The Man and the Dog.
Weekends are great. Of course weekends are great. Everyone loves weekends. And what part of the weekend does everyone love the most? Yes that’s right. You’ve got it. Sundays. Lovely long lazy Sundays. And the single most important thing that makes Sundays so great? Why of course it’s the holy, venerable, magnificent… Sunday roast. Where would the world be without the Sunday roast?
I love a Sunday roast.
When first introduced to my in-laws, many, many moons ago, the number one culinary shock for this boy from the Black Country has to have been Taramasalata:
‘Ar, they gid me some pink stuff called tarasatomata, I think it wuz fish eggs! It wuz bostin tho, fair play.’
But a close second was the revelation that they didn’t ALWAYS have a roast on a Sunday. Sometimes they just had a normal dinner! I mean, how crazy is that? Surely that way madness lies? How is anyone supposed to know what day it is? When does one week end and the next begin?
As a result, whenever I get a chance I try to remedy this lunacy by suggesting that we incorporate a pub roast into our Sundays when I’m hanging with the in-laws on the Island of Love, a.k.a the Isle of Wight.
We chose this pub because we’d driven past it recently and spotted that it had been given a bit of a makeover. Obviously someone had decided to show it a bit of love, and it’s always good to support that kind of thing. The other reason, (blatant ‘shout out’ alert!), was that we’d heard that they were displaying and selling art work on the walls by En Brogue‘s cousin The Wight Pencil. If they’re supporting ‘da family’ then we can at least eat their roast.
Inside, the place was buzzing. Clearly in a short space of time they’d already begun to generate a good rep. We were shown to our table and Grenson made himself comfortable.
The mother-in-law was impressed straight off the bat by the fact that they offered a smaller plate for £9. She has a very small appetite, which generally sees her ordering starters instead of mains…then of course, hovering over everyone else’s main for a little taster once her starter is devoured.
She once ordered a child’s Sunday roast and confidently proclaimed ‘If I’m still hungry I could always try a little bit from all of yours’; as she said this and looked around the table for signs of acquiescence to the deal, she locked eyes with me. I steadily and calmly informed her that ‘If you try to take anything from my plate I will stab you in the hand with my fork’. I was very ‘hangry’ at the time, and as I have made clear, I do like my Sunday roast…our relationship has never been the same since, sorry Mother-in-law you’re the best…just don’t try to touch my food!
Anyway, for me it was obviously going to be the full size £12 version, and when it arrived at the table, holy flip, it was a work of pure genius!
Now, I’m pretty good at cooking a pork dinner, even if I do say so myself. But you don’t have to just take my word for it. My dad claims that the pork roast I once made for him was ‘really good, the best he’s ever had’. To put this praise into context my dad’s usual level of critique for any meal ranges from ‘it was alright’ to ‘it was alright’. If you listen carefully there is a slight difference.
So I know a good pork dinner when I see one and this was a good pork dinner. Generous servings of pork with a very agreeable amount of crunchy crackling, parsnips (which I’m not that keen on usually but these were good), fantastic fluffy potatoes and lashings of gravy ( I do like a lot of gravy, fill the boat up, don’t be stingy). Then on the side, red and green cabbage, cauliflower cheese and those lovely little carrots you only really get with a pub lunch. There was no way anyone was going to be leaving this table anything less than full to the brim.
Oh, and just take a look at those Yorkshires! Take a second or two to really appreciate their beauty. That is pleasure on a plate right there! That, my friends, IS Sunday! If only there really were such a thing as a month of Sundays. What a dream scenario? I could have this for lunch every day for a month!!
But do not fear. Whatever day you’re reading this you can be sure that you’re not far away from a Sunday. That’s the beauty of them: you get one every week. So no excuses. Gather the family, put your walking boots on and loosen your belts, then head to the Portland for ‘the best pub Sunday roast ever’ – En Brogue’s verdict – and you may even feel like picking up some art whilst you’re there.
Just remember, if you see me there tucking into a roast…don’t try to take any of my food!
The Man and the Dog.
Ok I’ll admit it. I have written about this place before. I apologise (but it is a good’un).
Way back at the beginning of summer a company called Wight Locations asked me to do a guest blog post for their website. Grenson and I compiled our top 6 cafe/restaurants on the Isle of Wight for dogs …. well not quite for dogs, more for hoomans that are with dogs, but you know what I mean.
If you look hard enough you may be able to still find it somewhere out there on the world wide web.
Anyway, as I was looking through old piccies I came across the ones that I had taken for that blog post and quite frankly it made me nostalgic for those heady days of summer. (Listen, Christmas is over, all I’ve got immediately ahead of me is never ending months of darkness. I need something to look forward to!)
One of the places we visited jumped out at me as we had recently been back there after a nice long Christmas walk (to the pub). On that occasion I had a delicious coffee and walnut cake with a top quality flat white to wash it down. (Which reminds me, I also have lots of trips to the gym to schedule in during this season of gloom).
