A week in June
It’s often thought that running a guest house/B&B is a retirement job or something you can do while the husband goes to work, as a hobby (because whenever anyone asks if we have another job they always turn to Mr OSGH!)
Last summer, 2015, a very lovely, well meaning guest said to me at breakfast “Well I suppose once you’ve done breakfast and cleaned rooms the day is yours?”
And I can see how this appears with Mr OSGH wandering around in his shorts and flip flops (and shirt of course) and his sun glasses on his head (the sunglasses are to prevent snow blindness – or sheet blindness – when he’s hanging out the washing).
So because of this comment I decided to write a diary for a week. Two things – firstly, once I had written it – which turned out to be a real pain the in rear – I had no desire to type the damn thing and secondly, it sort of sounded like ‘so what does Mr OSGH do?’, but it’s really from my point of view, I didn’t have time to jot down what Mr OSGH was doing as well, but be assured we work as hard as each other. And it’s also 7 days a week, no weekends off and this was just June.
It’s starts on a rainy Tuesday June morning in 2015:
Up at 7am to prepare the breakfast room and get Little Miss OSGH ready for the day. It’s a rainy, windy, unseasonal day, which keeps the guests in bed and who can blame them? So while we wait for them to venture down to breakfast I marinate our dinner!
Once breakfast is over I clean and relay the breakfast room and said Au Revoir to our departing guests.
Once they have gone there are 2 rooms to clean. I do bathrooms and Mr OSGH does bedrooms. We fell into this routine when I was pregnant and couldn’t move the beds and it’s stuck. Then there are the other rooms to replenish and refresh.
This takes us up to lunch time and then we get a visit from Small Talk café owners with vouchers for guests. Mr OSGH is off to Newport because he forgot to leave the laundry out. Sometimes it’s hard to remember what day it is, as they all gel into one. He also has to buy a new hairdryer, as one has gone missing. I don’t think it was stolen, more likely Mr guest packed it thinking it was theirs. That’s me being sexist! Just one of the things that crop up that we cannot plan for.
I book a ferry for a guest and make chocolate cookies. When Mr & Little Miss return from Newport he goes to a spin class and I take Little Miss for a walk after she falls over in the garden and bangs her head on the corner of the house. It’s a common occurrence falling over.
Apart from that it’s a calm and non taxing end to the day. Bring on tomorrow!
Up at 6.50am, get Little Miss ready for nursery and off she goes with her little bag all sun tan lotioned.
Prepping the breakfast room I have to put the compotes together, prepare the fruit plate, put out the juices, milk, prepare the butter, sugar bowls, put all the instruments in the right place, chopping boards, roast the tomatoes and change the boards for specials and today’s event which is ‘Best of the West End’ at Shanklin Theatre.
Breakfast is quite spread out, which can be good because it gives me a chance to chat with guests. When 10 people come in at once I don’t really get a chance. Even so we are done clearing & washing up by 9.45am. Sometimes people sit for ages and we are saying goodbye to guests and going back into the kitchen to finish off.
I leave relaying the breakfast room until this afternoon, while I am cooking the Irish Boxty, otherwise I stand around looking at them and flipping them for 45mins! I don’t do standing around.
I bake the bread for the day, then drive over to Sandown to the cash and carry. It’s not a job we do often because we only really buy loo roll, milk jiggers and tea bags and boring things from there. Although, I did buy a sack of Belgian chocolate drops for cookies. Although I don’t have a sweet tooth the smell when you open the bag is divine.
Then off to the post office to collect mail – 2 things and both for Little Miss, nothing for me! Then I go to the gym for an hour and a half – yes, I know, me time. Naughty, naughty. But it’s good for the mind and body and it really gives me time to think and lose weight for an up coming wedding. But you wouldn’t believe the things I come up with at the gym! Not all good ideas! Today’s music was Dolly Parton (I know and it turns out that the album I have is all love songs. I thought they were all a bit slow!), so I pump it up to Powderfinger and Staind. I am usually more partial to a bit of Brad Paisley or Katy Perry or Sixx AM.
I pick Little Miss up on the way back and have a quick lunch of bagels and salmon – it needs to be used up. We don’t like waste in our house.
Luckily the chocolate drops haven’t melted in the car (yes, the weather is better today) and we get it all unloaded. Mr OSGH’s family are visiting this afternoon, so I have a quick shower and spruce. (This is when our shower room gets a good cleaning, when people visit)
While I was gone Mr OSGH has been busy cleaning, replenishing rooms and has taken a last minute booking, although there is a book on the deck chair outside. That book loves to sun bathe.
A bath/shower seal has arrived for the Captain’s Room just in time, so Mr OSGH has to cut it down to size so I can fit it. Looks much better.
The bread is ready, so that comes out to cool. Visitors arrive and we have a quick chat before the phone goes. Do I want to pay to advertise on an ‘independent’ review website? It’s not very independent anymore. No thanks.
At about 3pm I start making the Irish Boxty. It does take time, about an hour and a half, but it’s so nice and popular. I can flip it and do other things at the same time, like washing up, relaying the breakfast room, emptying the dishwasher.
I’m also trying to get some information about a property that some former regulars are hoping to buy near us. The problem with living in such a beautiful place is that your regular guests move here and you lose your guests (but sometimes gain friends).
It’s a very hot, sunny day and I’m cooking! The Boxty always seems better at the beginning of the year, when I’m not yet fed up with it or too hot to make it!
Quick call to Farmer Jacks to order our jam. We have a couple of suppliers, but Farmer Jacks make theirs with cherries and apricots from their own orchard and it’s excellent.* I’m not a big jam eater, actually I never eat it, but the apricot jam reminds me of the apricot Danish I used to steal at work in the Conference department.
Our visitors have taken Little Miss out for a walk and at 5pm I realize I needed brown bread, as well as white. So in it goes.
We are off to the Chine Inn for dinner, which was nice and our visitors are off to get their ferry home by 7pm and Little Miss needs to get to bed. Mr OSGH watches Penny Dreadfull and I have a read before lights out. As I’m turning off the computer a late booking comes in, but I don’t mind that.
Up at 6.50am – same routine – Little Miss ready & off to nursery for the morning and I get the breakfast room ready. Then I check the diary for the week ahead for any dietary requirements and make a plan for numbers and breakfast specials. We offer 2 specials now, as well as the main menu, so juggling them is slightly more taxing. You don’t want 2 similar ones on at the same time or day after day and we have a 7 night booking coming up, so we don’t like to have the same main special on while people are here. The 2nd special may change every couple of days. We also like to make sure that anyone with a dietary requirement has a choice. Although it’s quite common that vegetarians don’t think of themselves as having a dietary requirement or their other half has booked and has not answered the question that they are vegetarian. But we’re adaptable and so is our menu.
Thursday is the day I phone through the order for the greengrocers. We currently use one in Shanklin, but they will be closing soon, so we are on the look out for someone new. We don’t order as much as a larger establishment would, so we like to keep our suppliers very local. We will probably use the greengrocers in Ventnor instead of a big catering company. We like to have a relationship with our suppliers. We were over the moon when Paul Murphy opened his butchers in Shanklin and are now good friends with him and his wife. We do use a catering company for our croissants, which are amazingly naughty and that reminds me we’re getting low.
I also email arrivals for next week if we don’t have their arrival times. It may sound anal, but we just like to know if it’s closer to 4pm or 9pm, because we try to both be here for arrivals.
I try to have a quick breakfast before serving breakfast otherwise I can’t concentrate, but the first thing I do in the morning before setting up is have my 2 Nespressos! It gives me energy and I don’t feel so hungry if I don’t have time for food. And that’s another thing. I’m still on the look out for some tiny espresso spoons for our salt and pepper, but not easily found.
