The Isle of Wight has been somewhere we’ve visited as a family my entire life and I’ve been a few times for day trips or holidays with friends as well so we all have our favourite places to visit but as time goes on, more and more new places pop up – or simply they’ve been there all along but we haven’t noticed or tried them. This visit I decided to do a quick list featuring some of my recommendations for the Island, as I know from Instagram many people seem to be surprised you can even get a good meal over there…You can, I promise! There are SO many nice eateries and cafes, bakeries and other independents that we haven’t cooked at home once this week and have managed to squeeze in loads of great dinners. I’ll definitely need to be hitting the gym a little bit harder when I get home if I want any of my clothes to fit me ever again!
The Garlic Farm in Newchurch has been a family favourite of ours for a few years now. They serve up lovely local food and a selection of cakes but also have a beautiful farm shop stocked up to the ceiling with their famous garlic. You can buy actual garlic bulbs (I’d recommend the smoked garlic) individually or plaits/grappes and plants as well as garlic-infused everything (including vodka, beer and a black garlic stick of rock!) but they also stock a few other lovely, local brands like Isle of Wight Tomatoes who totally slays your entire idea of what a balsamic should be. We’ve been for cake in the past but never had an actual sit down meal, I had the vegan option which was a butternut squash risotto and was lovely! They have a varied staple menu as well as the specials board and provide a friendly, relaxed atmosphere in which to enjoy it. Great for the whole family, including children and dogs. My Dad and sister had extravagant sandwiches served with chips and both enjoyed the extra garlic condiments served; garlic mayonnaise on request and a couple different garlic salts on the table. For dessert, my Dad had the last piece of vegan chocolate cake and said it was the most perfect chocolate cake he’s ever had (vegan or not!) which is a big deal coming from my cake-obsessed Dad. Meanwhile, my sister and I shared the chocolate and black garlic pot out of pure intrigue. It’s a thick but soft ganache, served with raspberries and some delicious shortbread on the side – don’t worry, though, black garlic has a super sweet syrup-like taste so there’s not garlic breath to be had after this dish! Aside from the food, the venue itself is gorgeous and just how you’d imagine a modernised farm to look – lots of wood and stone but with large windows showing off the scenery outside, which includes a friendly bunch of resident peacocks and maybe a few little guinea pigs if you’re lucky. Best of all, no vampires in sight.
Stripped in Ventnor has been on my list of places to visit since we planned our return to the Island as it had been recommended to me by so many people, mostly because of it’s veggie and vegan friendly options! Something that unfortunately isn’t always easy to find in every restaurant on the Isle of Wight. The venue has chilled, casual dining vibe with a stripped back interior full of exposed walls and rough edges from what used to be a bank. The menu comprises of comfort food; pizza, fries, burgers etc along with a specials menu which had a strong asian influence on our visit but changes often. We were served a bowl of their spicy popcorn on arrival which was a really lovely touch and super tasty! I then ordered the crispy fried tofu which was amazing, served with buffalo sauce and a lime wedge amongst a sprinkling of spring onion but the real star of the show was my sisters plant-based katsu burger! However, it looks impressively similar to the beef katsu burger, which my Dad had ordered, and they were mistakenly served the wrong way round. Luckily, my sister isn’t actually vegetarian so it wasn’t too big a deal and they just switched their meals but if that was me biting into a beef burger for the first time in my life I would have been in for a nasty surprise. If you are expecting both burgers to the table then I’d definitely advise that you clarify which burger is which with your server just incase! My Dad and sister both finished up with the loaded brownie which looked insane; a decadent chocolate brownie served with a generous portion of ice-cream and a granola-like concoction of nuts and seeds, smothered in a caramel sauce. I definitely want to head back here to try more of the menu and it’s really nice to see a new restaurant actively catering for vegetarians and vegans alike.
Smoking Lobster in Ventnor is a great little sea-front restaurant with a really exciting menu, full of experimental dishes and slightly more unusual ingredients and pairings. It’s expensive but it’s worth as a special treat! We absolutely loved the food last time and we haven’t visited since the recent refurbishment so we were excited to head back there and take my sister Sian for the first time. The restaurant is best known for serving up local line-caught fish (thanks to their very own fisherman!) as well as Isle of Wight beef and Ventnor Bay crab but, personally, I love how interesting they make their vegetarian options as this can often be the downfall of many an establishment, no matter how skilled or experienced. There’s usually only one or two, but they’re always lovely. This visit I had a risotto with a selection of tempura and miso baked vegetables. My Dad went for a sea-food risotto, topped with a huge king prawn and my sister was unable to choose and ended up ordering three starters and darting between them – this asian fusion style of food is one of our favourites. You have a view of the sea from inside but there are tables outside which would be lovely in the Summer and scandi inspired chilled out decor fills the room whilst the food served. Definitely worthy of the fine dining label.
