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.
Cantina in Ventnor has been running now since 2012 (I believe it was first situated down on the seafront, before a move to its current location on the high street), but for En Brogue and I, its existence has been a very recent and wonderful discovery.
Be aware that it is only a small place so booking in advance is generally recommended (even for breakfast), but never has the saying ‘good things come in small packages’ been more apt since Kylie fished out her gold hot pants from the back of the wardrobe and began spinning around.
And it’s not just the quantity of good things on offer that is stunning, it’s the quality too.
Let’s start with the bread, as this is what you encounter when first entering the premises.
Now that right there is what you call a table full of bountiful baking. I once left here with ‘bacon bread’. That’s bread with bits of bacon in it! Try to imagine a bacon sandwich made with bread that also has bacon in it!! You’ve got yourself a bacon bonanza on your hands my friend!!!
Then let us move on to the food and drink. You can always rest assured that any place that sells Square Mile coffee is sure to be a quality establishment.
We visited for breakfast and may I highly recommend the slow cooked ham, beans and fried egg with toast as an alternative to the full on fry up, (although from a sneaky peak at the full english that the fella next to me had, that seems pretty damned good too).
En Brogue had the cheddar, emmental, spring onion toastie with tomato jam, and said it was the best cheese toastie … ever! So I think that also counts as a glowing recommendation.
Last but not least, if you look up at the bar area you will soon spot what else Cantina is especially good at.
Any place that has a bar that well stocked is a place that knows how to mix a cocktail. Yes, this place is not just about breakfasts and coffees. It is open until 10pm every day so it’s the perfect place for an evening meal and a cocktail … or five.
I have to admit that I didn’t check whether or not dogs would be welcome in the evening, but Grenson was made to feel more than welcome on our morning visit. He even charmed the waitresses into bringing him a big bowl of water. This was done between the regular ‘fuss sessions’ that Grenson seems particularly good at demanding and receiving from the staff (and most of the customers too) of any establishment that we now visit.
Before I go I just wanted to add a mention for the small cacti that are placed on every table. I do like a quirky little touch like that. So much better than a plastic flower. I’m also partial to merchandise, especially of the mug variety, so you can imagine how much the picture below pleases me.
Rest assured I will report back soon with a definite answer on the level of evening dog friendliness, as come the summer months I will surely need to be trying out their ‘Mexi – jito’ (chilli infused Olmeca Reposado, mint leaves, lemon, agave and Chegsworth apple). Roll on the summer!!
The Man and the Dog.
There has been talk on this blog in the past (see Seaview Hotel post), of a legendary event known as ‘The Family Do’. This is an annual event around Christmas time in which we get together with all of Hannah’s (a.k.a my wife, a.k.a ‘En Brogue‘) maternal side of the family (aunties, uncles, cousins, second cousins, friends, maybe a few passers by just swept along for the ride) and eat, drink, and at some point all join in on badly coordinated Greek dancing (Nanny was Greek you see, but I’m not sure traditional Greek dancing is something that is passed down in the genes!). This has now become a tradition that has been going strong for over 40 years … (we really should have mastered the steps to Zorba the Greek by now).
If you’ve read the post on The Seaview Hotel you’ll know that it was the venue for my introduction to The Family Do. You’ll also know that I’m a big fan of the place. But it’s nice to spread the love, and after a few different venues in the ensuing years, this year we opted for The Three Buoys for Grenson’s own introduction to ‘da family’. (Luckily for him he didn’t have to partake in the slippery nipples … don’t ask!).
And what a great venue it was for his first do?
I mean, what’s not to like?
Let’s start with the food and drink.
Firstly they serve ‘Curious Brew‘ on tap! For anyone who hasn’t come across this, it’s an English lager that is re-fermented using Champagne yeast (it’s as luxurious as it sounds!). As for the cocktails? You’ll need half an hour just to choose from their selection of delicious gins. Secondly, the food is simply excellent. Hannah and I had amazing starters of floured calamari with fennel, beetroot and orange vinaigrette; and chicken liver parfait with blackberry, pickled veg salad and toasted garlic croutes, (both can be seen in the picture above). We each had braised beef brisket for our main course and chocolate brownie for dessert, which unfortunately didn’t make it into the photo collage above as we both ate them too quickly!
Now lets move on to the location.
The restaurant is set above a little cafe that sells plastic beach ware and ice creams, but if you ascend the stairs at the side of the building you’ll come to the restaurant with its balcony that takes in the full panoramic view of Appley Beach. You may think that this beach sounds familiar? Well that is because it’s the same beach where The Dell Cafe can be found. Yes, that’s right. At one end of this beach is Dell’s and at the other The Three Buoys. In between you have what feels like endless beach (especially when the tide goes out for a mile twice a day) and if you’re not up for walking on that (or the summer restrictions for dog walking are in place), then you can find Appley Park set back from the beach, behind the row of beach huts. Trust me, I have walked the entire coast of the Island and this is without doubt the best 1km stretch you’re going to find!
No wonder Grenson spent most of his time on the balcony staring out at the beach longingly! “When can we go on there again?!? when can we? when?!?”.
Finally, let’s talk about the atmosphere. Whether you are a couple looking for a romantic meal, a family with kids, a man and a dog, or a giant extended family of (questionable) Greek dancers, the welcome is always warm. The staff, led by husband and wife team Tim and Emma, are knowledgable and ever attentive (we once witnessed one staff member welcome a visiting French couple and wait on them all night whilst speaking fluent French -you don’t often get that kind of service in this country).
The Three Buoys has only been running for a couple of years but with lots of hard work this great team have managed to establish it as one of the top culinary destinations on the Island. And now of course it also has The Family Do seal of approval!