I change the weather board and today’s event is ‘The Last Samurai’ exhibition at Brading Roman Villa. I really want to go myself, having travelled through Japan, one of my favourite countries for food, people, landscape, culture, you name it, it’s wonderful and also having just read Shogun. I just need to find the time.
Every day I have a list of things I need to do, but it’s one of those lists that just gets added to as soon as I do something, especially in the summer, but it generally all gets ticked off. I did try using a laptop for the lists to save paper, but no, no that didn’t work for me. I do use recycled paper from the office though. Old menus or junk mail.
This afternoon is accounts. It’s the end of the month and I try to keep them up to date. 10 minutes here and there through the month really helps. Doing it all in one go at the end of the month is boring. Our yearly accounts are usually ready by 10th April and I am always pleased to hand over the box files to our accountant and get it out of my office. It always feels like a job done, but it’s an endless one. Last year they were ready before breakfast on 6th April! Such a swat!
It’s 8.40 and no one is down for breakfast yet, so I slice some bread. Mr OSGH often does the ironing before breakfast in the summer, otherwise he gets too hot.
Had a message this morning to say that our marmalade is being made today. I suspect that our marmalade maker won’t be doing this forever. The previous lady we used in Calbourne (which was a mission to get to) kept threatening not to do it, so we moved it closer to home and now I think I’ll end up doing it myself. As I said I’m not a jam, or marmalade eater, so that will be interesting. Although I’m not a bad baker and I don’t really eat cakes. I have Mr OSGH as a tester though.
While guests finish up in the breakfast room I put some wholemeal bread in to bake. It’s the first year we’ve been making our own bread and despite some inconsistencies we’ve had good feedback. Yes, we do use a bread maker, but the temperature in the kitchen affects the results. When I read that I thought they were talking about if you did it in Australia! But no, it sinks if the kitchen is too hot! Not a lot I can do about that. This was another learning curve. We used to buy it from the local baker and I got fed up with having to phone the bakers and collecting it sometimes daily. And sometimes they would forget. After spending £2.55 a loaf and buying so much of it I emailed them to see if could get a discount. The first year I asked they said they’d need to know how much we bought. Four years later I emailed again (4 times) and told them and they ignored me.
Note to self – have to book dentist appointment that was supposed to happen about 3 months ago, but when I got there the builders had gone through the electrics, so I still haven’t got round to it. One of those difficult things to book, if you don’t have a dedicated day off.
It’s 10.30 and the room I need to clean is still occupied. Mr OSGH has gone to the gym and I have a Skype date at 11am with my friend in Dubai. People often ask us if we feel cut off living on the Island – try living in Dubai with a new baby and no family. At least our family can jump on a boat and we’ve made friends and a baby sitter.
One room cleaned and Skype conversation had. Always nice to see their friendly faces. Courgette pasta for lunch. Little Miss also fed and off to the beach with Mr. It’s 1.30pm and I’m a bit behind. Only just serviced rooms and I still need to mop a floor. Dishwasher from breakfast only just on!
I phone the greengrocers for tomorrow’s delivery. Then I’m off to the bank to get cash for jam, a quick trip to the local supermarket, a few bits for breakfast, but mainly for ourselves – yes, we have to shop for ourselves as well! Then off round the long diversion to Farmer Jacks, as the road is being relaid. I collect the jams and pick up a sourdough for salmon – another thing to tweak when I have time to try something else in the bread maker for smoked salmon and scrambled eggs – I also get some rhubarb (usually I get it from someone’s drive round the corner, but he’s all sold out for now), a selection of IOW tomatoes for Little Miss, IOW garlic, some of the butcher’s excellent Spanish Sausages and some IOW potatoes for dinner.
I’m home just before 4pm for arrivals. I happily tick a few things off the to do list and unpack the shopping and have a few minutes in the garden with Little Miss who is back from the beach. While she has her bath I make her dinner.
Just remembered there is bread in the bread maker and it’s all ready for cooling. It’s about this time of the day I remember I have forgotten to drink any water, so I down a glass before I shrivel up.
5.30pm and one of our arrivals is in and it’s time to make compote for breakfast. It’s days like this I think I’ve given myself too much to do, but I’m trying to get ahead of myself before the IOW festival when Mr OSGH is galavanting off to Download Festival leaving me (and my long suffering sister to help).
7.20pm and the dinner is eventually cooking. I’m having salmon and HE is having fennel sausages from a London Italian deli (still watching the wedding weight). We’re also having broad beans with tomatoes and anchovies, IOW spuds and cavallo nero.
I write the specials and events boards for tomorrow and sit down to a film and a glass or two of wine.
Up early and I have time to clean a shower before preparing breakfast. Everyone comes into breakfast at 8.30am together and all have variations of Full English, which leaves me twiddling my thumbs a little. The toast needs attention though, as one of the toasters is only toasting on one side and the other one doesn’t pop up anymore and always burns. Time for new toasters.
Two rooms cleaned this morning and off to the gym for an hour. Trying to think of a good excuse not to go. Lacking energy and enthusiasm today.
2.15pm Just finished sandwich. Been to the gym, where I worked surprisingly hard considering I started with a headache.
Just answered a nice new review, but they said you have to ‘rise early’ for breakfast. We tried several different times when we first opened and often have people waiting in the lounge before 8.30am for me to open the doors. People like to get out and about, especially when it’s sunny and with 5 rooms we can’t make it any longer or later, as we’d never have time to do everything.
The oven is on for cookies and while they bake I’ll relay the breakfast room and empty the dishwasher. Mr OSGH is off to the butchers to collect the sausages and bacon and a nice steak for dinner. The fruit and veg delivery was on the doorstep, so that needs putting away.
Cookies done. I have a wonderful recipe from an Aussie chef that I’ve been making for years (for Mr OSGH). They remind me of a hostel we stayed at in Tasmania 12 years ago. The lady would make biscuits every day. They asked us to look after their place because they had to go away for a few days. We declined because we had a flight booked to see friends in Sydney again before we headed to NZ and they had a mad, crazy dog and I’m not mad crazy about crazy dogs!
I could do with another cooling rack, I muse, the cookies and bread only just fit.
This time of the day the house feels like an organized mess. Just over an hour until arrivals, I need a shower, there’s washing up to be done from lunch and baking, the kitchen needs cleaning AGAIN. Shower first – then lovely laundry lady drops off the weeks’ sheets and duvet covers.
Arrivals are a little early and my hair is still wet. Not quite the look I was aiming for. There is never a right time to shower in our house. The phone goes, the door bell goes. We get lots of Jehovah witnesses at the door. I can’t have a shower before breakfast because I then have to dry my hair and tie it back, then I go to the gym during the day and have to shower again after. A woman’s nightmare I tell you!
I hoover the breakfast room and finish the washing up I started 2 hours ago. More arrivals, tea and cookies in the lounge.
After cooking Little Miss’ dinner and she decides she doesn’t like the chilli I made, so I turn it into enchiladas and voila! down the hatch.
I then have to pay some bills over the phone and while Little Miss consumes the whole dairy section in the fridge I start our dinner, season the steak, make the sweet potato chips and wash the IOW asparagus, which can be quite sandy.
Hoping that’s me done for the day and there’s another pile of washing up and then we clear the tea and cookies from the lounge – more washing up. Now can I sit down? No, I weigh, chop and freeze some of the rhubarb. 1 less job for tomorrow.
I start with 3 things on my to do list today. I start by slicing and freezing the sourdough, which is a really tiring job, it’s quite a stiff loaf. Other 2 jobs – clean a room and make shortbread. We’ll see how the list goes. Oh I have to collect the marmalade. Add to list.
Then Facebook sends me a friend request from the lady at the new antique shop in the Old Village. Which reminds me I need to go and look at their free standing, full length mirror. One of the suggestions we’ve had from Visit England and guests is full length mirrors in the rooms, which is easier said than done. Getting the right thing and finding where to put it, where it doesn’t take too much space*.
