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Isle of Man. Anything worthwhile?


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Such a shame that so beautiful an island has so little to offer.

I would suggest the obvious: manx kippers. The Harbour Lights Cafe on the front at Peel will serve you a nice plate full and there is a smokehouse you can visit by the quays there.

Edited by Chaihana Joe (log)
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I had a look at a food and travel issue from last year. They had a feature on the Isle of Man. The places they suggested were

14 North

Harbour Lights

Tanroagan

The Abbey

Velvet Lobster

I haven't been since I was about five so have no clue if these places are any good though.

Martin

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  • 4 months later...

GALLERY RESTAURANT AT THE SEFTON HOTEL (DOUGLAS)

With two AA Rosettes, the Gallery is one of the island’s better restaurants. Although, truth be told, that may not be saying a lot, but there’s solid, if hardly creative, cooking going on.

The room is pretty dismal and I doubt you’d ever think you were anywhere other than a hotel restaurant. The sort of hotel restaurant that had its heyday in the first half of the 20th century.

The amuse was just odd. A fruity water ice. Overly sweet, it may have worked as a pre-dessert but, at the beginning of the meal, it was plain wrong.

I was tempted to say that the “spicy” tomato and red pepper soup did exactly what it said on the tin, although it was clearly better made than any tinned product. A little under-seasoned and with no evidence whatsoever of the “spicy”, it was pleasant enough in itself but could have been much better. Twice baked cheese soufflé was good, if a little solid, with a punchy cheesy flavour. An excellent tomato chutney (presumably homemade) was the better of the two accompaniments – the other, a plum sauce, was overly sweet, just as the amuse had been.

For a main, there was a large fillet of grilled halibut which was skilfully cooked. It sat on some wilted spinach and was decorated with a couple of king prawns and a scattering of crayfish tails and broad beans. The garlic veloute was nothing of the sort and was, at best, a spoonful of underflavoured broth.

Beef stroganoff is a very retro dish, for me dating back 40 years or more. I don’t think I’ve seen it on a menu in the last two decades. And to complete the retro styling, it was cooked in a sort of Gueridon service style. Cooked in the restaurant but round a corner, out of sight of most of the tables. With no showmanship, you have to wonder why they bother. The beef was Manx and perfectly fine but, yet again, the sauce was underpowered. Oh, I mustn’t forget the vegetables which came on a half moon plate – all very 1980s, including serving them up all but raw.

Not a thrilling experience.

John Hartley

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THE ABBEY, BALLASALLA

We went with no great expectations but it was one of those places that, as soon as you sit down, you know you’ve picked a good ‘un. There’s staff who just exude hospitality and competence in their craft. And there’s a good looking “modern Brit” menu, heavily featuring Manx produce.

Seemingly unusual for the island, my scallop starter featured kings, instead of the almost ubiquitous queenies which seem to appear in some form or another on just about every menu. Here, three big fat juicy specimens, grilled on their shell, with roe attached, were pretty much perfect. Each had been given a good slosh of hazelnut butter, the little nibs of nut adding a pleasant texture contrast. Pork and pistachio terrine was also pretty good. Perhaps a little light on seasoning for my partner’s taste but there was compensation in the kitchen made piccalilli.

Sometimes, all you really want to eat is something simple. As in steak, chips and salad. Sirloin seasoned and cooked perfectly. Chips properly chip sized and cooked to an excellent semi-crisp, just retaining a little floppiness. But it was the simple green salad that was a star. An interesting selection of leaves, grown organically only a couple of miles away and delivered daily to the restaurant. A good dressing that might have been improved by a dollop of mustard. But, overall, a lovely plate of food.

My own plate was described as a pork Wellington and was, to my mind, superbly crafted. Generally crisp pastry (a bit soggy on the underside) enclosed some loin. Topping that was a layer of shredded Savoy cabbage, which was itself topped with shredded ham hock. The Wellington was pretty much a complete dish in itself but there was a single fondant potato and a nice sweetish cider/cream sauce which worked well

It’s not fancy cooking but it is good cooking. The sort of place which you wished existed near where you live.

