Matt and Cat\'s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide
Yelf’s Hotel, Ryde Yelf’s Hotel, Ryde
There’s something quite satisfying about an establishment that has not succumbed to the refurbishment fashions of stripped wooden floors, strategically placed ‘objets’ and sunken... Yelf’s Hotel, Ryde
Yelf's Hotel, Ryde

There’s something quite satisfying about an establishment that has not succumbed to the refurbishment fashions of stripped wooden floors, strategically placed ‘objets’ and sunken lighting. Yelf’s Hotel in Ryde retains its old skool charm – demonstrating that carpets, a staff dress code and crooning Tony Bennett piped through the speakers have not yet had their day. In fact, with 200 years of hospitality, under its belt, the hotel can afford to be a bit relaxed about interior design trends. Yelf’s, as a town-centre hotel, does a busy lunchtime trade as well as evening meals. Matt and Cat have visited twice to try both these, and so there are two reviews here for you to sample from their different visits.

Evening menu (reviewed March 2008)
All dressed up and ready to try the new Cinnamon Indian restaurant at the bottom of Union Street, Ryde, Matt and Cat were slightly nonplussed to find it packed to bursting. Where else on Union Street could take your hungry reviewers in? In search of somewhere at the upper end of the scale, before long they found themselves peering through the glass of Yelf’s Hotel. After a splendid lunchtime meal there last year, Matt and Cat had vowed to return and try the a la carte menu, which seemed more appropriate for an evening visit. So in they went.

Yelfs restaurant

A short wander through the labyrinth of Yelf’s pleasingly confusing inner rooms and Matt and Cat found a polite, uniformed member of staff who welcomed them into the restaurant area. They settled at a big table covered in silver, glass and linen of all descriptions, overlooking the bustling street.

The menu was most enticing. As a refreshing contrast to the acres of fine print found in cafes and pub menus, Yelf’s clearly showed its class with an understated list of exquisitely-described dishes, any one of which seemed to be worth investigation. For once, your reviewers were almost tempted to break with tradition and try one of the starters, but parsimony got the better of that impulse and they elected to go straight into the main course. Matt picked a duo of Hampshire pork fillet and black pudding, with a prune and Armagnac jus. Cat went veggie with a tartlet of ratatouille vegetables with a Parmesan gratin. On enquiry Matt noted that vegetables and potatoes were separate, and charged as extra. This isn’t unusual on an a la carte, but it’s still a regrettable practice. If the chef has gone to the trouble of designing a dish, it seems appropriate that the accompaniment should be selected as a part of that process. And in terms of the bill, inevitably it leads to resentment if the diners were expecting the price on the menu to be the price they pay. Much better if the cost of an accompaniment is identified up front as a part of the main dish. Putting such negative thoughts aside, your reviewers decided to share a bowl of green beans.

Gazing out of the bay window at Ryde, Matt and Cat enjoyed relaxing in the very well-appointed traditional dining-room. Although the restaurant was nearly empty, nearby the noise of locals chatting in the bar could be heard over the unobtrusive piped music, giving Yelf’s a pleasant atmosphere. Before long a complementary dish of olives and canapés arrived, shortly followed by a generous selection of bread, which appeared to be home-made. Each time the impeccable waiter carefully described what was being delivered, even down to pointing out what was in both of the different butters supplied. This was good service.

Ratatouille tartlet

After just the right length of time, the main courses rolled up in similarly well-documented style. Both looked quite spectacular. The bowl of green beans chased up the rear and proved to have a remarkably generous helping of pine-nuts to complement the piping-hot beans.

Matt’s pork and black pudding was arranged in a long strip, topped with some flat-leaved parsley and fennel garnish to make the whole thing look most inviting. The meat was exquisite, perfectly cooked to be dry and ideal to soak up both the rich Armagnac and prune gravy, and the fat from the delicate black puddings that perched on top. A cleverly-made and highly satisfying meal.