A booking came through late last night for tomorrow, giving us 3 arrivals on a Sunday, which is unheard of.
A manic breakfast. Full house and everyone wanting more tea, coffee, toast etc, departing guests wanting to pay during service, so obviously toast gets burnt!
After all the washing up the dishwasher is on and I sit down in the office to sort out the late booking from last night and have some breakfast. Then I relay the breakfast room, get the butter out to soften for the shortbread, then into St Helens room to clean for new arrivals, who are staying for a week. I can’t complete the breakfast room because I don’t have enough crockery, when it’s in the dishwasher. Although we have changed our breakfast crockery, so I’m not sharing with the rooms’ cups and saucers. And no, we don’t have mugs in the rooms – saucers were made for a reason.
Rooms replenished and refreshed.
Little Miss and I have a walk around the village handing out OSGH postcards. Everyone is really lovely, apart from one misery who takes no pride in his shop and has no smile. We pop into Pencil Cottage to see Lisa and Derek who also own the Christmas shop. They have built a school in Gambia and are always trying to raise money for it. One of their staff is doing a sky dive on the Island (first time the Island has done it). Obviously I walk out without saying I’ll sponsor them. Oops. I’ll sort it out later. We pop into ‘Talk of the Chine’ to look at the mirrors, but they are not quite right. I introduce myself and caress a bench I have my eye on. My main objective is to get rid of some marketing postcards that Mr OSGH had printed by mistake – they’re out of date, but still advertising. Once they are gone we can order the correct ones.
Back home and while Little Miss eats her lunch I make shortbread. My lunch is the ends of the sourdough loaf and some cheese. It’s not fulfilling, but it’s free! The birds already get the heels of the bread, but I don’t think even the seagulls could swallow the sourdough.
It’s not a beach day as high tide is 3pm, so we go for a walk. Mr OSGH likes to tell our friends that we’re done for the day by 12.00! (See yesterday – I don’t think so). But we do try to get out of the house occasionally. Short bread out of the oven and we go for that walk, which turns into a march to the Waterfront Inn! Lovely sunny day, glass of vino. Little Miss likes to play with their dog. Apparently they are ‘best friends together!’
Back for arrivals – can’t sit down for too long – coffee and shortbread. Check the guests are ok then nip out to the shop for OJ and salmon. Forgot my list or lost it in transit, so I know I’ve forgotten something. Oh well, I’ll be back again tomorrow probably.
Suddenly get 3 bookings in, 1 when we’re at a wedding, which has been booked out for ages, so Mr OSGH phones the relevant agent and they seem to have a problem with their system. We don’t use one engine for all the agents, we do it individually to 1. save money and 2. give ourselves more control, but this particular agent’s system is quite unreliable and they are expensive, so we don’t give them much availability. Most bookings come direct, which is better for everyone.
Another booking is for 2 nights in July and I realise I haven’t changed the minimum nights to 3 instead of 2, so that’s the last 2 night booking we’ll take for July and August, unless we have a gap. Still learning and tweaking.
After that, dinner and a peaceful night.
Croissants to bake this morning. Oh, the smell! Mmmmmmmmm.
Busy breakfast and cleaning morning ahead, so I decide no gym. Little Miss has increased nursery days next week, so there will be more time to go in the week.
I roast a chicken for lunches, while the oven is heated up. I hate shop bought cooked chicken.
Wow – a busy morning. Thankfully Little Miss OSGH was as good as gold and we managed to clean 4 rooms, then I baked some bread and relaid the breakfast room, while I ate lunch, then wandered down to the Waterfront again for a glass of vino before arrivals. Hard work deserves a little rest every now and again.
The one room we had no arrival time for came whilst I was in the shower at 6.15pm. We like to both greet arrivals, but I need to wash too! Then I cook dinner of roast pork with pine nut, leek and feta bulgar, garlicky cavallo nero and spinach, oh and some harissa corn on the cob – I love summer food.
8 in for breakfast this morning. It’s so much easier than 10. It’s like a Richter scale. It’s not 2 times easier, but 20 times easier! It all fits in the dishwasher, so there’s less washing up. Much better than my Monday mornings in my old life though! And lots of early birds at the moment, so we’re finished by 9.40am. Our guests staying for a week are early risers, which means hopefully next Saturday, when I’m on my own they will be in before the festival goers. It will spread it out a bit.
Trying to decide on specials for the festival weekend. Things without eggs, as they need the most attention. Thinking waffles as one special.
No one leaving this morning and the room is ready for today’s arrivals so we both go to the gym.
Back home we both replenish and refresh the rooms. This has to be my least favourite job, because I always forget things and am back and forth, and up and down the stairs.
I take a deposit for a booking, then have a quick lunch and go and pick up Little Miss from nursery and onto Tesco in Ryde. I try not to go to the supermarket every week, which was fine for 2 of us, but more difficult with 3. We have to fit everything in our fridges and freezers for 13 people! And Little Miss is a keen shopper, so it’s something to do! On the way back she falls asleep and continues to sleep on me for an hour back home. She’s had a cough at night, so hasn’t been sleeping well. Easier than it was a year or two years ago though.
Mr OSGH welcomes our new guests and give them tea & shortbread. Once I am freed I go and say hello. Other guests grab Mr OSGH and ask for early breakfast tomorrow. It’s actually nice to do that when we’re full, it just means getting up earlier. Little Miss is singing in her cot before I’m up anyway.
I prepare some invoices that are due to go over the festival weekend, so I can just press send and then do a bit of paperwork in the office. My in tray generally looks like an explosion of paper most of the year. I go through it and make a plan for the week’s arrivals and breakfasts.
Healthy stir fry tonight for dinner, but once Little Miss is in bed I go back to the kitchen and realize I have forgotten to steam the rice, so instead we have Mr OSGH’s excellent beef shin ragu, which was in the freezer.
After dinner I take a phone call for a 7 night booking at the end of the month. Mr OSGH is getting excited, as he’s counting the bookings we need to beat last year. We don’t have a lot of space left so it will be a race to the finish of infilling nights.
With the lovely long summer days Mr OSGH is just getting the washing in before bed.
I’ll be glad to finish this diary! It’s taking up quite a bit of time.
Mr OSGH has a flap because he’s forgotten that he had to park the car somewhere in Shanklin, because we are full. Little Miss gets upset because she thinks he’s gone to nursery without her!
Early breakfast, then I put some bread on to bake while the guests are eating and think about my day ahead. I still haven’t collected that flaming marmalade.
Baked beans are very popular for the other guests this morning – Heinz of course – specials sold quite well too. One of our guests comments that she doesn’t know where we find the time to do everything! Maybe I needn’t have written this diary after all!
We replenish rooms and change linen and towels. We make this optional as part of our AONB commitment for sustainable tourism. Then I clean Godshill room ready for Thursday’s arrivals (or it could be today, you never know). Godshill is my easiest bathroom, although it needs to be refitted. I’ve just discovered after 4 years that there is a leak getting to the hall ceiling when I clean. Mr OSGH has sealed it for now, but it’s the next bathroom to be done. It will be a big job though because it has a macerator and needs to be redirected to the mains. Apart from being noisy the macerator gets blocked, despite putting signs up, people still put ‘things’ down it and we have to unblock it. It’s a bonding experience to say the least.
Apparently I hadn’t started the bread, so I try again! After cleaning I walk into Shanklin town to Small Talk to collect our marmalade. They were a café, but have turned it into a tapas bar, so hopefully it will be more successful, however a jealous neighbor has reported them to the council for selling alcohol, even though they have a licence to do just that. Not very community minded, but all is ok, but the council have to be seen to investigate.
