North House, Isle of Wight, hotel review
For British bistro food, cosy, comfy and spacious rooms and stunning sea views, look no further than North House hotel in the Isle of Wight.
Oh and if you like yachting, then this place really does have it all.
Find out Fiona Sims’ review.
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I sat wearing my new stripy sailing smock, sipping a Mermaid & tonic (I’ll explain later) with the distant clink of halyards against masts. The setting was Cowes’ newest boutique hotel North House, which opened in 2016 on one of the town’s loveliest streets. It may be a 23-minute ferry ride from Southampton but it’s a world away from the busy mainland.
Cowes is yachting central and in Cowes Week (4-11 August), one of the longest running sailing regattas in the world, the town heaves with rakishly uniformed crew and thousands of spectators. The rest of the year it putters along genteelly.
The beautifully renovated townhouse is a short climb up Sun Hill. It has 14 bedrooms, a heated swimming pool, a buzzy bar and a restaurant called The Oyster Store, with views across the billowing sails on the Solent to the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth beyond. Farrow & Ball paint and wallpaper rule here, in the public rooms and the bedrooms. Detail is all, from the in-room digital Roberts radios to the bicycles on free loan to guests.
So, that Mermaid: it’s an Island-made gin using local samphire as one of the botanicals, and it slipped down a treat as the sun went down on the lavender-filled terrace. In fact, if it hadn’t been for the stiff breeze I could almost have been in Provence. And the smock? Bought from PHG, the smart Cowes lifestyle store, and made by an islander. Isle of Wight immersion complete.
What’s the food like?
The chef is Matt Foster, who has previous form on the island, and the food is British bistro. We didn’t have to wait long for perfectly cooked, charcoal oven-blasted 28 day-aged sirloin steak with skinny fries from local producer Combley Farm.
Whole sea bream, also finished in the charcoal oven, was served simply with steamed new potatoes and spinach, following a daily special of baked local crab with tarragon and charred lemon, scooped up with sourdough. There’s a balanced wine list too – we tried a perky Galician godello for the fish and a solid Chilean carmenère for the meat. Breakfast is equally good, from avocado and poached eggs on toast to eggs Florentine.
What’s in the rooms?
Split into three categories: Cosy, Comfy and Spacious; some have fabulous sea views. It’s all about the detail here too – we chose a Spacious room, Number 12, with a roll-top bath, french windows and juliet balcony overlooking Cowes’ rooftops and the sea beyond.
What’s the damage?
Rooms start from £95 for a double room, including breakfast. Dinner from £25 for two courses, plus wine.