You may recall that we declared the island’s national dish to be crab on chips. If you haven’t tried the goodness of chunky triple-cooked chips or sweet potato fries smothered with Ventnor’s finest crab meat then you need to rectify that immediately.
Of course, UK-wide, the most popular dish is supposed to be chicken tikka masala. This tomato-based curry is allegedly a creation of canny immigrant chefs, rather than a traditional Indian dish, but collectively we love it nonetheless. So what of roast beef of old England? You’d think that crab or curry wouldn’t have the chutzpah to knock meat and two veg from its rightful place in our hearts (and stomachs) – and maybe you’d be right. Certainly we’re a bit agnostic when it comes to Sunday roast. Taking our Bible studies at their word, we’re happy to milk the day of rest for all its worth; lolling around with the news fed into our eyeballs via our smartphones while other people peel spuds and set the table for a family row fuelled by the butcher’s finest.
However, we’ve acquired some pals who are determined to corrupt our general eating out guide into a roast dinner guide. Following a profoundly disappointing start at Beefeater, our next lunch date was at the Woodman’s.
One of our earlier reviews was of Wootton pub the Woodman, back in 2008. Back then we were delighted by the food and puzzled by its inconsistent apostrophe – was it Woodmans, Woodman’s or even Woodman? Nearly ten years later and once again, the comfy pub dining room beckoned with its gentle charm and a few twinkling lights as a concession to Christmas.
Gone are the teapots that used to line the walls, up above the picture rail. And, although the setting looked homely, the chairs had seen better days. Like Goldilocks Cat tried the seats at the table in succession; all of which sagged having suffered from the cumulative weight of years of bums. We finally settled at a window seat that gave a nice view of the well-maintained cottage garden. The pub was packed with diners tucking into what was obviously a very popular Sunday lunch, and soon we were joining them.
Mixed roast £11.50
Chicken fillet £11.90
Cherry and apple pie £4.95
Matt was delighted to be able to order a “mixed roast” which was not just beef, but a generous pile of turkey and lamb as well. The gravy was exceptional – as rich and thick as Wayne Rooney – and it was just the thing to wash down the stacks of veg and potatoes. The star of the vegetable firmament was a lively red cabbage enhanced by soft, purple sultanas. Classic stuff. The meat itself was very generous in quantity, but Matt wondered how the beef and lamb was cut into such very thin and uniform slivers. The turkey, by contrast, was freshly-carved breast meat cut by a generous hand. All in all a satisfactory lunch.
From the specials board Cat chose the tempting-sounding chicken with honey and mustard. The dish was nicely presented; with traffic-light vegetables. Not a garish trio of coloured peppers, but more autumnal sweet red cabbage, amber swede and fresh green peppery watercress. Cat’s favourite spuds – sauteed – were kept warm under the nicely cooked chicken breast like eggs under a hen. There was a surprising amount of the tangy-sweet mustard and honey dressing in an accompanying boat. Cat poured it liberally over her dinner and made short work of the lot.
The desserts were labelled as home-made, which, if true, would be an unusual and very welcome feature of the archetypal pub lunch. Well, guess what? They really were. Matt had a white chocolate and black cherry cheesecake that delighted him. Thick white chocolate adorned a solid, tasty cheesecake that was a million miles from the usual insipid sweet fluff that passes for a pub cheesecake.
Like the chicken, the cherry and apple pie was served with an accompanying boat – this time filled with thickish custard to be poured over the hot pastry and its fruity filling. Altogether Cat’s meal cooed winter comfort food and, if there had been a real fire in the pub we would have fought for the nearest armchair to it and aided digestion with a doze. There wasn’t a fire in our eyesight so we sat and chatted with our companions for a while. There was a lengthy pause during which we realised that coffee and the bill wasn’t going to be forthcoming, so we got up and paid. The bill was a positive end to the meal, it came in at a very competitive price. So alongside generous portions, friendly service and some outstanding dessert, we are pleased to report that this makes the Woodman’s a strong entry in the Island’s Sunday luncheon league.
This is the full-length version of the review that appeared in the Isle of Wight County Press.
- Cosy environment
- Classic roast lunch
- Excellent desserts
- Good value
- Lumpy chairs
- Service slowed down at the end of the meal