implementation of the classic meal. Two grilled beefburgers in a fresh toasted bun, with fried onion, piles of chips, salad, and a perfectly-cooked fried egg. Impeccable. The chicken breast in mustard, tarragon and white wine similarly, was very good. The rich, creamy sauce was very well-judged, with the sweet tarragon just flavouring it, not dominating. Served with fresh cooked vegetables, including carrots, broccoli and cauliflower and chips this dish pleased Cat very much.
Far too well fed to order a pudding, Matt and Cat ordered coffee to wash down the feasts they had enjoyed. Disappointingly, and a little surprisingly, the promised milk and cream proved to be UHT cartons. However this mild failing was eclipsed by the rest of the Woodman Arms experience. A splendid feed, in a surprisingly popular and pleasant smoke free restaurant-like environment with all the advantages of a pub – including the price.
The Woodman Arms, Wootton