Cat’s tartlet was pretty good, too. Any fears she had about the modest size of the portions was dispelled by the time she came to finish. The complementary bread and canapés had done their work – Cat was well satiated.

Pork and black pudding

Ruminating comfortably with some cappuccinos afterwards. Matt and Cat felt remarkably well-pampered and well-fed. Yelf’s has an old-fashioned exterior, but this unreconstructed traditional style, splendidly carried over into the decor and the service, is perhaps what gives the place an exceptional quality. Despite what many new restaurants seem to suggest, recessed lighting and stainless steel do not, in themselves, make a great eating-place. Yelf’s has none of this and is the better for it. Your reviewers were convinced that this was probably the classiest meal they’d had in Ryde, and certainly amongst the best on the Island.

Hear the podcast review:

Lunchtime menu (reviewed July 2007)
Lured through the hotel’s historic doors by the promise of homemade cakes and cappuccino, Matt and Cat found themselves in a rather Byzantine set-up; rooms to the left and right, offering different types of refreshment – tea and cake, beer and a la carte dining. They poked their noses into each room and also wandered out the back to survey the very nice patio area. However, this being British summertime, they soon scurried back inside to the warmth of the conservatory.

Expecting a modest array of light meals, snacks and cake, Matt and Cat were delighted by the selection of food available. Apart from the a la carte there were sandwiches, baguettes and ciabattas offered, with fillings such as roast beef with roasted red onions, smoked salmon with mill pepper and dill and, for the vegetarians, oven roasted vegetables and garlic mayo. Starters included warm garlic and sage marinated pork kebabs, flat filled mushrooms stuffed with spinach, pine nuts and tomato, glazed with cheese. The main menu included staples like steak and chips and fish and chips as well as the sublime-sounding stuffed lemon sole with rice in a butter cream herb sauce.

Filled mushrooms stuffed with spinach, pine nuts and tomato, glazed with cheese

Having settled on the chicken Caesar salad special, Cat at the last moment changed her mind, opting instead for the stuffed mushroom starter. Matt was not so vacillating – he plumped for the club sandwich.

Taking only a brief moment to discuss theology and science, your reviewers had little time to wait before the food arrived.

When delivering the food, the attentive and immaculately-uniformed waitress did not hover over Matt and Cat waiting for them to state which of the plates was for whom. Instead she confidently delivered the meals to the right person.

Club sandwich

Cat’s three stuffed mushrooms were delightfully garlicky, with a hint of spinach and a generous sprinkling of pinenuts under each cheesy crust, all afloat in a sea of puréed tomatoes and topped with a salad garnish. Cat declared them very well-presented and delicious.

Matt’s toasted club sandwich, as well as containing slabs of bacon and chicken with crispy salad – all constrained in the bread with tiny wooden skewers – brought with it a moment of ‘involuntary memory‘. Matthew explained to Cat about the happy times that he had once spent in a mainland bar, regularly consuming club sandwiches. The very sight of today’s spectacular bread-and-meat-fest revived those memories in an instant. Interestingly, a similar a la recherche du temps perdu experience had occurred to Cat the previous evening when she stumbled upon the theme to Robinson Crusoe on YouTube and was instantly transported even further back in time. Perhaps Matt was put in mind of a bygone age by the clear success that Yelf’s has in maintaining traditional hotel standards.

With all of this navel-gazing and introspection, Matt and Cat nearly forgot to be thrilled by Yelf’s implausibly low prices. Matt’s club sandwich was a mere £5.50 and the bargain of the day had to be the stuffed mushrooms starter which was a purse-friendly £3.75, so the whole meal plus drinks from the bar cost just over £12. With service and a venue both of top standard, Yelf’s cannot fail to win Matt and Cat’s highest recommendation.
Yelf’s Hotel, Ryde

  • Loren and Jim says:

    We love Yelfs! The service is first class, the food is lovely and the Bass bitter on tap is marvelous…what more could you ask for?
    The decor is a little bit dated, but the hotel is so comfortable…maybe it’s a sign of us getting old, but we return time after time and are never disappointed. Well done Yelfs, see you again soon!

