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20 September 2018

three foodie stops on the isle of wight

the last time i visited the island, i wasn't particularly bothered about what i was eating, so long as i was and it was tasty, but this time around i certainly wanted to make sure the food we were choosing was local, fresh, and wholesome. i knew i wanted to take jasmin back to my fave lunch spot from last time, but the rest of the time? we were banking on the recommendations of locals to keep us fuelled, and full of tasty treats. if you, unlike me, want to plan your stops in advance, well here are three i would hundred percent recommend to anyone visiting the isle of wight.

the piano cafe, freshwater bay

we stopped in for a bite here thanks to a recommendation from the team at the isle of wight tourism board, and it wasn't hard to see why they had suggested it. it was busy from the moment we walked in, and there was a constant flow of customers the whole time we stayed. whether for coffees or pastries, or to sit in and eat, there were smiles all round as the friendly staff kept welcoming regulars after regulars on a very sunny saturday lunch time.

the piano cafe was once the home of the queen vic's personal piano tuner, and when you enter the cafe there sits a piano. i turned to jas; "do you think this is the piano?" i asked, before realising the piano in question was definitely one made in this century, so it was highly unlikely it was the piano.. ha. turns out that the cafe hosts live music weekly, actually, hence the piano; they're a real big part of the local community, and it was obvious by the waves of regulars popping by for a chat, and the merch from local businesses on sale behind the counter. the cafe prides itself on using local ingredients, too, which is always a massive boost for local economy.

the food was excellent, too. we both decided on salads. we'd snacked in the car on the ferry over, and weren't too hungry, but needed something to keep us going until dinner. i went with a halloumi salad which was from the daily specials board, which was served with mint and lime, pomegranate and rocket, and bulgar wheat to fill it out. and actually, it was absolutely delicious. the chunks of cheese were big and charred perfectly, and the salad itself was filled with complimentary flavours. i do have issues with ordering salad when out, because you tend to not get very good value for money but this time? i wasn't able to finish, that's how filling the salad was. and all for about seven pounds, if memory serves. so, if you're after something fast and fresh, then i highly suggest the piano cafe.

find them: gate lane, freshwater bay, po40 9py

the cottage, shanklin

this came as a recommendation from our b&b host, david, and was described to us as the "finest" food on the island. we checked the prices online before we booked, of course, because it's not often i splurge on fine dining (and by that, i mean: never), and headed down for a 7pm reservation. when we arrived, we there the only customers there, which is never a good sign. we ordered a bottle of prosecco and looked over the menus, and truth be told: i was uninspired. it wasn't your typical "seaside" fayre, and the only seafood on the menu was salmon - which you can have anywhere. we were starved, as we hadn't eaten since lunch, so i sucked it up and ordered what i thought sounded the least obnoxious dish...

and good god, was i surprised at how insanely delicious the food was when it came out. i had to apologise to jasmin for poo-pooing the menu originally, as the starter - a take on a caprese salad but all fancy like, was just outstanding. there was a tomato jelly log. a mozzarella mayo. basil balls. fried green tomato. and boyyyy oh boy, did it look fancy to boot! my main was less pretty, but just as tasty, as my chicken roulade came out perfectly cooked and with some outstanding potatoes (and far too many mushrooms), but the winning dish? the homemade chocolate tart served with salted caramel ice cream and honeycomb bites.. need i say more? for two and a half courses each and a bottle of prosecco, the total was still just under £60 which is pretty darn good for the finest of dining you could ask for in little old shanklin.

find them: 80 high street, shanklin, po37 6nj

three buoys restaurant, ryde esplanade

this was one i wanted to make sure we could make a trip to this time around, after the absolute delicious experience we had the last time we visited. the seafood i'd had there a few years ago was some of the best i've ever had; so good that i still tell people about it to this day. i was excited to take jasmin there because she is a massssive mussels fan, and three buoys has some of the best mussels i've ever had. i ordered them as a starter, this time, as i wanted to try a few different bits this time, and the manager alex was kind enough to bring us out a feta and caramelised onion flatbread to start, too, which we took verrrrrry slowly so as to not fill up before the mains arrived!

jas went in for the mussels for her mains, and - much to her horror - wasn't able to finish the plate of them in front of her. the garlicky soup was mopped up with chips and bread, but she was defeated by the seafood, while i tucked in to a good old fashioned roast. with veggies grown in the restaurant's own allotment and with thick gravy and yorkshire puds the size of my head, i was in my happy place. especially when i just had to look out the window to my right and see we were sat directly on the sea front, with the best view of portsmouth you could want over lunch. we watched the tide come in slowly while we ate, and we both just had one of those moments.. you know? where you are eating a delicious meal, with a crisp glass of wine, while the waves lap onto the shore next to you..? just wonderful.

full or not, i will always have dessert. we shared, again, because we were both so so so full, but when the manager tells you that the staff all had to try this tart before it went on the board because of how good it was, you order it. especially if it's rhubarb, especially when it has a fresh raspberry and mint coulee, especially when the tart has a caramelised topping that makes it crunch and dissolve in your mouth, and with every bite. like, no amount of flowery words will describe the incredible experience that was this tart, but i am here to say it was the highlight of the meal - 1000% would eat it again, £7 price tag or not, it was a taste sensation.

find them: appley lane, ryde, po33 1nd

thanks to visit isle of wight, meals at the piano and three buoys were complimentary. as always, all words remain mine!