We are lucky to have some beautiful food heritage here in the UK, from Cheddar cheese to Yorkshire puddings, you can find fresh produce and tried and tested recipes that are staples of the nation in every county. I knew very little about the Isle of Wight before my recent trip; my previous visits being in my childhood or a few weekends at Bestival.
The island is remarkably easy to get to. I travelled by Red Jet* boat which only takes 25 minutes from Southampton and dropped me right in the centre of Cowes. Although there are elements of quaint British town, it isn’t antiquated, and the variety of restaurants around really drive that home.
Here’s three amazing places to eat on the Isle of Wight:
Based in Newport, Thompson’s is owned by Robert Thompson who received a Michelin star at the tender age of 23. The food is comprised of the finest ingredients found on the island and manages to give the impression of fine dining without overwhelming you with pretentiousness. I indulged in a five course tasting menu which very nearly defeated me, but thanks to the incredible flavours, I somehow made it through.
The stand out dishes were the ones with fish at their heart. We had soft, succulent scallops with a sweet but earthy chestnut purée, followed by a gorgeously soft fillet of sea bass with cauliflower cheese croquettes which genuinely made me stop and thank the food gods for what I was eating.
From the freshly baked walnut bread with homemade seaweed butter to the glazed tart which made me seriously reassess my loathing of clove and anise in desserts, each dish exuded love and comfort.
Thompson’s Restaurant, 11 Town Lane, Newport, Isle of Wight
Nestled in the high street of Cowes, The Coast leans on a slope welcoming people in for a relaxed eating atmosphere. Serving up a menu of dishes you would expect from a British oriented restaurant, their focus, like everywhere on the island, is on quality of ingredients. I spotted people playing Scrabble with a cocktail as well as large parties celebrating Christmas, showing that their clientele is as varied as the food they serve.
I went for a starter of poached egg which was pleasingly runny, on top of black pudding with apples and salad leaves. It was a good portion size for a first course, although there was a bit of an abundance of leaves which were a bit unnecessary.
The main course of moules et frites were spot on though, and exactly what I was craving. A huge bowl was served up, with the mussels showing freshness from their size alone. These were the highlight of the meal, along with the exemplary service we received from the waiting staff. Friendly, knowledgeable and wonderfully helpful – a real asset to the Isle of Wight.
The Coast Bar and Dining Room, 15 Shooters Hill, Cowes, Isle of Wight
The Garlic Farm
It was news to me that garlic is a famous export from the Isle of Wight, and in was in fact my mum who told me this little fact. The Garlic Farm has been growing garlic for 50 years and even runs an annual festival in August every year. The farm not only comprises of a restaurant but has a shop which sells a huge range of garlicky products from beer to popcorn, as well as a selection of different bulb varieties including black garlic and the enormous elephant garlic.
I went to The Garlic Farm for breakfast. Our table shunned Heinz for bottles of the farm’s own ketchup infused with garlic and chilli, and while I woke myself with a coffee, we were entertained by the local red squirrels nomming on hazelnuts and peacocks looking for spare crumbs.
I tucked into the signature Garlic Farm Breakfast which wasn’t only garlic products. I had smoked bacon, a runny fried egg on a doorstep wedge of toast and creamy butter, joined with Isle of Wight tomatoes, baked beans and chunky sweet potato wedges. But of course, the items that included the farm’s main product were the best. The garlic pork sausage was absolutely moreish and the garlic mushrooms should be on prescription for best hangover cure ever.
The Garlic Farm, Mersey Lane, Newchurch, Sandown, Isle of Wight
I am genuinely blown away by the level of quality, precision and taste that the Isle of Wight has to offer. I’d love to experience them in the sunshine over summer and see what delights they have in store in warmer months. If they can do it in winter, I’m sure it’ll be a must-eat destination for me in 2017.
I was invited to the Isle of Wight by Red Funnel but all opinions are very much my own