Matt and Cat\'s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide
Matt and Cat have updated their review of the Woodman Arms (or possibly the Woodmans Arms) because they felt like it. The original review...

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.

Surf and turf

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?

Supreme of chicken stuffed with a cheese, ham and herb filling wrapped in bacon with a creamy garlic sauce

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.

…guided not by aesthetic concerns, but for the sake of vulgar display. Sounds ideal for Matt.

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.

Matt and Cat’s bill
Chicken special £9.95
Surf ‘n’ turf £14.95
Drinks £3.25
Total £28.15

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

  • Jules M says:

    What a delightful find! We’ve had return visits there many times this year and always find the food great, staff friendly and I’ve just booked a table for after Xmas! We like!!

  • Loren and Jim says:

    Had a lovely welcome and a beautiful lunch here yesterday.
    I wish the new owners all the very best..we will return! xxxxxx

  • j says:

    Hi Visited Woodsman in January. Fantastic menu of home-cooked food. Great taste, well priced. Lovely draught beer too. Highly recommend

  • George says:

    Had lunch at the Woodmans yesterday.
    Understand it is changing hands on Monday Nov 12th but the staff are remaining which is good news.
    My wife had shepherds pie which she said was very tasty and our nephew had egg,
    ham and chips which he thoroughly enjoyed.
    I had steak and kidney pie. The steak was excellent, very tender and the gravy was superb.
    BUT..I couldn’t find a single kidney.
    What is it with restaurants nowadays ? Are they scared, for some reason, of putting kidney into a S & K pie ? Why is this ?
    I haven’t had a decent s & k pie since Colin Dimmock left the White Hart in Havenstreet He really knew how to make it and it tasted of kidney.
    Apart from that everything at the Woodmans was splendid and the bacon sandwich lat Wednesday was the best wver.

  • PAUL MULLERY says:

    The last time I spoke to the landlord he was really brassed off. Despite offering excellent food and flling the pub, the brewery was taking all his profits. He had to get a part-time job to make ends meet. The pub’s lease is now up for sale so it looks like he’s finally thrown in the towel. Such a shame as he is a nice man who deserved better than that.

  • Jef says:

    A friend tells me that the Woodmans is not doing food at the moment, is that right?

    Matt & Cat respond: we also heard something was afoot down there. We shall enquire of the hivemind (Twitter).

    Answer: place is up for let but still very active and definitely doing food.

  • David Smith says:

    I have just returned from my Holidays in your Lovely Island Four of us had a meal here and we each a a different meal just like the post above We found the specials Board offered a great choice.We will certainly come here again.

  • Downsviewduo says:

    We decided to try The Woodman a few nights ago, this was because our usual haunt, ‘The Taverners’, was fully booked and the recent reviews on this site are pretty positive. The pub itself is nicely situated, with a large car park, and inside it is clean, bright and pretty spacious. My only real criticism concerning the decor would be that in the restaurant area it feels slightly ‘busy’, almost like an elderly relative’s front room! The staff were polite, not particularly attentive, which is fine by me because I like to be left to it, but I know some like to be asked if everything is ok with the meal etc (this didn’t happen). The place was about half full, and our meals took about half an hour to arrive, this doesn’t bother me as long as the food is cooked fresh. My fiancé had the Cottage Pie, it was clearly homemade, right down to the lumpy mash, and the portion size presented good value. I had the burger; it was pretty good quality, good chips, and a nice salad, although some form of dressing would have been an improvement. I noted the specials board, and was quite impressed with some of the dishes (lamb mince stuffed Marrow for example), to me it’s what a specials board should be, dishes that differ from the main menu (so many places don’t seem to get this!). When the bill arrived I thought it presented reasonable value for money, and I considered the visit worthwhile. Overall I think The Woodman is a good establishment, and it appears to be one that is trying to give the customer the best service it can; it may not be the best we’ve been to on the Island, but it’s considerably better than most!

  • PAUL MULLERY says:

    Agree Matt. The Woodman is our favourite eatery. Always get gut-busting grub and I love the Doombar bitter. The other week we tried the Cedars down the road from the Woodman. I had fish and chips at £7 something – can’t remember. It was the same as the Appley Manor, frozen, pre-battered and frozen chips. For £8.95 The Woodman serves fresh fish, hand battered and hand cut chips. I would say to Isle of Wight Bob, if the staff were having a bad day, give it another go. Don’t write it off on the basis of that one visit.

  • Matt says:

    I always take the wife’s family to eat here when they come to the Island and the staff & food never disappoints. Everyone always leaves full & happy.

    (Although… I should really try something other than the delicious ‘Woodies’ burger – two 6oz burgers, bacon, fried onions & cheese hmmm).

    They also sell London Pride – need I say more?! 🙂

  • Isle of Wight Bob says:

    First time trying the woodmans Arms. Booked a table for 8 oclock & on arrival we find they are dealing with a 50th Birthday Party who were allready on their Mains. We were told there will be quite a wait for any food,we were shown to our table quickly & after half an hour our food order was taken it was then another three quarters of an hour before the food started to arrive. Starter was good, Garlic Mushrooms. One main was a Sirlion steak ordered cooked Blue,this was cooked Medium and so thin it was more like frying steak. Then onto the sweets Profiteroles which were so over cooked & 2 out of the 4 were devoid of cream, The waiting Staff by this time were very tired and this was obvious in their attitude towards us. Rather disappointed & will not be returning.