However, I don’t want to talk about cosy winter walks and warming coffee and cake (not today anyway), I want to take us all back to the days of crickets in the long grass, of swallows dive bombing in the blue skies, and of ice cubes slowly melting in late evening drinks. Let’s all go back to summertime!
(Cue: wavy fade back to the past).
I mean!! Look at us!! I’m wearing shorts and t-shirt and jauntily hanging shades around my neck. Grenson is panting from the heat. There is even a hint of colour on my face rather than my current deathly pallor.
Good times. Hot summer good times.
And where are we enjoying this glorious sunny afternoon? Why, the wonderful ‘Off the Rails‘ cafe in Yarmouth, of course.
This place pretty much has everything.
Its location is a dream for dog walkers. Grenson and I are particularly fond of the trek along the old railway line from Yarmouth to Freshwater. Keep the river on your right and head away from Yarmouth car park, keeping an eye out for kingfishers along the way. This path eventually leads you to a bridge, at which point if you turn right you’ll come across the Red Lion pub. A perfect place for a refreshment stop (and another place I wrote about for Wight Locations that I may need to revisit in the future for this blog too).
If you then retrace your steps and take a right before the old mill building, you’ll end up back at Off the Rails for further refreshments. After all, it’s always important to stay refreshed when on a walk.
Arriving at this cafe via the old railway path is most fitting, as this place is situated in the old Yarmouth railway station (Off the Rails, see what they did there? Clever).
From the outside it seems like the station has remained untouched since the steam trains were regularly pulling up outside. Indeed, you’ll still find the platform out front, but instead of commuters and tourists hurriedly disembarking, you’ll find diners leisurely munching on cakes and sandwiches.
Inside, the retro railway feel continues with seating booths styled like 1950s carriages complete with luggage racks overhead.
The booths are great in the winter but as we’re time travelling back to summer in this post, take a look below at the seats on the platform. What an idyllic view to enjoy your lunch beside!
Oh, and as if great walks, quirky historic surroundings, delicious coffee, cakes and lunches, all enjoyed beside beautiful countryside views weren’t enough to confirm my assertion that this place has everything, then take a look below. They even have a menu for your pooch!
Of course, with this place open all year round (closed Mondays & Tuesdays except bank holidays) and even open until 10pm on a Friday and Saturday (bookings necessary) there is no reason not to enjoy this special little place any time of the year.
So don’t wait around for the sun to shine (it may be on holiday for sometime yet); head there as soon as you can…you can always make another visit when it’s shorts and T-shirt weather again!
The Man and the Dog..
Much like Feargal Sharkey and his problem with hearts, a good coffee shop can also be hard to find. Of course, that statement doesn’t hold if you happen to reside in a major city. If that’s the case then you’re likely to trip over a trendy barista led establishment at regular points along your walk to work/the shops/the gym/school … do school kids drink coffee? Is there a minimum age? It wouldn’t be right for a ten year old to have an espresso surely? Or are they only interested in fried chicken until the age of 16?
If you don’t happen to be in the big city then, as Feargal almost says, a good coffee can be hard to find. And so it was a very pleasant surprise, whilst wandering around the lovely little town of Yarmouth on the Island (you know me well enough by now, you know my affinity with the Isle of Wight, I think we can start calling it by its more familiar name ‘The Island’) to find a little place called PO41. (See, you can already tell that it’s cool, it’s named after its postcode…like East 17… and you don’t get much more cool than that).
It also happens to be situated in the old post office, so there is possibly a more profound reason for its name, rather than trying to emulate a ’90s boy band…both work for me to be honest.
The coffee they serve up (and also sell as beans or ground for take away) comes from Union hand roasted coffee, and was delicious. They also have an array of quality teas and I’ve heard that the hot chocolate is pretty special. I noticed a blackboard advertising panini and tasty bakes, but unfortunately food wasn’t on my radar. I’d already been in the deli down the road and all I can say about that is, my oh my, their gala pie! (I’m a poet and I didn’t know it).
But apart from all of this deliciousness, what really makes this place stand out for me is the affiliation that they currently have with the local artist Shaun Cuff, also known as The Constant Doodler. His speciality is doodles that are basically one constant line (hence the name). One of his artworks adorns an entire wall of PO41.
It’s very cool. Grenson definitely seemed to like it.
If only he had thumbs. He’d definitely be giving the old thumbs up in the above pic if he had.
And you don’t have to eat in to appreciate the art. He has also done a design for their take away cups. Unfortunately this led to me appearing even more silly than usual. Whilst enjoying my drink on a bench in the square I was following the line on the drawing, amazed at how it had been produced without the need to lift the pen from the page. This involved me, open mouthed, staring at the cup, as I turned it around before my eyes. Before too long some kind lady (also known as a wise ass) came over and informed me gently that ‘it is a paper cup’. I mumbled something about constant doodling and moved on.
Despite the danger of ridicule it’s still a really great design. See above. Again, Grenson seems to be a big fan.
So there you go. Marketing does work. It does on me at least, especially when it’s really good art. Because after all, as Feargal almost said, good art these days is hard to find!
The Man and the Dog.