Then I pay Mr OSGH’s NI (bit late), pay the greengrocer and give her our weekly order and then go to the butchers and give him an order. It’s his birthday and I forgot! He’s such a lovely man and we have a similar sense of humour. Not sure what that says about me – having a butcher’s sense of humour!
Doing the rounds in Shankiln always takes longer than necessary, but I do enjoy the chatter, so once home I have lunch and am still eating it as I go out the door to collect Little Miss.
I bake another loaf of bread and go out for a play date. We walk back, a little late for Little Miss’ dinner and she falls asleep in her pram, so I take the opportunity to re lay the breakfast room. One of our arrivals for the festival weekend coming up has no arrival time, his phone number is a digit short and he’s not replying to my emails, until today when I offer him a free upgrade!
Mr OSGH is in Ryde collecting our postcards from a guy at the hovercraft. He works at the printers, but lives here, so it saves the postage!
Another booking comes in this evening and I remember to cook the rice!
It’s a peaceful end to the day. Mr OSGH is excited about his trip to Download festival at the end of the week and I am looking forward to seeing my sister and working her hard! It should be fine…
Despite our busy lives we wouldn’t change it for the world and I wouldn’t put anyone off doing it. At the time of writing Little Miss was only 2 ½ and we were still in our fourth year of the business, having started from zero and still tweaking and learning, No doubt we will be tweaking and learning until the day we hang up our boots, but every year gets a little easier and the easier it gets the more time we have to come up with new ideas.Our lives are made much easier by the fact we have wonderful guests and no, sorry, so far no dramatic stories. I’ll be sure to let you know if there are!
We close in the winter for about 2 months at the moment. This time flies, as we are painting, mending, having family Christmas time, which you can never get back if you open all year round. We do have a holiday and it’s the only time we can, so we have to make the most of it. That is all our weekends in one holiday!
Since this blog
- My sister and I survived the festival weekend
- I have since started making my own jam & marmalade, Small Talk closed.
- We now use the Ventnor greengrocer, who I send a text to for our order and pay online every week!
- We are also growing our own tomatoes, strawberries & rhubarb
- We now make our own brioche for salmon
- We now have full length mirrors in 3 of our rooms
- Mr OSGH is curing the bacon, but we still buy our meat from Paul Murphy
- I can’t wait to read this back in 10 years time and see how things have changed
For 10 months of the year it’s a bit tricky for us to get very far and when we do it usually involves food and/or socialising. Apparently we can get away with that. The common thought is that we should be chained to the house, but we have pop our heads out of the laundry/kitchen/office every now and again for our sanity.
This year, as every year, has seen changes in food and drink. Movers and shakers and some money makers. Our top 10 things of 2015 of course involve food and drink! They come in no particular order, just my list that I jotted down before 2016 started and I ran out of time.
- ‘Thompsons’ opening. Robert Thompson’s first own restaurant. It surprised us a bit when he chose Newport, not a seaside location, but a beautiful building none the less. And who wants to be predictable? Mr OSGH is pleased he now has a sign up, but you can’t rush these things. Newport is very much on the up and has been for a few years. Robert Thompson is helping to expand it on the other side of town.
- The ‘Waterfront Inn’, Shanklin, was taken over in January by father and son Rupert & Billy. After some rather simple changes – not simple on the bank account though, they have transformed the building and the seafront really. It is our ‘local’ now and hard to get Little Miss OSGH past it without a visit to ‘Badger’s House’ (their incredibly cute and patient dog). They have been through a few chefs this year, but seem to be settling down and have started some theme nights. Little Miss OSGH ever the helper assisted Billy with put up the Christmas lights and was the proud ‘turner on’ of the lights. They are really good! We’re looking forward to our NY Eve celebrations there this year.
- OMG the Goat’s cheese!! Yes, a goat farm on the Island. Due to regular trips to Yarmouth these days for baby sitting, we discovered Michelle and her husband’s farm and their temporary shop selling the most amazing mousse-like goats’ cheese. The best we’ve had since Normandy. They have been here since 2013, but are constantly expanding their reach and range, now at the Farmers Market as well as fayres and their own shop on the farm. Watch out for their goats’ milk soap at OSGH in 2016. Mrs OSGH has to confess that she ate goat this year – not from their farm, God forbid. Something she thought she would never do – she has a long history with goats on the Island – that’s another blog waiting to happen. We’re now in love with Yarmouth, with it’s new jewellery makers Rust and our lovely, expensive Marlborough Sauvignon we like at The George!
- Living Larder – we kept hearing this name all over, mainly from restaurants. In the olden days before we moved to the IOW we had a veg box delivered from an organic farm near where we lived in Kent. What with everything going on and then a baby coming along we never got round to it here. Actually, we did try one this year and it didn’t really work out for us. So this year Living Larder will be getting our order. Our greengrocer in Shanklin closed this year, so we’ve been using 5 a Day in Ventnor and will continue to do that for the guest house. Especially as Mrs OSGH has her jam making equipment (Birthday present, as requested!) and is excited to try it out. Not having a sweet tooth though and with Christmas it’s mainly been red onion marmalade, red onion marmalade with chilli and chorizo jam (which may be introduced with breakfast, we shall see.
- Bembridge had it’s first food festival. Mr OSGH was a little disappointed by the size, but it was their first year and there were the usual suspects, which is fine if you go to 1 food festival a year on the Island and great if you’re a tourist – it saves trapsing round all the shops and venues. It did mean that we went to ‘Shed’ for the first time, a Bembridge delight. We still haven’t tried making their mackerel balls, but did enjoy eating them!
- Back to Newport and Thomas Square. Olivos were renovating their next door building for quite some time and there were rumours they were opening a B&B. Then they sold it! Then….along came El Patron and thank the Lord! An authentic Mexican on the Island. And FYI Trip Advisor reviewer/nay sayer, you can have soft tacos and the tortilla chips are sooo authentic and moreish. It’s street type food in a basket and so good that Mrs OSGH would probably eat it off the floor if she had to. We’re still big fans of Primrose Café & deli. We never tried the burger bar that is already up for sale on that side of town, but we did try out a few Newport Pubs, particularly liking the Castle for a drinky.
- There have been some other fantastic renovations this year. One of the most outstanding is the old Wax Works in Brading. Brading is a very old town, dominated by it’s Roman Villa and wetlands. It used to be rather touristy too, but then the Wax Works closed and it became a bit of a linear town, just for driving through…until 2015! Well, a bit before that they started a museum in the railway station, oh, and they still had the Roman Villa and the bull, but anyway, one of the pubs closed, which was also supposed to be the Post Office…I tell you what they may have got quiet, but I bet there was a lot of gossip about who was doing what and when and how! So after toing and froing and Kyngs café at the wax works, ending up in the old Dark Horse, the pub that closed – are you still with me? – the Wax Works, after planning hoo hars, opened it’s restaurant The Rectory. Phew! And it is stunning. Opening in the summer Mrs OSGH drove past it quite a few times and it was always busy, from day 1. Finally we found time to go there and it is stunning. No more cobwebby wax works or rickety floors. And the food is excellent. Well worth a visit. Brading is on the up! And Mrs OSGH needs a little lie down after that paragraph!
7a…Mrs OSGH final allowed Mr OSGH to go to the Yarbridge Inn. It was a not very cold December lunch time and having been warned by our butcher that we should have booked we went along anyway and we got the last table. It looks a bit like it’s the old railway station – purely by shape, as it’s long and thin. The menus, yes menus, were extensive and if you can’t find something you want to eat here, then don’t go out ever! There is so much to choose from. They even have a daily roast! Mrs OSGH had a chicken, ham and brie pie and you could actually taste the brie. Sorry Mr OSGH I should have let you go sooner! We’ll be back.
