“ The Spyglass Inn, Esplanade, Ventnor, Isle of Wight.Tel: +44 (0)1983 855 338 „
The other reviewers must be nuts. This place serves some of the worst food I've ever had. Go for a drink and then have a picnic non the beach.
A week's camping holiday in the Isle of Wight, and as good as an excuse as any to try out some different eating experiences. I had seen a brief glimpse of the Spyglass Inn in the Island tourist magazine, but have to confess it was not the reason that we called in for our first visit.
The pub is situated on the Esplanade at Ventnor, a popular tourism spot, with fantastic views over the English Channel. It was exactly these views that captured our attention and we decided to give it a go for our anniversary luncheon.
The pub itself is privately owned and provides extensive outdoor and indoor seating for dining and drinking. As well as ample seating in front of the hotel itself, there is an adjoining building called The Boathouse, which is also available for dining - inside and out. This means the Spyglass can cope with the busier summer crowds.
The entrance sign - Well Behaved Dogs and Muddy Boots Welcome - certainly lets you know that there is no air of pretentiousness at the Spyglass but a place where everyone is welcome, families or couples, and all day dining is certainly a bonus, especially as this is not the normal kind of chain food all day dining experience.
That said, there was a bit of a breeze on both occasions when we ate there last week, and you'll need a good fleece at this time of the year if you want to enjoy your meal out of doors. There are three separate tables which are slightly protected by the weather due to the design of the porch and these are definitely the prime seats for this time of year.
On to the food itself, and a brief glimpse of the menu at the entrance had done enough to assure me that we would find something to enjoy, there is plenty of choice for casual dining. Seafood dominates the main menu, with the Captain's Platter and Admiral's Platter being the most expensive dishes, the latter seafood festival coming in at £60 for two and requiring 24 hours notice. However you cannot get more local with lobster and crab being caught in the bay.
On my first visit I opted for Scampi and chips, something quite traditional, and I was not disappointed, for just under £10 I had a huge portion of scampi, so much so that I could not even manage most of the chips! Hubby had the home made fisherman's pie, which contained white fish, smoked fish and prawns, and was covered with a good layer of potato and cheese. The content of the pie itself was absolutely packed with fish, and again this was just under £10.
It is the view itself which makes Spyglass so appealing, although the food was excellent as well. It is a place where you can easily spend a couple of hours catching your breath, people watching, enjoying a hearty meal, and just watching the boats go by on the horizon. The pub was absolutely packed out for lunch, and again when we went for an evening meal a few days later, which is always a good testimony as many restaurants in the town were not yet open for the season (visited April 2010).
As well as seafood, there are other pub grub options including steaks, an ample range of burgers, vegetarian options and lighter bights such as baguettes. On my second visit I opted for Macaroni Cheese with Crusty bread and salad, and this was to die for, while hubby opted for a chilli burger.
On our second visit, we initially secured our original seats outside, but decided it was a bit nippy and we opted to dine in the Boathouse itself. The Boathouse and the pub itself are full of nautical memorabilia in keeping with the location.
There is limited parking directly outside the pub itself, although there is a car park about 85 yrds up the hill. (pay and display)
If the view isn't enough to keep you occupied, then there is often live music playing in the evening or even at the busy lunchtimes, and details are available on the up to date website (www.spyglassinn.com)
All in all, this was perhaps my favourite dining experience of my time on the Islands, and given the breadth of the menu choice I am sure it will be appealing to most.
As a coastal town which relies heavily on the tourist industry, Ventnor on the Isle of Wight has its fair share of pubs and restaurants. Whilst some of these eateries produce a top quality dining experience, others fall into the realms of mediocrity. I'm happy to report that 'The Spyglass Inn' is one of the better venues in in the town in which to enjoy a decent meal.
Situated in a prime location directly overlooking a vast expanse of open sea, the Spyglass really has a spectacular setting. Look to your left and you'll see Ventnor's splendid Victorian seafront, whilst the view directly ahead of you is of the English Channel. In fact, if you face a certain direction, there is an unbroken stretch of water leading all the way to South America!
The building itself is architecturally nothing special, but it's pleasant enough, and has a terraced frontage with outside seating. In terms of its history, the building dates back to around 1830 (making it one of the oldest on the Esplanade), and for many years it was frequented by smugglers who had come across from France with a range of contraband.
Stepping through the doors of the establishment and taking a look around, you will instantly notice the nautical theme; walls are covered with sea-faring memorabilia ranging from antique brass ship compasses and assorted boat parts, to ancient looking maps and other related documents. Although fairly small, the pub houses a few different rooms, each one with its own unique character.
The Spyglass often has a selection of entertainment in the evenings, and there is frequently a pianist, and occasionally a folk-style group to entertain diners. This helps to create a decent atmosphere, and the venue is generally full of life.
Of course, being a pub / restaurant review, I should probably mention the food - and I'm happy to report that The Spyglass produces a selection of decent quality home cooked meals. Ranging from sandwiches and baguettes, to steaks and Salads, the extensive menu should have something for everyone. As it's a popular place to come and eat, the food prices are in some instances a little high - the most expensive (prawn) baked potato, for example, comes to just under £9 - which is perhaps a wee bit steep. In fairness, you do get what's basically a plate full of food, even with the smaller snacks, and even the humble baguette comes with a salad and tortilla chips.
Specialising in seafood, The Spyglass prides itself on using fresh produce in its meals - and usually the crab and prawn dishes are succulent and delicious. As I previously mentioned, the menu offers a range of traditional pub foods, and the portions are of a decent size. It's not fancy food - just good quality, nicely cooked fare which is (most importantly) very tasty.
The waiting times are usually perfectly reasonable, although obviously this depends on how many people are in the pub, and the time of day. There is a message on the menu which says that the food isn't rushed to the tables - but in my personal experience, service has always been prompt.
In terms of the drinks, the bar is well stocked, and has a good selection of real ale's to choose from for the beer enthusiasts. There is also a varied wine list, and all the usual soft drinks. The waiting staff are all very friendly, and this always helps to create a welcoming atmosphere.
If you're interested in visiting The Spyglass, you can find directions on the website at www.thespyglass.com. When arriving by car, parking couldn't be easier - there's the spacious 'La Falaise' cark park right next door. In fact, the sea-facing side of the car park wall houses a number of lizards which can be seen darting in and out of the cracks between the rocks in the summer months.
All in all, I recommend The Spyglass Inn as a pleasant and relaxing venue in which to eat out. The traditional and tasty food, combined with the excellent views across the sea, makes the pub well worth a visit. In terms of its opening hours, The Spyglass in open all day from 10:30am to 11:00pm, and food is served from 12 noon to 9:30pm.
Tel: 01983 855 338