Date: 24th October
Hungry railway enthusiasts arriving in Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, on the Lymington ferry will find that 'Off the Rails' restaurant is a first-class place to stop. The charming former railway station restaurant offers a delicious breakfast and lunch menu with an evening menu offered on Saturdays (only). There is a good range of refreshments including speciality teas and coffees, cold beverages such as homemade lemonade and freshly made cocktails along with beers and wines.
Yarmouth railway station was built during the early 1880's as part of the Freshwater Yarmouth Newport railway line. However, the line was never profitable, and it closed forever in 1953. It then remained empty until the 1960's when it became a meeting hall and home of the Yarmouth Youth Club. In 2014 the station was given a new lease of life when it was transformed into 'Off the Rails' restaurant. This project won several restoration awards for its sensitive restoration retaining many original features.
The restaurant has maximised its appeal to railway lovers with railway themed décor and memorabilia, from luggage racks to carriage style seating booths and even dishes with railway names such as the 'mind the gap' gourmet beef sandwich.
The restaurant is a popular stop off point for families, as well as cyclists, walkers and dog owners using the old railway track and footpaths. On the sunny day when we visited, there a few dogs about but their owners were considerate, and they mainly stayed outside. The owner's well-behaved dog was charmingly attired in a green jacket that had 'Station Master - Do not feed me' printed on it. This was fitting for a restaurant which offers a doggie menu and even won a 'Woof Award' as the most dog friendly place to eat and drink in 2019.
On the lunchtime we visited, the restaurant was fully booked so it is worth booking in advance to avoid disappointment. Despite the restaurant being busy, it felt covid safe with the staff wearing masks and the side door of the restaurant open for airflow with outdoor dining also an option. On a nice day, you have a lovely view across the meadows and marshland with occasional families of ducks waddling past on their way to the brook.
As the restaurant was busy, we had to wait quite a while for our lunch to arrive. However, our drinks arrived quickly, and my homemade ginger beer was delicious and wonderfully refreshing. Lunch when it arrived was worth the wait. I ordered 'The Luggage Burger', a substantial beef burger served with bacon jam, slaw and pickles served in a little wooden suitcase with well-seasoned fries. My partner ordered 'The Trackside,' a generous jumbo fish finger sandwich with homemade curry mayonnaise, garden pea puree and fries artfully held together with a knife through the middle.
The Isle of Wight offers much for the steam railway enthusiast and 'Off the Rails' is fitting place to fortify yourself before you explore all that the island has to offer.