Which pub to go to is quite a discerning decision to make here on the Island these days, because there is a pub for all seasons and all tastes.
Gone are the days when you’d get more or less the same on offer in every hostelry. Some pubs are for drinking, some pubs are for eating, some are for music and merriment and if you’re lucky you may find all three. So we pulled together a quick guide to the best places for beer, bands and food across the Isle of Wight.
Top for… Drinking
Real Ale is the name of the game in this category, although ciders are making an inroad. The Volunteer in Ventnor is a drinker’s pub that hasn’t changed in many a long year. In the front bar you can imagine smugglers discussing their latest bootie back in the late 1800’s.
The pub is so small that the clientele often spill out into the side alley or onto the pavement. The old English game of ‘Rings’ is a game played here by the locals, along with darts, and it is only on games nights that food is provided. You’re here for the beer remember.
At the Traveller’s Joy just outside Gurnard eight real ales are on tap in rotation. Their website will tell you the ales of the week, and the list included two local ones when we checked. This is a well known mecca for real ale fans, although they do also do food and have a beer garden.
The Broadway Inn in Totland has its own unique Real Ale created specially by Anthony Goddard of Goddard’s Brewery to celebrate the opening of the post office within the pub called ‘Special Delivery At The Broadway’.
A range of guest ales is always available and all are stored and served ‘straight from the wood’. They hold two beer festivals a year: The Brass Monkey festival during the last week in November and The Spring Madness festival during May, when they have up to 10 guest beers and ales available and offer beer tasters, 10 quarter pints for £10.
The Taverners in Godshill is getting top marks with its local food, beautifully cooked and the enveloping wooden beamed interior, where there is also a shop for buying the ingredients along with local crafts and products.
The New Inn in Shalfleet has been known as a food destination since the seventies, and the waft of Sunday roast filters in through your car window if you drive through Shalfleet on Sunday lunchtime – how can you resist?
For seafood with a view of the sea it’s the Crab and Lobster in Bembridge that hits the mark and now there are tables overlooking the ledge at the edge of the car park, along with window tables inside – book these to guarantee a sea view.
The Red Lion in Freshwater is a fantastic foodie pub where you and your dog will get a warm welcome (dog optional) and the décor is reassuringly traditional. Michael Mence and his crew will have a laugh with you and you’ll pay the price for it – I can reveal no more, suffice to say that there’s fun to be had here along with the fab food, and if you’re a novice to this hostelry you’re in for a treat.
Top for… music
The Sun Inn at Hulverstone favours Saturday nights for its live music in the bar, with well-known and highly talented local artists who’ll get you on your feet.
For a traditional fix there’s a weekly folk session at the Dairyman’s Daughter at Arreton Old Village on a Tuesday evening, hosted by owner Andrew Gibbs with his accordion, along with local bands over the weekends.
Neil Gibbs can sometimes be coaxed into playing his at pub the Spyglass Inn on Ventnor seafront where there are regularly good local bands in the bar and the family also have the Bargeman’s Rest in Newport where there is live music five nights a week.
Look out especially for JC and Angelina, The Chale Bay Wailers, Riptide, Grizzled Skipper, STD, Rachel’s Reason, Last Orders (Irish), Lucid, Council Estate Supermodels, Goodbye Stereo, Switch and the Wight Hot Pipes (Trad Scottish and power ballads with a rocking beat).