- One of Mrs OSGH’s highlights of the year was staying at the Seaview Hotel. It was a present for her sister’s milestone birthday, that she doesn’t like to talk about. We had lunch at the Best Dressed Crab – another new and great experience of 2015, then walked to Seaview, (having already dropped off the bags), around the beach, collecting shells (which are still in her hat) and discussing the noise of the hovercraft and why they are not in general use around the world (yes, a very exciting conversation) ending in a little drinky at the Old Fort before checking into our beautiful room at the Seaview Hotel. We had a 3 course dinner from their ‘Focus on Food’ menu, which was awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand in 2015. The food was to die for and the cheese board immense! A very happy night spent sans child, con wine and bloody Marys and being served breakfast in the morning.
- The Shakers this year have been thinking outside the box. Shanklin welcomed a tapas restaurant, formerly Small Talk Café, now Small Talk tapas bar. It’s really worth a try and very reasonably priced.They have Spanish beer and cidre on tap too. We had a lovely evening there wine tasting with our butcher and his wife, with South African tapas. Another shaker this year was Fogg’s formerly known as Phileas Foggs. It’s taken all year to remember the new name – it’s an age thing. Since Mark & Lyndsey bought the restaurant they have gradually changed things, slowly at first, to ease people in, then a little more dramatically since the rebranding, but it’s always good these days. We just don’t get there often enough. To shake up Christmas we thought we’d try and book a table for Christmas Eve (only a handful of days before Christmas) and of course they were fully booked. The menu looked great though and it appeals to everyone. Shaking in 2016 will be Fine Nammet. Closed by Jenna & Paul, it will be reopening in 2016, so watch this space. El Toro in Ventnor are changing things in 2016 too, after their rather long holiday in the Canaries they are full of new ideas.
- Sandown, oh Sandown. A new, exciting restaurant opened – The Bandstand. Mr OSGH has been, but Mrs hasn’t. Everyone says it’s good and it’s a welcome addition to Sandown, it looks nice too, with it’s byfold windows overlooking the sea. IOW council still have an aversion to allowing people to improve Sandown, although one, yes, one planning application was allowed this year on a dilapidated building (with lots of conditions obviously). A new burger joint opened too. The Beach Shack are also changing things for 2016, again watch this space, once Greg and Amanda decide which avenue to take it will be quite a different ‘shack’.
We have a list of new places we want to try and 2016 seems to be longer than ever:
The Bandstand for Mrs OSGH
The Harbour Kitchen
Toninos (on a list from 2013)
Murrays (also on a list for 2013)
The George (no we still haven’t eaten here)
We still also love;
Cantina, Ventnor we now get our gluten free bread from here
The Beach Shack
Best Dressed Crab
The Old Fort
The Rectory at the Wax Works
The IOW is absolutely superb for walking whether it’s the coastal path, country walks, hilly walks or along the old railway lines – there’s something for everyone. Shanklin is a good base with all it’s restaurants within walking distance (see our website for recommendations) and lots of walking trails running through it and excellent bus and train links for those who want to leave the car at home.
This itinerary is not for the faint hearted, although the hardy walkers will probably walk on the rest day as well. We’ve tried to make it accessible for those not wanting to bring the car.
We use our own walks and the ‘Favourite Walk’ books, which are £2.00 each & contain 12 walks in each (available at OSGH or online).
We have given refreshment stop ideas, but you may want to take a packed lunch, which we can arrange and don’t forget your walking gear – water, hat, waterproof & good comfy boots.
Day of Arrival
A nice relaxing afternoon. You could walk down to the seafront through Shanklin Chine for a bit of a warm up.
Day 2 OSGH – Culver Down – OSGH
This walk starts from the house and can be shortened to Sandown and back.
We follow the esplanade to Sandown and continue past Dinosaur Isle and up over the bay onto the downs to Culver Haven.
On the way back you can take the lane down and keep turning left along the roads, but it’s a bit hazardous, so we recommend coming down the same way and you get a different perspective and wonderful views.
The walk tracks the same path back to the Beach Shack past Sandown pier. Next to this is a slope going up to the coastal path back to Shanklin.
You could do the coastal path there and Esplanade back, but the Esplanade loses the sun in the afternoon and can get a bit chilly.
Refreshments: at the end of the Esplanade at the Beach Shack, Sandown and Culver Haven at the top of the down. There are also various refreshment points along the way there and back.
Day 3 Option 1 Compton Bay Walk 6 – 8 miles
Option 2 Freshwater – Yarmouth no car needed 9 ½ miles (or shorter to the Needles)
This lovely walk from Compton Farm goes through sheep and big fat black cow fields, but they seem friendly enough. Then through Hulverstone and passing the long stone over Brighstone the walk passes coastguard cottages and follows the coastal path back to the farm. It’s quite a climb initially, so quite downward on the way back.
Refreshments at The Sun in Hulverstone. We recommend checking opening times as this is the only stop and although the book says it’s a 6 mile walk it seems more and the coastal path back is further than you think.
Option 2 Freshwater – Needles – Yarmouth
You can take the bus to Freshwater and the coastal path goes up over the bay to the West. It’s a well trodden path and a busy one too. You can either walk to the Needles and stop to take in a pleasure boat ride or fill up your coloured sands or carry on.
The walk goes up over the other side of the ‘pleasure park’ to Hedon Down through Totland Bay and Fort Victoria Park to Yarmouth. An extremely scenic walk.
Refreshments Red Lion Freshwater Village, Needles café, The Blue Crab & Minghella ice cream & Gossips cafe on the pier, both Yarmouth
Day 4 2 options today or you could use option 2 from yesterday
Option 1 Shorwell, Rowborough, Dukem 9 miles
Option 2 Americas Woods 5 ½ miles – shorter and no car needed
Option 1 from Shorwell
(Take a packed lunch.) This is quite a strenuous one, which is why we give you a 2nd option!
Starting from Shorwell this walk goes so far you can see Carisbrooke Castle. It goes up and down and up and down again. There are no refreshment opportunities either, but you’ll certainly feel like you deserve that extra Scotch egg you take with you! It makes my feet ache just thinking about this walk!
Option 2 Shanklin, Borthwood & America Wood
This walk goes from Shanklin and you can walk to the start. Good one for a really hot day, as it’s quite sheltered in the woods. It’s not a long walk, so you can get food in Shanklin before and after if required.
Day 5 Rest Day
A good opportunity to take in one of the sights – Osborne House, Carisbrooke Castle, The Needles, Godshill etc
Day 6 Stenbury Trail Newport to Ventnor 10 miles
Don’t be fooled by the beginning of this walk!
Take the bus to Newport where the walk starts the beginning of the walk follows the old railway line. A short diversion off the walk to Godshill is well worth it for this quintessential English Village.
From Godshill the walk is more hilly, going over the downs over Appuldurcombe and finishing at Ventnor Botanic Gardens.
Refreshments Godshill at the Taverners, The Essex or there is a large selection of tea rooms.
Day 7 OSGH – St Boniface – Ventnor – Steephill Cove – OSGH
Using our written walk this goes from the house past St Blasius Church over St Boniface Down (the highest point on the Island), down into Ventnor to the Esplanade, then follows the coastal path to beautiful Steephill Cove. If this is enough for you there is a local bus from Ventnor Botanic Gardens above the Cove or from Ventnor Town Centre.
Alternatively you can follow the coastal path back to Ventnor sea front and keep going past the Island paddling pool, round Horseshoe Bay and continue along the coastal path back to Shanklin.
Refreshments Steephill Cove have a variety of eateries all serving freshly caught crab, lobster and mackerel (when available), The Plantation Room at the Botanic Gardens, Phileas Foggs, Cantina & El Toro in Ventnor, Bonchurch Inn, Bonchurch (a climb up from Wheelers Bay) and during the summer there are a couple of places on the coastal path from Ventnor to Shanklin.