  • PHIL says:
    All in all top marks for a great Dinner.

    About 60 of us went for our club annual do last night and we had a great time. We are the Isle of Wight metal Detecting Club and members and husbands and wives attended.The reception room was just the right size and the management bent over backwards to help us. The food came out on time nice and hot and to a very good standard. The staff were all very nice. Friendly and efficient.

    All in all top marks for a great Dinner.
    Thank you Yelfs

    PS This venue was recommended too us by Matt and Catt at the end of last year Thank you Matt and Cat

  • Simon Tideswell says:

    If you are looking for an excellent coffee stop, why not try Yelfs.
    We have an full range of coffee and tea and a great selection of cakes, biscuits, tea cakes etc to go with it.
    Yelfs also has full free wifi available

  • Ladies Wot Lunch says:

    We can’t believe that anyone could possibly find fault with anything about the Yelfs dining experience. The Ladies Wot Lunch go there regularly and it has never been less than a total delight.
    We love the linen tablecloths & serviettes, the price of a three course Sunday lunch is fantastic value for money, the staff are efficient and polite and the food is gorgeous. In fact we Ladies Wot Lunch consider that, with The New Holmwood at Cowes, these are out two favourite dining places on the whole Island and we’ve tried 95% of them over the years! We’ll be going there again soon!

  • Cat says:

    Matt and I had dinner this evening in Yelf’s Dutch Room. Although our last visit to the restaurant was a couple of years ago, standards have not slipped. Choosing from the a la carte menu, we were unable to resist starters. Matt had beetroot-soaked gravadlaks with cucumber salsa and horseradish cream. I had chicken, pheasant and pistachio terrine with apricot chutney. Both were beautifully presented and really tasty.

    For main course Matthew had chicken breast stuffed with pine nuts and spinach on herb pancake with mustard sauce. It was simple but tasty; very enjoyable. Fillet steak with morels and fois gras on a bed of gratin for me. Again, both of these dishes were well considered; the nutty morels complimented the delicious beef. I ate the lot!

    For pudding we shared a baked cheesecake with pistachio ice cream and berries. It was lovely as were the accompanying coffees.

    Our experience of Yelf’s this evening confirmed our original conclusion; this is a classy joint.

  • belinda says:

    went to yelfs this week . would agree with harry hill that when first went in and sat down felt
    ignored, staff kept waltzing past us and we were alone in the front area next to the bar,
    which was also empty. Sat there for ten minutes, then went up to the lady behind a counter, and
    asked if i could order. was not sure if it was for us to go up to the bar and order or waitress service. It would have been easy to just turn and leave.
    after this we were recognised as it were as customers. and everything went smoothly
    We went in at lunch time for a light meal
    The food was very good, the desserts were exceptional. The atmosphere is relaxed and the tables
    well spaced and roomy.we thorough enjoyed our meal there. I am glad we stayed there now and will
    definately return soon.

  • Harry Hill says:

    Ended up walking out of here today, and going across the road to Olivos.
    After getting completely ignored by all the staff.

  • Trencherman says:

    Yelfs is a great place made all the better by the excellent and friendly staff. The food is consistantly good(Try the homemade burgers) and, a rarity on the Island, the dog friendly garden is a great place if you want to take your pooch out with you.

  • You will be pleased to know that Yelfs has its own car parking facility that is free of charge to all of our residents. so you will have no worries about off street parking.

  • BikerPaul & Missus says:

    Looking forward to staying at the Yelfs from 25th – 29th May….Attending a training course in Cowes….Is there safe off-road parking for my motorcycle…??

    Matt and Cat respond:
    Thanks for your comment, BikerPaul & Missus. If you eat at Yelf’s Hotel, you won’t be disappointed. The bar food is particularly good. As for advice about safe off-road parking, you’ll have to wait for our sister website ‘Matt and Cat’s Isle of Wight Parking Guide’ to be launched. In the meantime, try here.

  • Two Veggies says:

    Mr Tideswell the customer is always right! Or maybe you have forgotton that?