For Grenson, his first time meeting all of the family was a little tiring, (I felt a bit tired and emotional myself!), but we both look forward to many more return visits to the Three Buoys … as long as The Family Do hasn’t gained us a lifetime ban!!
The Man and the Dog.
It is fair to say that The Seaview Hotel is nothing short of an Isle of Wight institution. For many years now it has been winning awards for its accommodation and dining. It is also the ‘home of the crab ramekin’ – a kind of cheesy, crabby, pot of goodness not to be missed.
However, on a more personal level it is special to me for two reasons. Firstly, it was the location of my introductory experience to my wife’s, ‘Family Christmas Do’ (a legendary affair and real baptism of fire for any fresh faced young boyfriend being introduced to the future in-laws!).
On that day I was familiarised with a game that I have taken part in on many subsequent occasions. So in turn, I feel at this point it is my duty to introduce you all to ‘The Generals’. If you visit this establishment and happen to be male (sorry girls, I don’t make the rules), when taking a trip to the loo you will find a picture of 5 Generals (it’s that kind of place, just go with it). Anyone who can return to their table and recite the names of all of the generals, and the poem dedicated to them, word for word, has clearly not drunk enough and must go to the bar immediately … alternatively if you return and fail to recount the names and poem word for word, then this can only mean that you have clearly not drunk enough and must go to the bar immediately. Warning: this can be a very costly game for both your wallet and liver!
The second reason is that it was the place that Hannah and I spent our first night as a married couple. It was the perfect place to end our big day, and now that I know that they provide dog friendly rooms, a return visit for all three of us may be on the cards next anniversary (hint, hint, Hannah!).
So this is a place with much sentimental value. But aside from all that, for me, it has always been the back bar – ‘The Pump Bar’ – that has been my favourite part of The Seaview Hotel. The rest of the hotel is very sophisticated with the large main restaurant serving up dishes good enough to be awarded a ‘Michelin Bib Gourmand‘ for 2016, and the less formal ‘Naval Bar’ at the front of the hotel serving bar food in a room modelled on a naval wardroom. But it is when you step into ‘The Pump Bar’, with its open fire, dartboard and local ales, that you step into the real heart of this hotel. In fact, with the wooden floors, seafaring paraphernalia on the walls, and the crackle of the locals’ banter, you begin to feel that you could be in the heart of a vessel voyaging across the seven seas … (especially if you’ve been drinking with The Generals for too long!).
Now that I have visited with Grenson there is a third reason for me to love this place. Because it was here that Grenson made my dreams come true! As I enjoyed my pint of Yates’ Undercliff Experience (one of the many fine ales from the Island that will no doubt be mentioned in full over the lifetime of this blog), Grenson quietly, and without any fuss, curled up at my feet and had a little nap. Thus fulfilling my one desire when deciding to get a dog – that I’d be able to go to pubs with him and he’d be the type of dog that would quietly, and without any fuss, curl up at my feet and have a little nap.
And here is the picture to prove it!
Admittedly we weren’t in leather chairs by an open fire, and I didn’t have a packet of scratchings (that’s the full dream – see Hello post), but you’ve got to leave room for improvement I suppose?
As for The Seaview Hotel, finding any room for improvement there would be pretty difficult if you ask me.
The Man and The Dog.
For any of you planning on becoming regular readers of this blog, be prepared to become accustomed to frequent posts featuring the Isle of Wight. This is down to the fact that my wife Hannah – a.k.a En Brogue – is a ‘Caulkhead’, (that’s what islanders call themselves…actually I think there are strict rules about its use that may require birth certificates of parents to be produced if you attempt to use it in public, but I’m going with it anyway), so we spend a lot of our time down on ‘The Island’ (and if you want to avoid annoying the locals it’s ‘on the island’ not ‘in the island’, En Brogue can get very irate about that one!).
Christmas this year was Grenson’s first visit to The Island, and also coincided with him finally being allowed out for walks; it is no understatement to say that he thought all of his Christmases had come at once!
I was also pretty happy as it meant that Man About a Dog blog could start reviewing some of the many fine Island establishments that I have grown to love over the twenty years I have been visiting. And this first post features one of my very favourites – The Dell Cafe.
Dell Cafe is located at the end of Appley Beach which, when the tide is out, has a mile-long sandbank that Grenson has decided to claim as his own, judging by the barking he did at every other dog walking there. It is run by a fantastic young couple, Ali and Jason, and their equally young and cool staff. During the winter season it draws dog walkers, cyclists and ramblers from miles around who take a break from the bracing Solent air to refuel on steaming cups of coffee and hot sandwiches. In the summer season it is full all day long with sandy holidaymakers sitting outside soaking up the sun and cooling off with an iced lolly/beer.
Did I also mention that they do a mean breakfast?
On most Sunday afternoons during the summer you’ll find one of the many talented young Island musicians playing a laid back acoustic set outside, making it almost impossible to rouse yourself into heading back to ‘the mainland’. However, my very favourite time of the year is high summer when Dell runs evening tapas nights – dishes I always order include the battered squid that tastes like it’s got KFC coating on it (in a really good way!) and the black pudding with pomegranate. Too many times to count I have droned on at friends about the fact that if we’d travelled for hours on a plane to some trendy Mediterranean hotspot and managed to stumble upon an amazing little cafe such as this, we’d have come home and raved about the place to anyone and everyone that would listen. And yet all it’s taken is a 15 minute catamaran journey from Portsmouth to get to The Dell and soak in spectacular views like this.
So here I am, this is me, back from another lovely trip to Dell Cafe and raving on about it to anyone and everyone who will listen.
The Man and the Dog.