Pre-dinner drinks in the sun at Steve's Bar followed by a meal to remember at 33 St Helens makes Phil Sampson a happy diner indeed.
The weather was perfect and we were looking forward to a long weekend on the Isle of Wight. Lockdown wasn’t quite over thanks to Boris’s extension, but no matter; we were in Bembridge, intent on a good time.
It’s been a couple of years since we last visited the Duver Marina and my recollections were of a relaxed spot where the clock was in no hurry to tick. So encountering Steve’s Bar came as something of a very pleasant surprise.
Steve’s Bar – the delightfully quirky premises of which are perhaps best described as part shipping container and part packing crate – has been built to enhance the Bembridge experience.
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Throughout our stay it was well patronised by appreciative boaters chilling to the soft music emanating from the bar and enjoying a fine selection of beers, wines and spirits, all of which are produced on the island.
Following a pint of Goddard’s Fuggle-Dee-Dum for me and a generous glass of Adgestone Oaked White for Mrs S, we crossed the Duver’s causeway and strolled up the hill for a meal in 33 St Helens, another popular venue for visiting boaters.
In midsummer the evening sun streams into the restaurant’s light interior, and bathed in a golden glow we feasted on asparagus risotto with parmesan and pancetta crumb, and battered monkfish tail with yuzo mayo, pea shoots and capers. Both were delicious and beautifully presented.
For mains, Mrs S chose bream fillet with basil mash, fennel and orange salad, while I opted for an Isle of Wight sirloin steak. Both were cooked to perfection. 33 St Helens is run by a young couple, Tom and Clare, chef and front-of-house manager respectively, who despite their tender years (by my standards, at least) each have 20 years’ experience in the hospitality sector.
They’ve previously worked as far afield as London and Thailand, and their enthusiasm and professionalism shines through, both in their menu and the restaurant setting they have created in premises of decidedly modest proportions.
Visit Bembridge and I’ll wager you’ll want to visit Steve’s Bar and 33 St Helens, too. But do remember to book the restaurant well in advance. At the time of writing, Steve’s Bar is only open three days a week – so make sure you plan ahead to share in what for us was a hugely memorable experience.
Getting to 33 St Helens by boat
Bembridge is approached via a narrow channel with a harbour bar limiting access to vessels drawing 1.5m to High Water, plus or minus three hours. Visitors’ berths at the Duver Marina, (Ch 80, Tel: 01983 872828), which is a popular venue for weekend events and rallies throughout the season – so just like 33 St Helens, advance booking is essential.
Cost: £100 for two, based on a three-course dinner and a bottle of wine. The cost at Steve’s Bar depends on how long you stay there!
Times: Steve’s Bar is open Friday – Sunday 1200-1900 (1600 Sunday), while 33 St Helens is open Wednesday – Sunday 1800-2300 (1500 Sunday)
Verdict: Try having a drink at Steve’s Bar and not smiling as you watch the sun go down over the Duver – impossible! Follow with a meal at 33 St Helens to finish a perfect night.
MBY rating: 5/5 (based on food/drink, ambience and value for money)
Contact Steve’s Bar: 01983 872828; www.bembridgeharbour.co.uk
Contact 33 St Helens: 01983 872303; www.33-st-helens.co.uk