    We have morals and we were polite enough not to cause the chef or the staff anguish on Christmas Day, especially after being tutted at for returning a glass of warm white wine to the bar.

    Fellow vegetarians give this restaurant a miss.

  • In response to twoveggies, unfortunately in the real world, NO hotel or restaurant would refund you 100% of the cost of your meal. when you said nothing on Christmas Day about being unhappy and wrote 3 weeks later, when i had no chance of seeing the meal you were served. We had 75 people eating on Christmas Day and all went home very happy.

    I will repeat what i said in my letter, if you had said on Christmas Day that you were not happy then we could have done something to change that, Writing 3 weeks later and expecting a full refund is not realistic.

    I have cared about what my guests at Yelfs think for the last 4 years, which is why our standards are much higher and our reputation is much improved. I am sure our regular guests would agree with me.

    I am sorry you felt we did not live up to your expectations on Christmas Day, but informing the team then would have been more sensible

  • twoveggies says:

    I think Simon is somewhat confused about his good standards. Following a letter of complaint requesting our £100 back for a disasterous Veggie Christmas Day luncheon we were told in one paragragh by Simon himself to basically “Get lost”. Never mind that we were served with a 90p plate of plain cous cous and a dish of sprouts whilst everyone else had their traditional Xmas Day fayre, he’s doesn’t care…

    The restaurant trade is usually good for its customer service but there wasnt even the offer of a coffee on the house.


  • Anthony Wood says:

    Well said Simon.

  • In reply to the comment by Jane.

    as suggested Yelfs is owned by the same people as The Lakeside PArk Hotel at Wootton Bridge.

    The Brasserie and Bar along with Accommodation is now open at Lakeside Park Hotel.

    Definitely worth a visit

  • In reply to D Barbers comment, i find it strange that you feel the need to post negative comment 18 months after you came into the hotel.

    Especially as it seems that your comment is based on the fact you couldn’t spread your butter. As we make our own Tomato and Red Pepepr butter it isn’t possible to leave it out at room temperature to become warm as it will split. Apart from the fact that leaving butter out in the room for the hour you suggest isn’t the most hygienic practise.

    With regard to Yelfs itself, we are what we are, we are a town centre Coaching Inn, built over 200 years ago. The decor may not be Contemporary Modern but it fits the character of the building.

    We are very proud of the standards we have achieved here at Yelfs ibn recent years, and the owners spend a great deal of money keeping the hotel in good repair.

  • jane says:

    … and coincidently owned by the same owners as The Lakeside, Wootton.

  • D Barber says:

    We ate Sunday lunch at Yelf’s about 18 months ago, and were very disappointed with the whole meal, I wouldn’t go back. The first thing that annoyed me was that the butter was rock hard – it’s such a simple thing to get a few butter dishes out of the fridge an hour or so before dinner so that people can actually spread it on their bread – it’s a small thing that can be very annoying if not done.

    The food was uninspiring, the decor and venue very dated, and to my mind just nothing special.

  • Simon Tideswell says:

    As the Manager of Yelfs I was pleased to read the comments that have been made, the staff have worked very hard to acheive our current standards.

    We always like to hear the thoughts of our guests so that we can continue to build on our growing reputation. So i hope you will be pleased to hear that we have taken on board your comments on the extra charge for vegetables and have decided to include them into the price of the the main courses on our new a la carte menu.

  • James Pickett says:

    Classiest food in Ryde, eh? I’m sure you’re right, but I’m still trying to place the competition… 🙂

  • Peter.Mason says:

    I completely agree.

    My parents, visiting from the mainland and wanting more freedom than our little terraced house could provide, stayed at Yelfs last week. Their room was comfortable, if uninspiring, and the two meals we ate there were, for bar meals, superb: ambitious, successful and generous.

    I could quibble about the noise of the T.V.s all around the bar, which are difficult to escape, but the efficiency of the service, the quality of the three beers on offer and the wonderful food mitigated this failing.

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