These two sister restaurants are both overseen by award winning chef, Darren Beevers, who recently arrived on the Island after years of experience at some of London‘s top Michelin-starred restaurants. His compact but carefully thought out menus have helped these already popular restaurants climb ever higher in visitors’ estimation. For gourmet combinations of fine meats, locally caught fish and vegetables, followed by highly imaginative desserts (with ingredients including celery sorbet and liquorice jelly), the Hambrough Hotel is the place to try, and it won a spot on the Good Food Guide 2014 for its food quality. While the Hambrough Hotel’s restaurant is currently closed its bar overlooking the sea is still open. Alternatively, for those who love Italian style cuisine, the Pond Café offers arancini, gnocchi, risotto and other delicious classics, all created from genuine Isle of Wight products.
A unique institution on the island and indeed in the UK, the Garlic Farm is best known for its vibrant annual Garlic Festival (which features live music from well known acts, a funfair, dog shows and other entertainments as well as tastings of the pungent vegetable). However, the farm also has much to offer during the rest of the year, most notably its popular restaurant, set in a picturesque log cabin among rolling fields. AA Rosette winning chef Charlie Bartlett provides high quality breakfast and lunch dishes, most of which feature the farm’s own garlic and meat products. Whether you love the tangy taste of garlic or just fancy eating out in the heart of the Island’s stunning countryside, this is an appetising place to go.
Small but very highly regarded by the island’s residents, Lockslane Contemporary Bistro is a high quality venue in the nautical village of Bembridge. Its regularly updated menu, focusing on seasonal ingredients, has in the past featured dishes as intriguing as ‘a fragrant broth of lemongrass, ginger, coriander and chilli with interesting mushrooms’. The restaurant has consistently received enthusiastic reviews from diners, received special mentions from several trusted local food critics, and it was also singled out for participation in the Hairy Bikers’ Best of British TV programme.
Having appeared in every Michelin Guide that has ever existed and won AA rosettes for the last 16 consecutive years, the Royal Hotel is undoubtedly the Isle of Wight’s flagship eating venue. Diners can opt for a full meal in the luxurious Appuldurcombe Room, something lighter on the Terrace or even order a picnic hamper to enjoy al fresco on the nearby clifftop, whatever they choose they will enjoy fantastic sea views and gourmet food, created by one of the Island’s most respected chefs, Steven Harris. Menus are British in focus, with island produce used whenever possible. Recent highlights include ‘Ventnor Bay crab with hand rolled pasta, lime, chilli and mango’ and ‘Pan fried John Dory with carrot purée, wilted lettuce, samphire, lobster and spring onion vinaigrette’. This is a restaurant that doesn’t fail to please.
A lower key but truly delicious option for culture lovers on the Isle of Wight is the Farringford Garden Restaurant, where dozens of homemade pizzas vie with traditional British fare for diners’ satisfaction, all in the romantic setting of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s former home, Farringford. Poetry fans can still admire the sweeping gardens and woodland that inspired his work, while sitting on the restaurant terrace. Some of the best local artists exhibit their work inside the restaurant and you can witness the cooking of the pizzas in the first authentic wood fired oven ever to feature in an Isle of Wight restaurant.
The popularity of the relatively new Red Duster has been soaring since it earned a coveted ‘Favourite’ award from two of the island’s best loved food critics, Matt and Cat. Set in a central location in the fashionable yachting town of Cowes, this eye catching restaurant is perfect both for those who have finished a long day’s sailing and anyone who needs to get back to the mainland later on, being only a few steps away from the ferry. Its highly creative menu, drawing on various European influences, includes one of the most varied and enticing vegetarian dinner selections to be found in an Isle of Wight restaurant. Meat eaters are not forgotten, however, Matt and Cat asserted that a recent menu contained ‘the best chicken dish on the Island’.
The prestigious Priory Bay Hotel has two restaurants for diners to choose from, both of which have achieved an incredible reputation. The informal Priory Oyster concentrates mainly on seafood caught and prepared on nearby beaches. Paired with local, often organic wines and beers, these dishes were described ecstatically by Rick Stein in his Seafood Lover’s Guide. The Island Room is designed for a truly exclusive, luxury experience. In its intimate setting, diners can enjoy seafood, game, mushrooms and vegetables foraged on the Hotel’s estate, along with little known wines and other exciting local produce. The Hotel also offers one of the Island’s most famous and lavish afternoon teas.
Since it opened in 2010, the family run Little Gloster has caused a stir among diners, receiving spectacular reviews from publications including the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail. Both the menu and décor of this hotel restaurant have a nautical theme. Deliciously simple, seasonal British and Scandinavian dishes shine in a wooden, Danish style seaside house adorned with nautical artworks. Chef Ben Cooke frequently draws on his Danish ancestry for inspiration and both vegetarians and carnivores are excellently catered for, with options as appetising as courgette pakora, red pepper coulis, charred aubergine & chickpeas, and fresh Danish style caviar & buttered Danish spelt bread. The restaurant is ideally located for sailors and sea lovers in the coastal village of Gurnard, just three kilometres away from Cowes.
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El Toro Contento
Bar, Restaurant, Spanish, Fusion, $$$
Anyone who enjoys British cuisine and seafood has an incredible choice on the Isle of Wight, but if your tastes are more exotic, El Toro Contento is the place for you. The island’s first authentic tapas bar, run by a Spanish chef and a team who mostly come from the country of paella and tortilla. The extensive menu is almost entirely gluten free and there are plenty of excellent veggie options alongside the more traditional meat and fish bites.
A local favourite, Thompson’s open kitchen concept treats guests to contemporary British cuisine. As the youngest British chef to ever have received a Michelin star, Robert Thompson uses local produce in his cuisine, all inspired by the Isle of Wight. Adding a fresh, modern take to classic dishes, Thompson makes a point of preparing dishes not to be trendy, but that he would image himself eating. With a range of a la carte options like pan roasted stone bass and barbecued sussex rose veal, picking a dish may be difficult, in which case you can try ordering Thompson’s eight course tasting menu for the table. By Jessica Woodward