At the end of June, Mark's school friend and his lovely fiancée got hitched on the Isle of Wight. We drove down to Southampton and ferried across to the island the day before, ensuring a leisurely, rather than crack-of-dawn start on the day of the wedding.
Accommodation was scant in the town closest to the venue by the time we booked, but we secured ourselves a room at The Fishbourne Inn, in Ryde. We decided to make the most of the long weekend by choosing a hotel near the sea, so any free time could be spent exploring. A handy 'coastal path' (Quarr Lane) started right outside The Fishbourne, which conveniently led straight to the church in Binstead: a pleasant 30 minute stroll on the wedding day, cunningly avoiding the nightmarish parking situation in the village. Along this same path are some fantastic historical spots, namely Quarr Abbey, which has a tea rooms, some animals and an orchard. Mark was thrilled to discover the pig pens on his early morning walk, as he practised his reading for the service.
So, lovely location we'd chosen. How was The Fishbourne?
Part of the Inns of Distinction Group on the Isle of Wight, The Fishbourne boasts "quality dining and beautifully appointed en-suite rooms". To test this assertion, on our day of arrival we decided we would eat there before heading out to meet friends for a drink. The stars seemed to have aligned to plant us there on "moules and frites night", which is exactly what we fancied as it turns out. The mussels special is an annual occurance I think, and saw the place filling up with locals and visitors alike. It was recommended that we reserve a table, as sauntering downstairs when we got peckish in the evening might have left us disappointed.
The menu is made up of usual pub fare, with a few fancier additions. I don't knock pub grub in the slightest - I love scampi and chips as much as the next daytime drinker - and from what I could glean, there was a strong inclusion of local and speciality produce: even the beef burger was topped with IOW blue cheese. However, all this talk of mussels made it an easy decision.
There was a choice of 3 sauces for our mussels, but we opted for the traditional 'moules marinière', which is cream, white wine, garlic, onion, and parsley. I think there may have been a slight kick of chilli in there, too. They were very tasty, with no duds, and were served with locally baked soft brown bread and salt-and-peppered fries. My only gripe was that Mark seemed to have accumulated a lot of the escapee mussels from my empty shells in his dish. Luckily he's good to me, and shared his glut of molluscs. Not really a dig at the chef though - hard to see those little blighters in the creamy sauce when you're plating up.
Dessert was nothing to write home about, but it wasn't bad. I had a lemon tart with raspberry sorbet, and Mark a kiwi and mixed berry Eton Mess. Sweet and fruity, both. As far as pubs go, we thought the food was fairly accomplished and nicely presented.
The breakfast is pretty good, if you're staying over. The 'continental' elements of cereal and yoghurt are very basic, but presumably most guests opt for the hot menu, anyway. I had a traditional full English both mornings, because why the hell not? Mark was feeling a little tequila-tender the day after the wedding, so he went for the smoked poached haddock on a toasted bloomer with an egg. Unfortunately his yolk was overcooked, which is always a downer, but the fish was lovely and moist.
Our room at the inn was comfortable and pleasantly decorated, in that twee, seaside kind of way; a theme that continued throughout the hallway and presumably the other rooms. We slept well, and on a hot weekend we very much appreciated the thoughtful addition of a large fan. The layout was a bit awkward in places. There was a very large day bed, for example. It was nice for lounging on with a book, but blocked access to the spare plug sockets near the bed. The en-suite bathroom looked a bit old and cheaply fitted, and the bath had a crack in the side. I also have to mention that the complimentary tea and coffee selection was pants; Nescafé Original is the WORST (although points for the lotus biscuits -- well, 0.5 points, because they weren't replenished on day 2). I would say the biggest faux pas by this 'Inn of Distinction' however, was the distinct absence of Wi-Fi. Need I say more?
We certainly weren't disappointed by the Fishbourne, but we weren't blown away by the experience. The rate for bed and breakfast is £119 a night for our King room, and upon writing this and recalling other places we've stayed, I'm not convinced it was worth that. We wouldn't not recommend it; the location and the pub are lovely, but having stayed there once, I think we'd try somewhere else the next time we find ourselves on The Island.
The Fishbourne, Ryde, Isle of Wight
N.B. We booked and paid for our stay and meal at The Fishbourne ourselves, and all opinions are our own.