We’ve only been to Morgans in Shanklin once previously, I think it was Fathers Day last year and we took Dad for a special treat! The food was lovely and the service was super friendly but what I really remember is the garlic bread being amazing. We all said we would go back there just for the garlic bread! So that we did, and it was every bit as amazing as I remembered, only this time we got a portion each instead of sharing. It’s served as two large ciabatta pieces so you could easily share but…we didn’t. For my main I had risotto, which was nice but by this point I was getting a little fed up with risotto being the only vegetarian option in so many places! The waiter did say the chef could go off menu to prepare me something though which is really good and not something that’s offered in many places I visit. To make up for the slight disappointment in risotto (I was expecting tortellini due to perusing what I later found out to be an old menu online) I ordered a side of onion rings, they were £4.50 but it’s a nice restaurant to I wasn’t overly surprised by the price…However, I was completely flabbergasted by what came out of the kitchen; ten huge palm-sized onion rings!? Since when is a ‘side’ ten onion rings…I was expecting three, maybe five at a push. Unfortunately there was absolutely no way we could fit dessert in, which was a shame as they sounded lovely but, alas, I was wearing high-waisted jeans and a god damn belt. (rookie mistake)
I first noticed this bakery/cafe in the morning, with huge fruit scones filling the window amongst all sorts of other beautiful cakes and treats! I thought about those scones all day and after lunch and taking my sister back to the ferry port, convinced my Dad to go back there and have a scone – somehow, they were all gone! Devastating, but we stopped by anyway and instead had a fruit filled (and topped!) muffin with a creme egg brownie between us and we were not disappointed. Whilst munching away on these, we spotted a couple savoury tarts which we soon nabbed to take home with us before anyone else could. We experienced the friendliest service and had a great chat with the staff members there so we decided to head back the next day a little earlier before the rest of the town have rinsed the place of those beautiful scones! We had a cream tea with a huge fruit scone (you can see this on my Instagram highlight) which was only £5 and was so nice I was a massive pig and ordered a second scone as I couldn’t resist trying the blueberry scones. My Dad had another brownie, chocolate fudge this time, and said it was up there with the best brownie he’s ever had on par with Coffee Lab back home. That’s the golden seal of approval when it comes to brownies! We visited this place a couple more times before we left.
I’ve been buying fudge from Slab for years now and try to pick some up on each visit but make sure you pay attention to their opening times as last time I turned up to find a closed shop. Fortunately, they do now have an online store and I was so desperate to satisfy my fudge craving that I ordered a bunch online as soon as I got home and it didn’t take long to arrive. Plus, postage is free if you spend over £10 which definitely helped to persuade me on my order. A lovely independent business based in Cowes, it’s a great place to buy gifts from to take back to pals on the mainland – the hardest part is having to choose between the variety of flavours. Slab now also have an entire range of vegan fudge which is just as good as the dairy with an array of different options offered. I recently had the vegan peanut butter and chocolate ‘tiger butter’ fudge and their cookies and cream which were both noted down as new favourites of mine! They are bringing out new flavours all the time so keep your eyes peeled if you’re a fudge fan.
This is my dads favourite place in the world, he literally never stops talking about it. It doesn’t matter what you’re talking about, he will somehow wedge in whether or not he’s told you about their ‘life-changing’ lasagne – which, of course, he has mentioned many a time. We always make sure to visit at least once when we’re over here so he can scoff a lasagne followed by their home made tiramisu. It’s a beautiful (but hilly!) walk to the pub and we walk through the landslip area where you can find the Smugglers steps and the Devils Chimney followed by a park, a pond full of friendly ducks and often terrapins before finally reaching a very old church and then heading up the hill to the pub. Alternatively, you can drive up and park there but the exercise is always good in advance of stuffing these massive portions! There’s not many veggie options, I normally have spinach canneloni but there are pizzas too and it’s worth the visit for the friendly, personable service alone and even better if you’re there in summer so you can perch yourself into the little sun-trap courtyard just outside.
Stuff I didn’t photograph:
Honourable mention to The House of Spice who served us up a beautiful spread of Indian dishes, including the most gorgeous paneer tikka passanda and an array of other, lesser known dishes. With friendly family-run service and a very fair price, I had to undo my belt half way through the meal as there was no way I was leaving any of what I was enjoying! It’s always nice to find a reliable Indian restaurant somewhere new so it’s definitely somewhere we will keep in our minds for future visits! I’d also like to shout out The Amazon Zoo who I just love visiting every time. It’s not a big zoo and doesn’t house many large animals but it does have a lovely free-flying bird area and loads of super interesting mammals that you don’t see so often; ant eater, tapir, tamandua, a collection of armadillos and loris, a few sloths and loads of other cuties. For £12.95 it’s also much cheaper than the standard zoo entry and you can revisit later in the week for free (which we did) to seen the animals again. We fed the wallabies, went in amongst the lemurs who just wanted to lick our shoes and there’s a very friend bird who seems to make his way all the way through the zoo, almost into the gift shop where he is not supposed to be! You can see more of him via the Isle of Wight highlight on my Instagram.
The Island Bakers is a very small cafe in Newport with friendly staff and a selection of classic bakery goods, including a beautiful array of sourdough loaves as well as pastries both savoury and sweet. It’s a very small little set-up and serves a lot of takeaway business; smily faces picking up bread, hot cross buns and tin loaves were in and out the door throughout our lunch break. My Dad and I both ordered a feta focaccia they had available and, although it was only £2.50, it was absolutely huge once served cut, heated and plated up. My sister had a pretty little stilton and walnut pastry that was a little smaller – definitely a better decision as we already knew we were going to struggle to fit the hot cross buns in that we already had our eyes on since first sitting down. The hot cross buns were hefty, served toasted with butter for only £2 but my dad was a little more adventurous and went for a cruffin – imagine a croissant made in a muffin tin, topped with chocolate creme and an orange jam. He was very happy with himself. We also visited Caffe Isola in Newport which is the only place I had a really good coffee and if you’re more around Ryde way there’s a lovely cafe right at the end of the beach on Appley seafront called The Dell which is fab if you have dogs. They love to run on the beach, get soggy in the sea and then when you come back up to the path, The Dell actually have a stack of towels to dry your pups which I thought was really lovely.
See more from this visit on my Instagram feed and my Isle of Wight highlight. Would love to hear about any of your recommendations for the IOW – if you haven’t seen them here, please drop them in the comments below for my next visit! Where’s your favourite place in the UK for a staycation? It’s definitely something I need to make time for more often.