The Korean pop song Gangnam Style can rightfully boast the world record as the most liked video on YouTube – having been viewed on the video-sharing website over four hundred million eye-boggling times.
More importantly, Shanklin lays claim to being the nation’s sunniest place. And zeroing in on what really matters, motorists passing through the tiny hamlet of Yarbridge, near Brading, will not have missed the banner with a proud claim from the Yarbridge Inn as it confidently dubs itself “The number one pub for excellent food in Yarbridge”. There’ll be no argument from Matt and Cat. It’s the only pub in Yarbridge.
Reluctantly pushing semantics aside, Matt and Cat chose to visit the Yarbridge Inn based on a little pre-dinner research on Trip Advisor. The effusive reviews showed that this seemingly modest little pub has “incredible food, fantastic staff, great atmosphere.” What’s more, “the chef is a dream so everything we ordered was superb“. Bold claims indeed. In order to dilute this potentially “incredible” dining experience, M&C went with some friends. Bouncing their car into the moonlit car park, they stood and listened to the passing Islandline train before entering the pub.
The proximity of the railway used to be an important feature of the Yarbridge Inn – under the name of the Anglers it was the Island’s premier railway-themed pub for many years, and one of at least three eateries with an indoor model railway. Adorning the walls was railway memorabilia by the yard. However, this ephemera, along with the majority of the railways, has been decommissioned. Now the cosy pub seems keener to promote cycling, with maps of Island rides and a picket fence to lock up your bike up against outside.
Matt and Cat had a warm welcome and were shown to a table in the corner, past the comfy-looking sofas and next to a satisfyingly rustic stone wall. Menus were handed round and they were shown the specials board. There were certainly some interesting-sounding dishes. Matt and Cat’s vegetarian friend had a trio of options for main course: just enough of a nod to the meat-free diner. He was intrigued by the sound of avocado and Brie Thermidor and ordered it without hesitation. M&C were less assertive. Cat, vacillating between one dish and another, eventually chose something else which, in this case was fillet steak – an excellent barometer of a venue’s ability in the kitchen. Matt picked the first item on the specials board – sautéed lambs’ kidneys in a cream and sherry sauce with mushrooms, onions and Isle of Wight sausage.
Drinks purchased and food ordered, the quartet got down to the business of the evening and chatted animatedly about recycling jeans, e-commerce and liberty bodices. They watched as other diners’ meals emerged from the adjacent kitchen, and enjoyed the friendly buzz as locals chatted at the bar, supping from the decent selection of real ales. It’s also worth mentioning the key to this positive atmosphere: service at the Yarbridge was unfailingly good, with engaging, well-informed staff.
The kidney special was served on a ring of rice. It was a modest but tasty portion. The humble kidney is these days a rare appearance on pub menus, so when it makes a showing Matt likes to give it the benefit of his attention. In this case, his interest was rewarded as the simple, rich dish was satisfying and well-cooked; with the Isle of Wight sausage giving a herby highlight that really set off the smooth kidneys. The accompaniment of sauté potatoes was unexpected, as rice was already on the plate; but on checking the menu this was in fact the correct side dish. The veggie in the party might have preferred something similar to go with his avocado Thermidor, which, whilst otherwise an excellent and original dish, was devoid of any carbohydrate accompaniment.
Fillet steak £19.95
Stilton sauce extra £1.50
Kidney and sausage £9.45
Eton mess £3.95
Chocolate fudgecake £3.95
2 pints beer £6.50
Cat’s eight ounce fillet was a fair size – as it should have been for the price – and served with a pile of workaday chips, a few button mushrooms, half a tomato and peas – so far so typical. If the platter was unprepossessing, the meat itself belied its simple surroundings. The steak was perfectly soft and suited to Cat’s sensibilities. After some rumination she declared it to be one of the tastiest steaks she had ever eaten – clearly they know how to choose and cook their steaks at the Yarbridge.
Now, before the leagues of Yarbridge Inn fans (many of whom Matt and Cat note on Trip Advisor are visitors from The Other Side) take to the keyboard and rejoice, read on a little further. Matt and Cat and friends were so very pleased with their first course they chose to stay for pudding. This proved to be a mistake. Cat’s chocolate fudge cake was uninspiringly pedestrian. It didn’t say it was homemade, and nor was it. It was one of those fluffy-sponged affairs that were a culinary sensation in the 1970s. However, we’re now in the decade of salted caramel and chocolate ganache and this cake was under par. Matt’s Eton mess was decidedly ropey – it came in a sundae glass, and under a scrape of cream was a mound of vanilla ice-cream – an unexpected and unwelcome ingredient which hid the meagre fragments of meringue. The desserts, though keenly-priced, were nowhere near the standard of the satisfying main courses.
Matt and Cat are keen on pubs that maintain more than a vestige of a drinking area and have noted this feature with enthusiasm in their reviews of the inns New and Pointer, and the homely Sportsman’s Rest. The Yarbridge gets the same high marks for a comfortable pub atmosphere, good beer and cheerful service. Furthermore, the food was, for these diners, a game of two halves. So long as you fill up on the main course and skip the dessert, you’ll get a pretty good meal there. Which is no surprise – it really is the number one pub for excellent food in Yarbridge.
Edit: Matt and Cat have since returned the the Yarbridge on several occasions. The dessert menu is completely changed and vastly improved (see photo). This place is turning into a great all-rounder, just make sure you book as it isn’t that big and soon gets full up.
- Cosy pub atmosphere
- Great food and service
- Some great traditional cooking
- You will need to book all year around