Island Life Magazine Ltd February/March 2007 - Page 65

HEALTH & BEAUTY “Smart” Gastro Fine Dining out! Gastro in.. The Smart Fox is now aiming to be in the top three Island pubs when it comes to Gastro, and I think they may succeed with flying colours! The 17th Century coaching house located in Brading High St - (now The Smart Fox Inn) has had somewhat of a roller-coaster reputation over the years. With new owners now in place we decided to see how it fares today. Firstly we must make something very clear, the Smart Fox is not a training establishment, they do employ a team of full time chefs who are dedicated on producing good local dishes using only the finest ingredients. The Smart Fox is owned and managed by Jan & Dean Hopkinson who are also Directors of SMART Training, an Island training company . Because of this Jan and Dean decided to hold a Smart Lunch Club every Tuesday lunchtime, and for only £8.00 p/h (three courses & coffee) trainee chefs under supervision from Head Chef Phil Hopkins can get first hand experience in dealing and cooking for the public, (similar to the Isle of Wight College scheme). Also once a month on a Tuesday evening they hold a Smart Club Candlelit Dinner £10.00 p/h (Canapes on arrival, three courses & coffee). When Jan and Dean took over they decided to cater for two markets, the front area of the pub allocated to Gastro, and the rear dining room for fine dining, however with the rapid demise of fine dining they are now looking to extend the popular Gastro menu into the rear dining room to accommodate demand. The Smart Fox is a real cosy pub, it has a warm glow about it when you walk in. Open log fire, very clean, tidy and quaint. Parking is a slight problem, but like all pubs and restaurants with this problem, if the food is good I guarantee you will find a parking space, last resort is a taxi of course. There is a small car park to the rear of the pub although you will find a large council car park only three minutes walk up the road towards Ryde, so it’s not a real problem. I simply love good local Gastro food, so how did I find the Smart Fox? The menu is small enough to ensure quality and large enough to suit most peoples tastes. You are offered two menus, a set menu and a specials menu. I found all the favourites on their standard menu such as, Starters: Mushrooms with Garlic, Turkey & Chicken Liver Pate (excellent!) The Famous “Smart Prawn Cocktail”, Crispy Duck Wontons all starter dishes are priced between £5-£6. Moving swiftly onto main dishes there were such delights as Fresh Pasta of the day, Pan Fried Sirloin Steak, Chef’s Sausages, Homemade Pie of the Day, Chargrilled Gammon Island Life - Steak, again all dishes were very reasonably priced between £9-£10. The Specials menu was what I might call a cross between Gastro and Fine Dining, em? Slightly more expensive than the Gastro option on offer that day were starters such as Queen Scallops with Black Pudding & Crispy Bacon, Sesame and Sweet Chilli Beef salad with a sherry vinaigrette price range £5 to £6.00. For the main courses you have the choice of Peppered Fillet Steak with port jus, caramelized red onion & honey roasted new potatoes (£18.50), Marinated Salmon with Chilli & coriander, served with Lime Yoghurt & Bombay potatoes (£13.00). Chicken Supreme stuffed with mushrooms and garlic wrapped in bacon with a mustard and brandy sauce served with Lyonnaise potatoes, (£13.50). The food was cooked well and proved to be real value for money, portion sizes perfect. What diners have to remember is establishments like The Smart Fox are pubs, not restaurants. Too many pubs on the Island try to pass as restaurants, which is a shame because many people like myself like the rela