An invitation to a friend’s birthday in the Isle of Wight had me nostalgic, I hadn’t been since I was 11 years old camping with my school and I was keen to revisit and see why our friends had chosen to buy a holiday home there. I had honestly thought it would be faff to get there but actually you can buy your ticket to Ryde (the largest town in the Isle of Wight) at Waterloo train station, hope off at Portsmouth Harbour and get straight on a twenty minute ferry. Two hour journey, zero flights, leave your passport at home and you’re on a sunny island!
I had booked a lovely hotel in the seaside town of the Ventnor on the south side of the Isle, around half an hour in a taxi from Ryde.
A pretty pastel B & B on the hillside, The Hambrough was the perfect place to lay our heads during the weekend break. Luxury hotels are few and far between on the island but The Hambrough is a 5 AA Gold Star beautiful boutique with seven rooms nearly all of which have a sea view.
A studio room was super spacious with views of the Ventnor coast, a fully stocked mini bar and coffee machine plus a deep soaking tub which I forgot to take a picture of!
At one time the hotel’s restaurant boasted a Michelin star but now chef Robert Thompson has set up his own place and The Hambrough currently just serves breakfast and afternoon tea. There’s also a relaxing bar where you can enjoy a freshly made cocktail of the day or a cup of coffee.
I have a few friends who are regular visitors to the Isle of Wight so I had plenty of recommendations. One resounding choice that I heard a few times was a place called The Hut in Colwell Bay Freshwater so I went ahead and booked it for Friday night dinner. It was a good forty minute taxi journey away but with such strong recommendations, we decided it was worth it.
The Hut is located right on the beach, you can even sail right up to it an anchor off the restaurant… I can imagine it would be utterly lovely in good weather but unfortunately wind and rain battered the side of the restaurant and they had to close off the windows. Otherwise, as the name suggests, it had the feel of a charming beach hut and it would have been fab sitting on the roof with the sun beaming through. But even though we were on an island, this is still England and we had to put up with the great British weather! Fortunately the food made up for the rain and we chose some starters to share of spicy prawns and chorizo, sardines and fish tacos with halibut, tempura samphire, tomato salsa and mayo – all excellent.
For main course, Mr S went for the most delicious lemon sole whilst my whole sea bass was perfectly cooked.
Desserts were vanilla creme bruleé for me and warm chocolate brownie with raspberry curd and vanilla ice cream.
The next day breakfast at The Hambrough was delightful, I think you can tell alot about a place by their breakfast and the bread was a gorgeous crisp sourdough served with perfect dippy eggs. After a good brekkie we set off to explore Ventnor…
As I mentioned, The Hambrough is found in a row of pretty pastel town houses, if you turn the corner you get to the high street, and if you go down the hill you get to the beach.
The High Street is only small but you’ll find lots of shops and little restaurants plus places to collect souvenirs.
Otherwise you can head down the hill to take a walk along the sandy shingle beach or the esplanade where you’ll find plenty of cafes and restaurants.
At the end of the parade is the Spyglass with a view right out to sea.
We stopped there for a coffee and flake (as is the Great British tradition) but I have to say I wasn’t too impressed by the food that I saw coming out. Instead we found somewhere on the parade for lunch.
Lunch at the Smoking Lobster turned out to be an excellent idea. Another whole sea bass, this time with an Asian style sauce, a crisp basket of fries, and a glass of rosé. We were really lucky with the weather and apparently the Isle of Wight is one of the sunniest places in the UK! We didn’t have time to do much around as I had an afternoon hair appointment and honestly we were a bit stuck without a car. We had to get taxis everywhere which just took ages and cost quite a bit.
After my hair we had another quick walk around the seafront before heading back to the hotel to get ready for the party that night. I dressed as a unicorn whereas Mr S went as a ‘dark horse’ the party was so much fun and very drunken. We met lots of other people who had holiday homes on the Isle of Wight and had been coming back for years! After a late night we missed breakfast so shared a hangover cheese panini at a place called the Bistro in Ventnor.
Before we left there was time for one last seafood lunch and I’d booked a place called The Little Gloster (as recommended by Colleen). Again it was a bit of a distance but I wanted to end the trip on a high note rather than grabbing something quick before we left. It is much easier to get around IOW if you have your own car but it was very quick to get there by train, if I was coming for a longer holiday I might have hired a car. The restaurant has actually been awarded ‘Restaurant of the Year’ in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight and featured in the Michelin Guide and Good Food Guide 2018 so it’s well worth the drive.
The Little Gloster has a beautiful beach front location and a bright and airy beach-style interior with a Scandinavian influence. Though once again we were bearing the brunt of bad weather and weren’t able to take a table outside with a view of the beach.
Again we shared some delicious nibbles including salt ‘n pepper squid, scampi and crab cakes.
For main course, Mr S couldn’t help going full British bulldog and ordering battered halibut and chips with mushy peas. Whereas I opted for a half lobster and fries which just utterly perfect.
We were actually did so well with our food choices over the weekend and didn’t have a bad meal!
Unfortunately limited time, no car and bad weather meant we didn’t get a chance to explore much more of the Isle of Wight but we really loved what we did see and do and we’ll certainly be back!
Have you been to the Isle of Wight?
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