* Prices may differ from that shown
There was one final place that we had decided on the fly that we wanted to visit whilst on the Isle of Wight and that was The Garlic Farm. The whole set up interested us as we thought how interesting could this actually be? Well in the two hours we spent there it certainly gave us a feel as to how the object that is a definite problem in the life of the average vampire can be used to such extraordinary effect.
Situated 3 miles South East of Newport and the same from distance North West of Sandown the Farm itself is situated in the deepest of country lanes in the Arreton Valley. The location is not only tranquil but is a place where you seem to be away from literally everything the world can offer such as internet and mobile phone as I found I had no service at all. So after turning off the A3056 as we were heading towards Sandown and finding that we had come the long way round we arrived at the Farm itself.
For us parking wasn't a problem at all the spaces were across the road outside the main gate, there are plenty of spaces to be taken, although the road had a few speed demons and the obligatory tractors coming down it every now and then, however I thought the parking was better than I had would have expected. As we crossed and entered the Farm, on the left hand side there were a number of boards telling the history of the Farm itself and how the place came to be. It was nice to discover that this is a family business originally set-up by a husband and wife and which now involves the children in the business as well. We spent about 5 minutes reading nearly a dozen boards and was fascinated at how the Farm had started three decades ago and grown since then. The courtyard is a place of relaxation, with benches placed to simply enjoy the surroundings; off the courtyard you have the shop and the Restaurant.
The shop is what we had come for and in my opinion it didn't let us down at all. The main thing you see is that there are jars full of different flavoured Chutney's ranging from Fig and Apricot through to the Farm's own brand called Vampire. In the middle of the shop there is a testing area, a table set up with a basket of broken up cracker pieces that you basically try about 30 different Chutneys, Pickles and Mustards including the fiery hot Vampire range. What's interesting is that they range from what can only be described as 'dormant' to 'volatile' and not reading what side was effectively the shallow end I went feet first into the hottest of them all and placed a sizeable dollop on my cracker and munched....
Fast forward ten minutes and after losing about 2lb in perspiration I was able to speak again!! The staff thought it funny at the time and pointed out the sign that was right in front of me telling me what went into this, fire was the first thing on my mind however I found out this contained the hottest peppers on the planet! Good stuff though! Ending up buying three jars id Chutney and three Garlic cloves, the range in the shop that really is no bigger than a newsagent in size is tremendous, barrels full of cloves for sale ranging from £1.30 each in numerous varieties and colours. Of course there are also a number of books available to buy on how to cook your Garlic and even utensils that can be used for cooking the cloves. I was impressed by the full range that was available, as well as Wine as well the shop is well stocked and has a curious attraction to what can be offered which even ranges to Garlic health supplements.
Next door is the restaurant; this serves the most amazing food that I have tasted in a long while and as it was coming to the lunch period of the day we thought here would be a good places as any to stop and get some food. Glad we did as the food served was too a high quality and also locally sourced which I think makes a startling difference. I had the Salad of Smoked Duck, New Potatoes, Dried Cranberries and Toasted Pecans with Spiced Balsamic Dressing for £9.95 and my other half had the Chicken, Crushed Cannellini Bean, Garlic and Rosemary Stuffed Tortilla with Beef Tomatoes, Red Onions & Fries which cost £9.50. Having seen the size of the portions that everyone else was getting I wasn't at all worried with what I had seen. So with a few drinks the bill came to about £27.50 which I though was good value for money and made even better by the location. We had to wait a little while for the table as the place was packed and it was the usual lunchtime rush, but the wait only made it better. The service was friendly and efficient. The people who were eating weren't necessarily tourists to the farm either, because the layout allows a certain availability to politely overhear the nearby conversation I could deem from the chat that these were people meeting for lunch or being taken out for lunch, I didn't see many business people which I think was nice as this is a place with an extremely pleasant ambiance in general that does make you want to return again. The Restaurant is open from 8am and does a Breakfast menu as well; unfortunately as we had already ordered the meals at the Hotel we didn't do this.
These are just two things that are really the foundation of the Farm, other events are held that take place across the Summer at the site include the Garlic Festival which has been running since the early 1980's, usually a full list is placed on the website which also details the various location of the Farmers Markets that The Garlic Farm participate in as well.
It is also possible to rent out a self-catering barn or cottage at the Farm as well, this is something that we are looking in for next year perhaps. The silent nights in the country are very tempting at the moment as the country walks that the Farm gives information about and which conveniently the Farm is located on give the best views when walking across the fields.
Overall I was impressed with the whole layout and what the Farm has to offer, if you don't go for the Garlic then you can simply have something to eat, and vice versa. The location is off the beaten track and will take some effort in finding; however we spent about three hours here which was enough to do what we wanted. Other than buying three different types of Garlic, we bought a trio of assorted Chutneys as well and can only say that the sheer taste of the Fig, Apple and Garlic chutney is simply staggering and goes exceedingly well with a Ploughman's!!!