  • Dadshep says:

    This pub is becoming a regular stopping off place for our “weekly treat” lunch, after these two O.A.P.s have made their weekly trek from the southern tip of the Island to Waitrose, the only supermarket with very good fresh food and sensible prices in our humble experience.
    The “treat” bit has become a bit of a tradition with us, but so often disappointing, in that various eateries erratically serve up good food one week, then apalling food with a “could’nt care less” attitude the next.
    But not so the Woodman! Every time we pull in to the car park we think, well this must be the time they will disappoint us and break the record, and yet again we leave an hour later, satisfied, relaxed and refreshed, with a warm glow!
    Always good food, freshly prepared, as others have said, WITH all the trimmings included.
    The menu is full of choice, the Specials Board always brilliant, desserts far too big, (hope they don’t read this!), and the coffee top notch.
    All served by cheerful and perky staff, ready with a smile, even when sometimes the place is packed with a party group.
    Even then the waiting time is not too bad, but mostly lunchtimes are not overcrowded and service times just enough to get your juices expectantly flowing.
    Keep it up Woodman, you are a rare find!

  • PAUL MULLERY says:

    We went to the Woodman the other evening. I had the steak and ale pie and wifey had fish and chips. God – the portions were phenomenal! The plates were groaning under the weight. Absolutely delicious. I scoffed all mine and had to eat half of wife’s chips – so many. Two gut-busting meals. It has always been our top eatery. The prices have gone up a bit since last year but for our two meals, a pint and a large white wine it was only £27 which ain’t bad.

    It’s ideal for locals as not many tourists know about it unless they stumble across it if they get off the train and walk down the road.

  • dave smith says:

    Once again we ate here on our annual holiday on sat 31st of july see the last three years we had a very nice meal here our friends enjoyed it and it still is a clean and welcoming place.If you want a good meal at a resonable price you can’t go wrong and I look forward to next year.

  • Lou Sharpe says:

    The Woodmans has got to be the best place we have eaten at on the Island. We have now been there twice and certainly intend to make it a regular spot to visit. The food is freshly cooked, including the vegetables (Im not a great lover of frozen veg!) and comes very well presented. There is a specials board that also has locally sourced food, the menu has just been updated and now includes a wider range of vegetarian meals. Very friendly and polite staff. All in all we have had two very enjoyable evenings out here and at a good reasonable price.

  • Charlie says:

    Note to Carvery Fans – are you talking about the same Woodman Arms as everyone else? I visited over the weekend of 13th June (the day you posted your comment so not sure if this is the day you actually visited) and can’t rate the place highly enough. It was IOW Festival weekend and I was at the festival, we visit the Woodman Arms every year when at the festival as we always get great service and good food. You do have to book for Sunday lunch if you want to sit in the restaurant but that is just a sign of how good the place is. New landlord this year and he was very friendly and helpful, including giving tips on short cuts back to the festival and even let me plug my phone into charge. Great food, great service, will be back next year.

  • Carvery Fans says:

    Whilst looking for a nice place to have a sunday roast/carvery we stopped at the Woodmans Arms to have a look at what they had to offer. As we looked around the small entrance we asked the barman what choices they had. His surly reply was that they were fully booked for the restaurant and pointed us towards a tiny section of tables where we could have a sunday roast on a plate(?!) if we felt like it.
    I glanced around the empty pub and decided we would be better off eating elsewhere if that was his attitude! I wonder how many others have been put off by this unwelcome greeting, if we had stayed I’m sure we would have regretted it. I didn’t realise pubs were so picky, do you have to pay extra for the indegestion?!!!
    Will not be going anyway near here again!

  • Clur says:

    Thank you Matt and Cat, this place was great value for money, great portion sizes and a great atmosphere. We shall go back, I especially liked the deep fried Brie with red currant sauce for starter – yummy. Four of us dined and our bill excluding drinks came to under £80, and we had 3 courses each. The staff were lovely (which is hard to find these days). We dined later in the evening and found some of the dishes were starting to run out but it still did not spoil our meal because there were lots of other choices available. 5 stars from us

  • David Smith says:

    As a passing grockel. My friends and I returned here this summer It was packed luckly we had booked We had a very good meal here It is clean well run and the staff are very friendly.All we Grockels ask for is a well cooked food in a clean environment something that the Woodman can provide For an Island that depends on Grockels may I suggest that other pub landlords eat here.I shall post a couple of other nice places after this one.

  • Natalie says:

    The Woodman’s is possibly the best dining pub on the island in my experience, I know one of the chefs personally so of course you may think I’m biased, but after a frankly appalling meal at Arreton Barns a few weeks ago I took my parents there and they were utterly blown away. Fantastic food, all home cooked, VERY generous portions (I agree with you there I have only ever once been able to eat pudding and that very nearly killed me) and locally sourced specials every day. I would highly reccomend,and shall update as we are having a pre-christmas dinner there this thursday. 🙂

  • david smith says:

    Yes we found the service here good the food was fresh well cooked and plenty of it. Its clean and has a nice atmosphere its well worth a vist

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