Day 8 Homeward Bound
We would highly recommend, as usual, checking the individual websites for opening times, making reservations where you want to plan ahead (many of our favourite restaurants get booked up even in the quieter months) and also using your own head when it comes to where to eat. My choice may not be yours and I take no responsibility for any chefs having a bad day.
These are just suggestions and if you don’t think you’re going to want to do something just don’t do it – it’s your holiday. You wouldn’t stick your head in the oven if I told you to now would you? Don’t miss out on anything just because Mrs OSGH hasn’t mentioned it here.
Due to us having such a diverse and fabulous Island I couldn’t fit in everything, so I apologise if I offend anyone or have missed anyone out. Due to the fact that we only take humans over 12 years old and very rarely have children come to stay I have based it on adult entertainment.
** We recommend checking out Shanklin Theatre for what’s on. THis brilliant theatre attracts worldwide acts and also excellent local performances. At the time of going to press ‘Best of the West End’ is a Thursday highlight during the summer months.
Day of arrival – Godshill & Shanklin
Head to Godshill and if you’re in time for lunch the Taverners is a great introduction to food on the Island – grab a fish finger sandwich or something more substantial, like venison haunch or their fabulous suet pastry pies. If you’ve already filled up there are plenty of places for an afternoon tea or light bite or ice cream in the many tea rooms on offer.
There is surprisingly lots to do in this quintessential old English village; the model village of the Island, which has a lot of the Shanklin area, The Olde Smithy gardens and photography exhibition of old Godshill, Chocolate Island shop, an Island glass blower’s shop, the Cider Barn selling local produce, a fair trade shop and many others.
The walk to the medieval All Saints Church is a must. You’ll see why when you get there. The lane is just by Chocolate Island.
Then check in at OSGH from 4pm.
Once you you’ve unloaded and settled you can have a rest or go for a stroll around the Old Village, which is just around the corner (right at the end of our road) and stock up at the Rock shop on your favourite sweeties. Check out where you want to go for dinner in the Village or in town (left at the end of our road). You can also have a stroll down to the beach (right at the end of the road and immediately left – you’ll soon see the sea). Roughly the beginning of April to end of September you can walk through the Chine and come out just above the Fisherman’s Cottage thatched pub on the beach and just under the Chine Inn.
For dinner we recommmend Fine Nammet, in town, Pendletons just round the corner or the Chine Inn, half way down to the beach.
Day 2 – Compton Bay, The Needles, Alum Bay, Colwell Bay, Yarmouth
(wet weather day Osborne and/or Carisbrooke)
Rise and shine and up for breakfast. We head out west today. This can be weather dependent. On your drive west if you get to Blackgang and it’s foggy you may want to head to the wet weather destination instead.
Take a drive West towards the Needles. (Or you can catch a bus via Newport). On the way you can stop at the Pearl Factory and even if Pearls aren’t your thing they have fabulous views of the west coast from the café, which sells a wide range of foods; cakes, savoury or sweet cream teas, baguettes, more substantial meals & daily specials. They also have a fossil and gem shop and opened in 2014 another Chocolate Island.
When you reach Freshwater you can park the car and walk around the coastal path to the Needles. This saves your parking charge to get to the Needles and is a beautiful coastal walk. You can then either walk back to Freshwater or get the bus. Alternatively you can drive there.
Once at Alum Bay/Needles take the chair lift (or walk) down to the beach to see the coloured sands. We recommend the boat trip from the beach to the Needles. You can also walk up to the Old Battery, which is an interesting historical point (even for me!). There is also a café at the top and great views over the Needles. In the main area of the ‘Needles Pleasure Park’ there is a glass blowing studio (it’s pretty warm in there and you can fill up your chosen glass shape with coloured sands. Don’t expect a memorable lunch here. You are better off eating at the Red Lion in Freshwater or at Colwell Bay afterwards, where there are a selection of better eateries, one being The Hut on the beach.
The Needles Pleasure Park is more for kids, but the natural beauty is still there.
You can also walk up the other side to Hedon Warren (on the right as you enter the car park), which is where our resident artist gets some of his inspiration.
Then depending how much time you have you could take a drive to Colwell Bay or into Yarmouth, a beautiful market town where many an Admiral retired to.
Dinner at The Blue Crab in Yarmouth (or lunch) is highly recommended. Fish for all tastes and budgets. They also do take away. An IOW Minghella ice cream at the pier is highly recommended. Or for dinner head back south to Shanklin or maybe Phileas Foggs at Ventnor. At the time of going to press Phileas Foggs have a Seafood Sunday.
Quite a busy day!
Day 3 We go East
Take a drive to the Garlic Farm in Newchurch where you can take a tractor tour (seasonal), taste their products and if you’re there until lunch it’s worth staying for. Or head to Seaview for a stroll around this pretty seaside village. Lunch here can be taken at the Seaview Hotel or the Old Fort, overlooking the busy Solent.
*The Garlic Farm is not easy by bus, so if you do not have a car you can take a train to Ryde and walk around the coast (right along the seafront), through Puckpool to Seaview. It’s a lovely walk and well worth doing even if you do have a car. Then you can take the train back to the Steam Railway.
An afternoon at the Steam Railway – suitable not just for overgrown boys (check timetable). If the railway isn’t running you might be able to swap days 2 & 3. They often have events that you may want to head to or avoid. It is all volunteer run and they have won the Queen’s award for volunteers.
If you are driving you may also have time to visit Rosemary Vineyard and/or Sharon Orchard next door and maybe a trip to Quarr Abbey nr Ryde.
If you fancy staying out Michaelangelos in Ryde on the bottom corner of Union Street is a fabulous Italian, though their lunch menu is more limited. If you are travelling by public transport check your return times. Trains stop quite early, but the buses run later. Or head back to Shanklin for dinner. There’s plenty to choose from.
Day 4 Ventnor & Steephill Cove Walk
We would recommend a walk to Ventnor and Steephill Cove (walking guides are available written by our fair selves, so there’s no cost).
Going up over the St Boniface Down (the highest point on the Island) and into Ventnor taking in the views then on to Steephill Cove where you will find lobster and other seafood (lots of mackeral) fished that day and served in their restaurants. It’s a lovely cove and a bit of a local’s secret. You can either then walk up to the Botanic Gardens and get the bus back or walk back through Ventnor and back to Shanklin along the coastal path.
To extend the walk you could go out to St Catherine’s lighthouse and the Buddle Inn. You can then catch a bus back if necessary.
If you would like to walk, but want something a little easier you can walk to Sandown along the Esplanade. We would recommend that you head for either the Beach Shack, where the Esplanade ends before the road, Belamy’s in the High Street or The Reef or Ocean Deck further along the seafront for a bite to eat.
If walking is not your thing you could have a wander around Cowes (Coast Bar and Restaurant and the Union Inn recommended). Or maybe a drive to St Helens and something to eat at Baywatch on the Beach, visit Bembridge Windmill and maybe drive up to Culver Haven or a poke around the forts and take in the views.
Dinner at the Bonchurch Inn, Bonchurch. Taxis can be arranged. Or if you fancy staying East maybe Lockslane in Bembridge.
Day 5 Osborne House/Mottistone Manor and or/or Brading Roman Villa (Yes you can choose for yourself!)
If you haven’t already done so, take a trip to Osborne House. Don’t make the mistake of waiting for a rainy day. The beach is beautiful and the gardens are well worth taking the time to relax and enjoy.
If you are a garden enthusiast Mottistone Manor is well worth a trip (out West) or Ventnor Botanic Gardens, which isn’t as far. The Plantation Room is a lovely eatery for lunch.
Brading Roman Villa is an interesting and well preserved piece of Island History. Take up the offer of a free guided tour. The guides are very well informed and make it much more interesting.
Dinner in Shanklin on the seafront for a change, maybe The Fisherman’s Cottage. Or if you want a really nice treat, The Royal in Ventnor – we recommend their tasting menu.
