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. Built in 1869 as an ale house, the pub didn’t get a licence to sell wines and spirits until the 1960s. There are always six guest ales from the barrel and two bottled guest ales as well and 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.
The Newport Ale House in Holyrood Street in Newport is a new addition and yet a very traditional style of pub, for drinking and talking with between three and five real ales on tap and a cosy warm atmosphere. There’s no jukebox and no one armed bandits but they do have live music on Sunday afternoons in this small one roomed bar. The pub has a sister hostelry in Cowes, called Cowes Ale House, which has the same ethos of a good pint with camaraderie – you may even get roped into a pub quiz.
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.
Top for… Eating
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 Pointer Inn in Newchurch is consistently good for food – it’s advisable to book a table in advance because they do get very busy. A real traditional country pub that has changed very little over the years, except for upping the stakes with its food.
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?
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.
The Anchor in Cowes has live music from Wednesday to Saturday nights and the Old Comical in Sandown and The Vine in St Helen’s have live music too. The Buddle Inn at Niton have regular live music in the bar and sometimes bands play in the bigger Smuggler’s Barn.
The Black Sheep Bar in Ryde is a good place to catch live music in the cellar bar below the bar/restaurant, although it is sometimes just a club – check the website for details. Added bonus is that IW Festival boss John Giddings has an interest in this bar and puts on some of his acts here from time to time.
Look out especially for JC and Angelina, The Chale Bay Wailers, Riptide, Grizzled Skipper, Pinstripe, Last Orders (Irish), Lucid, Switch and the Wight Hot Pipes (Trad Scottish and power ballads with a rocking beat).