Definitely I place to recommend and somewhere I will visit again on my next trip to the Isle of Wight, as we left my other half and I both said what a good find The Garlic Farm actually is.
On our visit to the Isle of Wight we got a huge amount of leaflets to sift through to decide what to entertain ourselves with. The one that leapt out for both of us was The Garlic Farm. We are both big foodies and love our garlic, combine that with a bit of countryside and a restaurant with very good write ups, it sounded like a good plan.
The Garlic Farm is heavily advertised for tourists on the island. Even if you don't visit I'd be surprised if you still have not heard of it after spending any amount of time on the island. Even on the ferry over from Portsmouth there was a film on loop about the place and explaining how the island has the right conditions for growing garlic. Rick Stein picked this place as one of his 'food heroes', which has probably added enormously to it's success.
The Garlic Farm is situated more or less in the middle of no where. We had a guide for the island that we picked up at the station and my other half was looking up places every ten minutes along the way, there was no disguising we weren't from these parts with him looking like a true tourist. The trusty book said we needed to get the number 10 bus service from Newport which would take us to the farm.
We waited an eternity for the bus and once on it had no idea where we were going. Eagle eyed we spotted a sign for the farm and hit the bell. We'd gone past the stop we needed but the driver was very kind and pulled over to let us off, as the next stop was another half a mile up the road. Walking round the front of the bus so we could see the traffic we crossed to the side we needed to be on. Some idiot decided he was going to overtake the bus at twice the speed limit and missed us both by a whisker. That was near death experience number 1.
Trudging up the side of the road (where the cars whizz past very close as there is no pavement) for about a mile we go back to where we had seen the sign for the Garlic Farm (that bus must have been travelling faster than we thought). We turned down the next road where the sign was pointing to find there was no pavement on the narrow road either and each side was a steep sides with barb wire at the top. There was just enough room to walk with cars going past but when we saw a tractor coming up behind us, that took up the entire road, all we could do was to scramble up the bank on one side and cling on the barb wire at the top. That was near death experience number 2.
Eventually we arrived at the farm to be greeted by a field of gorgeous long haired cattle. (I don't know the breed but they have big horns and snotty noses). We sat a watched them for a while whilst we got over nearly being flattened by a tractor. The scenery around us was beautiful countryside.
We then wandered into the farm to see what it had to offer. The truth - not a lot. There's not entry fee, largely because they couldn't get away with charging for what was on offer. There was a nature trail through the fields which we did not go on as to add to our luck that day it had just begun to tip down. We did however have a soggy look around the 'Maize Maze.' Yep it's exactly what you think it is. It was impressive to see crops like this and be able to walk through them, though I feel the 'maze' element needed to be made a little more challenging for it took us about 20 seconds to find our way out again. One thing I will say for it are the gorgeous wild flowers that surround it, which were a beautiful sight and we took many photos.
As we walked into the courtyard at the front of the farm shop there was a very well done chalk board showing 'a day in the life of The Garlic Farm.' I was excited to see what else in this vain the place had to offer. The answer was nothing. In actual fact, all that there is, is a restaurant and farm shop. I was hoping there would be a lot more interactive things to see and do.
The advertising for the farm boasts of the Red Squirrels and Peacocks and how you can watch them whilst you sample their award winning food. I imagine on a nice day it would be lovely to sit out in the pretty courtyard and do this. It was a lovely setting. However little had been done to ensure the customers had a good time here when the weather wasn't as good. Certainly we didn't see and animals who were very wisely tucked away somewhere out of the wet.
Inside the restaurant was heaving. We were told it was a 45 minute wait for a table, and considering there was nothing else to do for that amount of time we decided to give it a miss.
The Garlic Farm shop I suppose is the main draw for this place. In fact it should really be called 'The Garlic Shop' and not 'The Garlic Farm'. It would better tell people just what's on offer. The shop sells all sorts of different garlic as you would imagine. In addition to this all the sort of farm shop products you would expect. Chutneys and sauces were big. There was large table displaying all sorts and were there for sampling. My man decided it would be a good idea to try the chilli sauce that contained 'the hottest chillis on the world'. Needless to say he regretted that. I have to say the marinated garlic cloves were to die for but when I tried to buy some there were no prices and such a queue at the till to ask.
We had visited a local farm type shop in Shanklin the day before and a lot of the produce was identical, but here was priced a lot higher. For example some of the chutneys were £4.80 a jar here but we had seen them £3.60. I left with a bottle of fresh apple juice, some elephant garlic (a larger gentler tasting variety) and some chocolate and garlic ice cream (I'll be reviewing this seperately).
Hardly worth the mission.
On the way back we got ourselves a taxi, and got back to Shanklin in around 15 minutes. Just proof this is somewhere only to visit if you have wheels. Funnily enough when we got in the cab the driver said "How the hell did you get out here in the first place?!"
If you fancy visiting the farm the address is
Newchurch, Isle of Wight
or visit www.garlicfarm.co.uk for more info
But my advice, don't make a special effort to come here. Really only worth it if you're passing.
For all things garlic!