John Hartley

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MILLENIUM SAAGAR, DOUGLAS

The options for dinner on the Isle of Man become quite limited on a Sunday. All the places that get regularly tipped are closed. It pretty much leaves you with a choice between pizza and curry. I’d spotted this place had been a finalist in the British Curry Awards. Now, I’ve come across a couple of restaurants that have also been finalists and know them to be pretty decent in their differign ways - places like Lasan in Birmingham, Prashad and Zouk from Bradford and Indian Ocean from Ashton under Lyne. But this was about to be a disappointment.

“Spicy” aubergine was anything but spicy. But it was a pleasant enough dish of aubergine and tomato cooked for a considerable time so the result was a thick, almost puree like, texture. It came with a chapatti.

The lack of spice and seasoning was going to be a recurring theme here. Not just the lack of heat from chilli but there was none of the zing you might have hoped for from ginger, coriander or the other regularly used south asian spices. And it was an issue that was about to present itself in both of my partner’s dishes. She tends to become a vegetarian in asian places where she doesn’t know the cooking, avoiding the common curry house problem of lamb insufficiently cooked and being overly chewy. So, a starter of stuffed green pepper. The stuffing was a mix of mainly root veg but it was boring – the sort of cheap meal you’d find in a cookbook called “1001 ways with pepper”. She hoped a thali would buck things up but it didn’t really. Presentation and the content was good. Three dishes –a daal, a potato/spinach and a third featuring the same root veg from the starter. There was good rice and a chapatti, but again almost no spicing or seasoning. If Vesta had made a frozen thali in the 1970s, then this would have been it.

My own main was better. Chicken tikka covered in a tomato curry sauce and topped with slightly softened slices of garlic. Although there was some heat in there, it was nothing like the menu warning that the dish was “quite hot” – in fact I think ti was the only dish on the menu to come with any heat warning. Perhaps it’s just that their regular customers have different expectations from their curry houses.

So, a very unthrilling curry house meal. Beats me how they get to be an award finalist let alone win “Best in the North West” in 2011.

John Hartley

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TANROAGAN, DOUGLAS

There will be many places that would be envious of Tanroagan’s ability to put bums on seats on a Monday evening. Arriving five minutes early for an eight o’clock reservation, the place was packed and it was agreed we might like to have a walk round the block and spend a few minutes looking at the harbour. Once we back, things were a bit dilatory for a while. Whilst menus were proffered fairly quickly, it was knocking on 30 minutes before aperitif orders were taken and few minutes more before we got to order food. However, once on their system, everything was fine.

The menu is pretty much exclusively seafood, which also made up the content of their two specials boards – one lobster related, the other mainly brill and sole.

Crab toasties were one starter. A mix of the crab, mayo, cream cheese and a splash of soy, giving it an interesting savoury note. This was a goodly portion, piled onto ciabatta and stuck under the grill for a minute or so. A little well dressed salad sat on the side.

Manx queenies appeared in both of my dishes. Firstly, in a couple of thick pancake fritters, made very poky with coriander and chilli. A standard (presumably bottled) sweet chilli dipping sauce worked well.

For a main, I ordered the seafood gratin and was very happy with what came. A large gratin dish – almost dinner plate sized – filled with a mix of the scallops, cod, monfish, smoked haddock and, I think, bass. There was a good cheesy, winey sauce and a sprinkling of breadcrumbs (which I would have liked to be thicker). The waitress had correctly warned that this was a substantial dish but, depending on how hungry I was, I might like some chips. Well, of course, I’d like some chips. And they were pretty good.

My partner had looked to the lobster specials and spotted the classic thermidor. There’s a reason why it’s a classic. It really is just a very delicious plate of food. The whole lobster, split open, with the rich béchamel spiked with brandy and mustard. It really must be time for this retro dish to have its revival. Chips on the side as well as some dressed salad leaves.

All in all, a very pleasant evening.

John Hartley

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