Day 6 Compton Bay Walk OR Owl & Monkey Haven
Add a walk from Compton Bay. Starting at Compton Farm (walks available at OSGH) this hilly 6 – 8 mile walk (depending if you believe the walking book or not) has breathtaking views with a stop at the Sun Inn at Hulverstone, where lunch is recommended.
While you’re out this way have a wander round Brighstone then maybe a quick drink at the Buddle Inn on the way back and a look at St Catherine’s lighthouse.
Or again if walking isn’t your thing take a trip to Owl and Monkey Haven, which is a family run ‘sanctuary’. It’s exceptionally well kept and a very popular animal lovers destination. Then maybe the Lavender Farm.
For dinner the walkers may want to limp into Shanklin or venture to the Taverners in Godshill.
Day 7 Carisbrooke Castle, Priory & Newport Farmers Market (Fridays), Quay Arts and IOW Museum
This can be juggled to fit in with the Farmers Market.
Firstly drive in to Newport and park up to take in the farmers’ market. This old market town is now full of high street brand shops, but have a stroll and you’ll discover some secrets overlooked by the shoppers – the old town hall housing the IOW museum – it’s small but well done. Walk down to Quay Arts on the Medina River.
Lunch can be taken at Olivos (Italian influence bistro), French Frank’s Sandwich bar or Quay Arts.
Then onto the beautiful Carisbrooke Castle, which was built in 1100 and famously held Charles I prisoner when he fled here thinking he was amongst friends.
On the grounds are a museum, chapel and display of donkeys bringing the water up from the well (if they are in the mood). This could take up quite a bit of your time.
During August they have jousting displays – check their website for details.
Then pop in to Carisbrooke Priory nearby.
Dinner at your favourite of the week.
My name is Hooper and I am a black and white moggie. I moved here with my servants who have a guest house in Shanklin. My role in the house is to sit on the back of the sofa and look pretty to entice people in. Being very beautiful helps.
In the sixteen human years I have been alive I have moved 6 times. I was also fostered for a year when my servants went travelling and had to live with my grandma when we moved out of our last house while we waited to move here.
The Island is very different for me because when I lived in England I used to get bullied a lot, especially after my brother T.C (Tony Cottee) died. There are quite a few cats here, but it’s mostly dogs and I have actually made friends for the first time with a girl who looks very much like me. Of course she’s beautiful too.
I enjoy having my servants at home all the time now and my favourite game is pretending that I haven’t been fed. It works sometimes!
They haven’t taken me to see the sea yet and when we came on the ferry it was very late and very dark. And I heard a story that the people at Tiger World used to exercise the tigers (cousins of mine) on the beach. I don’t think they do it now, but you never know. It would be too risky. When I first saw a seagull I was ever so frightened I had to make myself flat on the ground, so they wouldn’t pick me up and feed me to their babies.
As I said I am very beautiful and I think the sea air has helped make my coat even more shiny and it feels much softer than before. Obviously I still have to spend a lot of the day grooming and getting my beauty sleep, but most of it is natural.
Having lost my brother T.C I have had lots of love and attention – there’s been more to go round. I have a new sister too, but she is human. She’s a funny colour – she has very white skin and red hair. She pulls my fur sometimes, but I don’t mind because it’s nice to have someone else to play with and after all, as well as being beautiful (did I mention that?) I’m also very tough. She does get more milk than me though, which is a bit unfair, as I’m the oldest.
I don’t miss anything about England. I’m happy to be here and happy to see my servants enjoying themselves and this is my favourite home so far.
Flat chips. WHY? You know, the ones they call ‘steak’ chips? When and where were these ever served with steak? These are my biggest chip fear. You can tell a lot about a place by it’s toilets and chips. It just reminds me of bad restaurants that have wet peas soaking the chips. Urrggghhh. They are just lazy, unimaginative and tasteless.
I accept that chips, like eggs, are a very personal thing. However there really are some no nos in my book.
Of course the new(ish) thing is twice or thrice cooked chips. The Taverners in Godshill do these in an excellent manner! Pretty filling though and never really necessary to order as a side, but so hard to turn down when the opportunity arises. They have a place on pretty much any dish except, probably, fish in my view. I remember when they first ‘came out’ and they would be presented on a plate usually 3 down and 3 crossed on top. The first time I had these was in The Swan in West Malling, now a Michelin Star. If you were really lucky you might get a third layer. It was nice to see the humble potato get a revamp. A very important staple for us Westerners.
Chip shop chips are a tricky one. Obviously only for fish and chips, but they are pretty standard and any diversion from said recipe of slightly wilted, fire hot potatoes is a no no and please a little bit of batter accidently dropped in the bag. Served in paper with salt and vinegar. There can be no alterations, but would you accept them on a plate in a restaurant? Probably not.
It does pain me that restaurants are unable to name potatoes cooked in oil correctly or truthfully. Chips are chips and fries are fries. I enquired recently about the size of a restaurant’s fries to be told by the waiter “well, they’re chips really“. So why not call them chips? I would have been utterly disappointed if I had ordered them without asking. Fries are French fries. Frites. Thin, crispy, salty and naughty. Don’t mess.
On a recent trip to Cheltenham to a very nice brasserie, which was mainly French with a bit of pasta thrown in, the club sandwich came with matchstick chips and the steak came with frites. I had the club and, yes, the matchstick chips were frites (imagine my delight). They were the only chips on the menu and you couldn’t even order a side dish, so my betting is their matchstick chips and fries were exactly the same thing??!!
Americans are good at fries – Freedom Fries, of course. I wonder why they don’t call them Freedom Frites – it has a certain ring to it, don’t you think? In and Out burger, a fast food ‘restaurant’ in L.A cut their own spuds! Unpeeled too. And they’re ‘ansome. There are some good places for good fries on the Island – Phileas Foggs and Barefoot on the Beach. Proper fries.
Funnily enough and I have never questioned her on it, my mum when I was a kid used to have a deep fat fryer, which pretty much, every night cooked chips, until I was probably about 10 years old. Except, these chips were cubed. I don’t know why. Obviously more labour goes into cubes than sticks? Note to self – ask mum about chips. They were very nice though. How I stayed a slim girl I’ll never know.
Now for the Sautée. They need skins. Sliced, halved, I don’t care, but they need skins to capture my heart. Sautée potatoes with duck breast. Or is it duck breast with sautée potatoes? With sautée you then move onto potato hash. That’s one big kettle of lovely fish. My goodness, the hash variations you can make. Some to be seen on our breakfast menus. Black pudding hash, ranch potato hash. I’m working on some more, but Mr OSGH takes quite some convincing for new specials!! But let’s face it sautée potatoes are chips for healthy people who can’t face the guilt.
And the wedge? Come on everyone likes a wedgey! Sour cream dip? I like mine with IOW Garlic Farm garlic mayo. With a pizza? We’re all allowed a guilty pleasure now and again. Now I know it’s a chain pub, but the Crab Inn in Shanklin do excellent wedges – deep fried baking potato, a whole one I would guess. Scrummy. And because they’re probably an American creation it doesn’t matter what you do with them or what you have them with Americans don’t care if you bastardize their food.
The food anomaly within my siblings is my brother. Now my brother is not a lover of food. What does this have to do with chips? Christmas day – 55 year old man (yes, he is substantially older than I) – has chips with his turkey! I conceded to cater for this one year, but I refuse to do it again! Maybe the chip shop will be open next time? He is also an eater of those flat horrible ones. Are we really related?
There are some things that shouldn’t be served with fried potatoes and although it seems popular to some Brits, it’s as frowned upon in Italy as using a spoon for your pasta. Lasagne and chips. Why? Lasagne, chips and peas. Why?
