Archive for the ‘Pubs’ Category

The Fried Potato and Other Ramblings   Leave a comment

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.

So it’s Raining? Here’s What to do on the Isle of Wight   1 comment

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!



The Most Famous Trombonist in the World?   Leave a comment

Who, you ask, is Roger Harvey?

You may not believe it, but you do know Roger Harvey. I promise you. If after reading this you don’t, then I wouldn’t read any more of our blogs because they won’t get any better!

For a while now I have been aware of a very famous man who is the father of a very good friend of ours.  I have been dying to meet him ever since I found out who he is. Low and behold our friend Adam and his girlfriend Jo-Ann tied the knot and had a fabulous London wedding just a couple of weeks ago. Weddings are great because you get to meet people in your friends’ lives you wouldn’t usually meet. Sometimes that’s not a good thing I appreciate. Of course I was very excited about them getting married, but I was even more excited about meeting Roger Harvey – yes our friend is Roger Harvey’s son.

Again you ask “who is Roger Harvey?” All will be revealed, but firstly let me tell you a wee story about our Rog. Now we have been dining out on this for years, as Adam has probably run out of people to tell. Some time ago, when Adam was fresh out of education and desperate to buy a car – £300 – not an expensive car, he went to Roger and asked if he could borrow the money. Unfortunately being a musician type (we’ll give him that excuse) Roger said he couldn’t afford to lend it to him. So little Adam wandered off to save his pennies himself.

Not long afterwards Roger embarked on a trip to Paris for his birthday with his wife Anne – Adam’s step mum, but not a wicked one, so all good there. We’ll once again give Roger a chance, as he may have been touring at the time, so didn’t necessarily specifically go to Paris just for his birthday.
Anyway, Roger and Anne had lunch in a very nice restaurant, ordered their wine and enjoyed their meal. Of course you have to have a second bottle of wine – at least – so Roger decided to try something different. He ordered a new wine and the waiter asked if he would like to see the cellars. Don’t worry it’s not a horror story he didn’t get kidnapped or bludgeoned to death or anything. Off he went like a little kid in the MacDonalds fridge on his birthday. He was shown where his bottle of wine was kept and they brought it back with them to the table. A lot of fuss you may think. Well, it seems that after the first bottle of wine Roger’s decimal points and sides of the Channel got awry. This was in the days of French Francs. Yes you guessed it the £100 bottle of wine was actually and £1000 bottle of wine. You can just imagine the heart sinking right to the bottom of the credit card. “Heck!” I bet is what he said! And poor little Adam!

Adam has forgiven his Dad, but Roger is probably still paying the interest!! Still wishing he’d savoured the taste!

So “who is Roger Harvey?” Well, Roger is a trombonist and how many famous trombonists are there? Well, for most people only one. Roger is THE trombonist at the beginning of Star Wars – Imperial March. You know dum, dum, dum, dar-da-dum, dar-da-dum…. How cool is that?

Not only that, but he has been Co-Principal trombone in the BBC Symphony Orchestra for the last 12 years – so he ‘does’ the Proms. Another thing I love about our Rog is he gives a secret signal to Adam when they go to watch!! He started out at Oxford and London Universities and has played trombone is many different orchestras, touring the globe many times over. As far as I know he is still Principal Trombone for Academy of St Martin in the Fields since 1985, he teaches and has his own Publishing Company ‘Brassworks’. He’s even worked with Bloc Party! He’s all in all a Trombone Geezer!

So you ask, what has this to do with the Isle of Wight. Well, ok they are very tenuous links. His wife played trumpet at the Osborne Proms and remembers a time when the Wight Mouse Inn had rows upon rows of Whiskey. At the Garlic Festival last year there were sand speeders from the Star Wars films!? Yes, ok very tenuous, but it was so nice to meet Roger and he didn’t disappoint and I challenge anyone to tell me they know a more famous trombonist than our Roger!


Posted March 14, 2012 by shanklinrocks in Music, Pubs

‘Figgy Piggy’   Leave a comment

Now you have to excuse me because I was drunk, so I can’t remember all the dishes.

After a drink at the Waterfront Inn, on Shanklin Esplanade (a bottle of wine that was not only reasonably priced and very nice, but came up even cheaper on the till) my sis – yes she was still with me – and I took my ‘somehow still drunk from the stag weekend’ husband to El Toro Contento even though he had been the night before with his stags. I know we had everything from the specials board. Mmm Figgy Piggy, prawn & chicken meatballs, Hake goujons (not Captain Birds Eye I can assure you), beef meatballs, something else porky, Boquerones (big fat anchovies) and Aioli. Oh and sherry prawns. I think there’s something missing, but that’s not bad considering.

I can never fault this restaurant. We had lovely wine – although we had to change half way through because it seems the stags drank most of the very slightly more expensive Navarra the night before! How they put up with us I don’t know, but Lorraine, Seraphin and Nell do a wonderful job keeping us as content as bulls.And our purses still in tact. Cost for 3 of us I think about £60

Of course the evening couldn’t end there and we had to wait for our cab. Could we have moved the time? Don’t be ridiculous. No, we manned up! Off we trotted to the Crab and Lobster Tap. Best pub in Ventnor I reckon. Then got our taxi (Door2Door) on time as usual. Thankfully Indy’s closed when we got back to Shanklin and we decided to go home. Returned to a booking and Gareth singing Whitney Houston Songs. (Something I didn’t think he had in him, but she died this morning, so fair enough).

El Toro makes the best tapas on the Island by far

What did we learn?:
Matt and Cat Dining Club card still giving us great discounts. Although I always feel guilty using it at El Toro – 1 It’s very reasonable anyway 2 They are so great
Also remembered I’m an old soak

Posted February 13, 2012 by shanklinrocks in Bars, Bars, Pubs, Shanklin, Spanish & Tapas, Ventnor