Ventnor is fast becoming the gourmet capital of the Isle of Wight, and now, at last the lovely Botanic Gardens has a café worthy of its world-renowned status and a talented, charismatic, new chef in Bridget Wells.
The Royal Garden Café is my hot tip for a seasonally inspired lunch or decadent afternoon tea with wicked, oversized meringues and pretty cup cakes that will enchant even the most demanding food aficionado.
Suddenly, there are plenty of reasons to linger by the fountain or the lovely magnolia tree and graze on Bridget’s delicately spiced fishcakes made with local pollock or mackerel and well-dressed, inventive salads that are anything but boring. She has even achieved the near impossible and made trendy quinoa sexy and delicious! Sensibly, Bridget and her clearly happy, young brigade have kept the menu short and the focus is on ensuring the quality, local provenance and appeal of main dishes is just right.
The catch of the day was plaice straight off the boats in Ventnor Haven, and a beautifully presented ploughman’s of home cooked ham, terrine and relish was a hit with my hard to please man who pronounced it ‘food for the eyes as well as the stomach’. In fact lunch was so good that we decided to go off and explore the gardens for an hour before returning to enjoy a perfect cream tea, with fluffy scones, amazing strawberry jam and yes, those infamous meringues, piled enticingly high on the Italian style deli counter.
Bridget, a protége of pastry maestro Steve Bott at The Royal is clearly enchanted by opportunity to conjure up food in such inspiring surroundings and tells me that she is looking forward to working with the head gardener Chris Kidd, and using some of the garden’s seasonal treasures in the new jams, compotes and gourmet breads she is planning in the coming months.
The Royal Garden Café at The Botanic Gardens, Ventnor, Isle of Wight
Tel: 01983 855570
Open: Summer 10am-5pm; Winter weekends 10am-5pm.
For further info: Please telephone the café.