Unfortunately it seems to be a mainstay on Shanklin sea front that everything comes with chips in the majority of establishments. One of our guests recently almost ate in one, but someone queuing in front of them to order asked if they could have peas instead of salad with their lasagne, this was bad enough, but the server then said “I’ll ask, but you’ll probably get the salad as well”‘!! I just have images of plates and plates lined up in the kitchen already prepared with salad on the side. Our guests went back to the village for food. And in fairness to said eating place if someone’s going to order Italian food in an English restaurant they’ve only got themselves to blame!
My new bugbear is kids meals. Yes, we love potatoes, but why do kids meals all come with chips all the time? Come on, use your imagination.
It’s amazing how we take the lowly potato for granted. They are a wonderful thing and should be raised shoulder high. I’m a big fan whether it’s mashed, boiled, fried, baked or roasted. It has to be said though, that there are other alternatives. I have more alternatives in my cupboards than I do potatoes. One day Shanklin will be ready for them… one day.
It should be noted that these are just my opinions and if you take them too seriously you need a certain amount of help.
Yes, it’s summer 2012 and it’s raining. Why? Some say it’s the Gulf Stream a little off course, some say it’s global warming. But no, don’t be ridiculous, it’s because this year we have the British Olympics and of course June/July is a time of festivals, Wimbledon, Silverstone and when people want to go on holiday to miss the school kids.
Let’s face it June is usually pretty good, July’s ok and it’s supposed to be August (which by the way is the month of the heaviest rainfall in the UK, just ask Lonely Planet) that is a wash out.
But it’s different every year. I recall summer holidays in the Isle of Wight some of rain, some of blazing sunshine. The worst sunburn I ever had was here. I’ve had holidays around Europe (yes, when my sister and I were old enough to appreciate it, we ditched the Isle of Wight and they took us abroad) at exactly the same time 1 year apart in exactly the same places (you’re seeing my parents were creatures of habit) and Venice has been summer sun one year and lightening storms the next. June in Bracciano with the in laws not bad, warm, but cloudy, then on to Milan with friends and yes, lightening storms. And before you ask, no I haven’t been hit yet. So it’s not just England that gets wet summers.
(Footnote – once my sister and I left home my parents went abroad every year – My obsession could have been Portofino instead of Shanklin!).
So it’s Raining? What are we going to do about it? Absolutely nothing. It’s impossible to stop the rain. And as Billy Connelly once said “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just being badly dressed for it”. There are so many things to do on the Isle of Wight in the rain. Let’s face it the restaurants and bars are still open. And here at OSGH there is no pressure for our guests to shove off out if they don’t want to. We wouldn’t have a guest lounge if we didn’t want people to use it. London Underground puzzle? Destination Isle of Wight (good game), IOW Monopoly, cards, books, DVDs. Hell, holidays are about relaxing, not tiring yourself out.
So here’s some ideas for a holiday on the Isle of Wight in the Rain.
1. Quarr Abbey & Café – a hidden beauty of architecture and history.
2. Dimbola Lodge – The permanent IOW festival exhibition, Margaret Cameron’s Photo collection & always a new exhibition of works, then round to Colwell Bay for a lunch, afternoon tea or dinner at Barefoot on the Beach, but don’t forget to invite us
3. Cowes Maritime Museum depicting the yachting and shipbuilding in Cowes
4. Waltzing Waters, a fountain display with lights and music (stretching it?), then maybe lunch at Rosemary Vineyard
5. The Garlic Farm is mostly inside for tasting, the exhibition and food. There’s also a pottery next door.
6. The Steam Railway. Good for all weathers. Watch the rain lashing down from the comfort of your carriage. Toot toot!
7. Arreton Barns Craft Village – now hear me out. Admittedly my trips to Arreton are purely for food, but I have it on very good authority from my guests that there is, amongst other things, a leather maker (Tanner to some) who makes really good leather belts while you wait at a very good price. No hard sell, but one of our guests bought 6!!! You could then nip up to Briddlesford Farm, check out Bobby our Briddlesford Butcher and have a quick something in Bluebells Café. Don’t forget to say hi to the calves and give them a pat.
8. Oohh, now this is a favourite idea of mine – Afternoon Tea at the Royal. Mmmmmmm. Oh go on. After one of our breakfasts you may not want lunch, but ooh those lovely little sandwiches and delicate cakes and maybe a glass of Champagne. You’re on holiday after all.
9. Carisbrooke Castle has quite a lot inside. The donkeys of course turning the wheel when they feel like it (no animal cruelty here, but I’m sure it was done differently in Charles I’s time.) Be careful if you go up on the whatsit upstairs – the thingame – battlements? you know where they fired the arrows from? Someone help me out here. Anyway it might be a bit slippery. There’s also Carisbrooke Priory nearby, which is so often overlooked.
10. Another English Heritage Gem is Osborne House. Not bad for s summer house. I’d be quite happy with the kids’ Swiss Cottage (there’s a free bus shuttle to it nowadays too). The Terrace Restaurant is apparently very good. It was too late to try when we got there.
11. Brading Roman Villa. What’s the difference? – it’s cold in there all year round. Take a cardi, it’s climate controlled. Made much more interesting if you can grab a volunteer for a tour. Amazing views and, yes, you guessed it, a café.
12. Events around the Island go on all year weather not permitting. The Newport Jazz Festival, which is held in Minsters, Churches and all sorts of bizarre, but warm places with fabulous music, The Annual Sweetcorn Fayre at Arreton Barns and usually a sausage competition. There’s also a jigsaw puzzle festival, now, come on, that has to be indoors. The Isle of Arts Open Studios in July is a chance to see artists of all kinds at work (inside their homes and other dry places).
13. Godshill is a great place rain or shine. And no, not just because of the Taverners, but if you do happen to be passing please bring me back a piece of their lovely suet pastry pies. There’s also the Old Smithy, the beautiful church, a teddy museum, a chocolate makers. Just loads going on and of course afternoon tea.
14. If you have a lazy day at OSGH you could spread your legs in Shanklin, wander round the craft centre round the corner, get your rock shop gifts to take home (and a little something for yourself of course), have a drink down at the Esplanade and watch the stormy sea (there’s a new Irish pub, which could keep one amused all day), then have an evening at the Theatre. There’s so much going on there. Tuesday play, Thursday West End and all the touring fellas in between.
15. Now please be careful with this one, but you can always go ice skating. When was the last time you did that? When do you ever have the time? When are you ever 20 mins on the underground train from it? Then afterwards you can nurse your bruises with a magnificent Italian at Michelangelo’s or a damn good steak at The Alamo. Or maybe cocktails would be more appropriate in The Kasbah, or the Black Sheep or the Mexican or many other bars in Ryde. OK so Bowling might be less risky, but the rest applies.
16. St Catherine’s Lighthouse is a must see for any weather. During the summer they are open most afternoons. And of course a visit to the Buddle Inn is essential on any trip. A log fire in the rain warms anyone’s cockles.
17. The Newport Duo – wait for it – The Roman Villa and the Bus Museum! Why not? Come on everyone likes an old bus.
18. Yarmouth is a lovely wee town and it’s got a castle! You’ll be a history buff by the end of your holiday! You could then go on to Chessel Pottery and paint your own pottery. Don’t worry elbow the children out of the way. You’ve been on the planet longer.
19. Appuldurcombe House – a little bit ‘pooky, but well worth losing the hairs on the back of your neck.
20. And last but not least you can visit the animals at Amazon World or the, well, butterflies I guess, at Butterfly World.
Let’s face it there is no excuse not to enjoy a holiday in the rain here. It’s not Majorca where there really is nothing else to do but sit on the beach. In the rain you’d be playing pool, getting drunk and arguing with the other half. You can do that in Sidcup!
You don’t need to go round the world – you can do that at Phileas Foggs. Come to the Isle of Wight – anyway, our rain is far superior to any other in Britain!