#CocoEats – Imagine escaping to a beautiful island steeped in sunshine surrounded by lapping water where you can embrace the local history, drink the local gin and eat the most delicious food? Where could you be… The Caribbean, The Balearics or even the Mediterranean? How about the Isle of Wight?
Nestling just a few miles from the mainland, England’s largest island is truly a jewel in her crown and there are certainly Royal connections. The island was a second home to Queen Victoria and family who was so taken by the beauty of the Isle of Wight that they built an opulent summer home there – Osborne House. Filled with lavish artefacts, paintings and grandeur, this palatial palace is open to the public who want a glimpse of Royal life in the Victorian era.
The Isle of Wight is a plethora of restaurants, cafes and bars and is frankly a foodies dream! One of the must-visit places on the island to eat at is The Coast Bar in Cowes where they serve locally sourced, seasonal food in a relaxed and welcoming setting. Guests can opt from a wide range of dishes such as local crab bruschetta, sea bass fillet and moules frites. They also have an impressive drinks list which includes cocktails like raspberry blini, elderflower gin fix and their very own Bloody Mary!
Situated in Ventnor, the histroic Royal Hotel is a great place to enjoy fine dining by the sea, it has the most commanding views over the bay and one of the grandest dining rooms that you could eat in.
Their Table d’hôte menu contains treats such as a Carpaccio of Isle of Wight Beef, quail egg and shallot jam and smoked feta, South Coast crab, avocado mousse, pan-fried sea bream and pork belly. Like with most restaurants on the island, the majority of their produce is locally sourced.
The Little Gloster is a delightful restaurant in Gurnard – just five minutes away from the town of Cowes. Featured in the Michelin Guide and Good Food Guide 2018, It has the most wonderful panoramic sea views of the Solent and you can’t beat sitting down with a crisp glass of white or one of their cocktails gazing into the sea. With dishes such as their Rainbow Chard vegetable rolls, Isle of Wight crab rarebit and that English classic – Fish and Chips, you will be surely spoilt for choice.
With restaurants like The Little Gloster, the Isle of Wight has seen a rise in gastronomy over recent years and probably the best example of this has to be the incredible Thompson’s in Newport which serves contemporary British cuisine in an open kitchen concept. Chef Robert Thompson was the youngest British chef to be awarded a Michelin star. The talented chef takes British classics and gives them a modern makeover with his fabulous tasting menu which includes dishes like ballotine of rabbit and native lobster, pan-fried fillet of john dory, Cornish cuttlefish with local (Arreton Valley) asparagus and barbecued rump of lamb. Each of the dishes in eight-course tasting menu comes with a matching wine flight which includes the likes of Muscadet, Chablis and a rather cheeky Pinot Noir.
As well as its amazing restaurants, the island has garnered a strong reputation for cultivating some incredible local produce such as tomatoes, watercrsss and of course, the food item synonymous with the island – garlic!
The Garlic Farm is certainly worth a visit for either lunch or a light snack. Run by the very inspirational Colin and his family, guests can enjoy a tractor-trailer ride around the farm that is surrounded by the lush fields of the Arreton Valley. Enjoy tasty snacks such as black-garlic ice cream, garlic ale and garlic-vodka (you have to say that you have tried it!). You can even take-home little pots of truffle and garlic oil, garlic mayonnaise and even garlic-infused fudge.
A visit to the island should not be complete without a cheeky drink of Mermaid Gin and why not go one step further and visit their gin distillery? The first of its kind on the island. Utilising ten botanicals such as elderflower, Sicilian lemon and even locally-grown botanicals such as Boadicea hops from the Botanical Gardens in Ventnor and Rock Samphire from the island’s clifftops) the Mermaid Gin along with the slightly potent (but still delicious) Victory HMS gin certainly ticks all the right boxes to a gin aficionado like me.
If you are looking for a relaxing yet luxurious break with some incredible food, why not take a Red Funnel ferry over to the Isle of Wight?
Red Funnel operates regular crossings from Southampton to Cowes. Fares start from £46 for a day return on the vehicle ferry and £10 day return on the hi-speed passenger ferry.