Robert Thompson becomes Isle of Wight ambassador, plans new hotel with restaurants

By Luke Nicholls

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Seaside resort Tourism

Robert Thompson was awarded his Michelin star at The Hambrough in 2006, when he was aged just 23
Robert Thompson was awarded his Michelin star at The Hambrough in 2006, when he was aged just 23
Michelin-starred chef Robert Thompson is on a mission to transform the Isle of Wight into a top tourist destination with plans to open a new hotel and two restaurants at the seaside resort of Ventnor while becoming the island’s first ambassador under a new-found tourism body.

Work is scheduled to start before the end of the year on the £4m transformation of Ventnor’s Winter Gardens, which will potentially see Thompson move his fine-dining restaurant at nearby hotel The Hambrough, into the same property as a 37-bedroom hotel and an all-day bistro.

“The general thought at the moment is that The Hambrough will remain with the seven rooms and the availability of booking it out for exclusive use and small weddings,” the chef told BigHospitality.

With reference to the new Winter Gardens project, Thompson said it would be rebuilt and refurbished before re-opening.

“We’re adding a wing onto each side of the Winter Gardens property which will create the 34 bedrooms. The existing building will be completely refurbished and joined up with the new wings," he said. 

“We want to make the most of local produce on a big scale. We’ll have the more dinner-led fine-dining operation on the second floor of the building, with a bistro underneath it offering all-day dining with seafood and steaks.

The Winter Gardens in Ventnor is expected to re-open as a hotel and two restaurants by Easter 2014

"I’ll have a team in place for both and I’ll be in the kitchen.”

Thompsons Café Restaurant operation, The Pond in Bonchurch (which is five minutes down the road), will continue to run as normal.

Visit Isle of Wight

Meanwhile, the new tourism body Visit Isle of Wight (VIOW), was officially launched last Thursday, with the aim of attracting 300,000 people to the county over the next five years. As a VIOW ambassador, Thompson hopes to ‘hammer home the fact that the island has so much going on in terms of suppliers and restaurants’.

“The Isle of Wight’s been very fragmented with a lot of businesses doing the same thing but not joining forces, which just seems ridiculous,” he added. “There are some nice places popping up across the island that are featuring in the Michelin guide, but there could be more.

“We’re surrounded by the sea, so we benefit from great seafood. And we have a great landscape with some fantastic beef and lamb all produced on the island. So there’s a little bit of everything and as a chef it’s actually fairly easy to work with some great produce.”

Huge possibilites

The 30-year-old chef, who was named among Restaurant magazine’s ‘stars of the future’​ back in 2009, hopes to continue his work developing the Isle of Wight as a tourism destination, but did not rule out a move back to the mainland, having previously worked here at Waldo’s restaurant in Cliveden hotel.

“I never came to this island with the idea of just cooking food. It was about the bigger picture; drawing people down here all year round. If we can unlock that then there really are huge possibilities.

"There’s so much to do here and it’s going to take a lot of time to attack it and solve it. To have a mainland influence would be great, but at the moment I just see so many possibilities here in terms of the business expanding - so who knows what the future holds.”

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