Last updated on December 5, 2022 by Wandering our World

Cowes is a stunning seaside town located just a short ferry ride from Southampton on the Isle of Wight. Found beside the picturesque River Medina, with coastal shores overlooking the Solent, it attracts visitors from around the world, especially those who enjoy sailing and yachting.

Needless to say, this brings in quite a crowd. The summer months sees the town become a lively paradise for tourists and holiday-makers hoping to enjoy quality time on the waters. And around August, Cowes hosts their globally-acknowledged Cowes Week, where tenacious seafarers compete in various sailing races throughout the week.

Luckily, tourists, locals and visiting sailors can enjoy the wonderful bars and restaurants that Cowes has to offer. In fact this little coastal paradise is known for its quality seafood and hosts a menagerie of fantastic eateries for guests to relax and recharge.

We’ve become self-proclaimed experts on the culinary exploits on offer here. So as a result, we have compiled an easy guide to the best restaurants in Cowes.

So sit back, relax and enjoy your meal at one of our favourite Cowes restaurants below. Bon appetit!

Cowes harbour Isle of Wight with boats and blue sky
iStock.com/acceleratorhams

The Best Restaurants In Cowes: Food Worth Waiting For!

1. Call It What You Want

A quirky restaurant located on the bustling High Street, well-known for its lively atmosphere and Cajun and Creole-inspired menu.

Call It What You Want is the successor to a long line of restaurants that once occupied this pristine spot on the High Street. Opened in 2019, they had big shoes to fill. Yet, they did so with tenacity and ferocity that made them a hit in their early days and carried their legacy over the rocky times of the Global Pandemic.

Dining at CIWYW is a wonderful experience. Inspired by cuisine famously found in New Orleans, they’ve created an interesting and unique addition to the Cowes food scene.

You won’t be able to find a regular printed menu here. Instead, this place lures its guests in with the promise of tempting delicacies from handwritten menus on butcher paper.

The meals change frequently, but crowd favourites like The Reuben will always be available amidst a bevvy of other homemade Creole and Cajun must-haves. And if you’re really stuck for a choice, the staff will be more than happy to give you some stellar recommendations.

CIWYW still boasts remnants of the butchery that occupied the shop years before them. Nevertheless, it’s a surprisingly vibrant venue. Guests often remark on the atmosphere when entering this fun restaurant with music playing overhead and drinks flowing between the tables.

You can choose between communal seating or smaller, more intimate dining and private tables. All nestled behind large bay windows overlooking the bustling High Street outside.

They’re fairly active on social media, making it easy to spot announcements for events, Sunday Roasts, and any other interesting little initiatives this creative venue comes up with. However, we’d like to give a PG warning as CIWYW speaks their mind with some flavourful language too.

  • Opening Hours: Closed Sun & Mon; Tues & Wed Groups Only; 6 pm to 9 pm Thurs – Sat
  • Location: 62 High St, Cowes
Reuben sandwich. Classic traditional American sandwich. Pastrami and corned beef on grilled bread
Photo for illustrative purposes only: iStock.com/dashek

2. Prego

A small and trendy Italian cafe specialising in classic comfort foods like Pizza and Pasta.

No town is complete without the staple Italian restaurant that caters to carb-loaded delicacies of Pizza and Pasta. There’s no better spot to enjoy these comforts in Cowes than Prego.

Taking over from the once-beloved Mrs Jones’ Tea Depot, this restaurant’s rejuvenation has become a welcomed addition to the Cowes culinary scene, and it seems the regular reviews agree.

This urban and rustic venue brings a taste of New Era dining to a town still clinging to Victorian roots. Exposed brick, wooden features and warm tones create a romantic ambience well suited to this beautiful Italian venue.

They show immeasurable hospitality too, with guests often complimenting the staff’s exquisite service and recommendations. You’ll feel well relaxed and taken care of in the capable hands of enthusiastic waitrons and well-trained chefs.

The menu leaves nothing to be desired and bares semblance to the Italian cuisine we’re all familiar with. While it lacks certain meaty entrees, the small restaurant specialises in whopping 12” pizzas, pasta and an assortment of gooey calzones.

Visitors rave about the Palline starter, and we can’t blame them. Something about cheese oozing out of Dough Balls sounds heavenly, to say the least. But, amongst other things, we’ve heard you can’t go wrong with choosing a Meat Feast Calzone.

And suppose the food and atmosphere weren’t enough to convince you that Prego is one of Cowes’ best restaurants. In that case, they offer monthly specials that include discounts and set menus which can all be discovered through their social media.

  • Opening Hours: 5 pm to 10 pm Mon – Sat; Closed Sun
  • Location: 28 Castle St, East Cowes
wood fired pizza on table
Photo for illustrative purposes only: iStock.com/JulyProkopiv

3. Mojac’s Restaurant and Bar

A local hotspot for British cuisine and events evenings all in a comfortably simple venue.

Located in Cowes’ more picturesque Shooters Hill is the decades-old Mojac’s Restaurant and Bar. A well-known town eatery that’s been around since 2000, it’s grown a dedicated-following who will bull-headedly take on anyone with a word edgeways to say about the excellent cuisine.

This restaurant has thrown itself into the community, is always bustling with activity, and even offers scattered events (advertised on their social media) alongside some of the best grub found in town.

Chef Mark has led the kitchen to win multiple awards over the years, and as small towns go, that’s quite the accomplishment. But with 30 years of experience in the kitchen, he’s well-qualified to bring some excellent food to the table.

Mojac’s menu is changed seasonally and according to its events. Created using local produce, the quality has been described as impeccable. Guests often tend to recommend their lamb dishes, still, the menu contains a variety from fresh seafood to succulent chicken and even vegetarian meals. And their desserts? Those carry the reputation for being an unmissable part of the experience.

The venue is simplistic and refined, spanning 2-storeys with a small patch of outdoor seating with a Wishing Well view. A quaint bar displays the bevvy of beverages on offer, and a welcoming team of hard-working staff ebb and flows between tables providing exceptional service.

They can get rightfully busy, and most locals recommend booking a table, especially regarding their unmissable events. Of course, we’d expect nothing less from one of the best restaurants in Cowes, but you can be the judge of that.

  • Opening Hours: 5:30 pm to 11 pm Tues – Sat; Closed Sun & Mon
  • Location: 10A Shooters Hill, Cowes
Chef adding drizzle to fine dining plate
Photo for illustrative purposes only: iStock.com/Kuzmin

4. Smoking Lobster

An extraordinary Asian-fusion restaurant in the heart of Cowes, with an understated and spacious venue.

The Smoking Lobster silently crept its way into the heart of Cowes locals. But having the significant role of being the startup to what might soon become a blossoming chain, they’ve got quite big shoes to fill.

When you first come across the name, you might think it’s some shanty seafood restaurant. But we’ll have you know it provides a new and exciting element by matching wholesome, fresh Cowes seafood with the delicate art of Asian cooking.

The menu is concise, but don’t let that fool you; it’s filled with robust and extraordinary flavour. From the citrusy undertones of Yuzu, and the notes of pickled ginger, the expert chefs have created a wonderfully diverse arrangement that’s bound to have your tastebuds dancing!

Guests recommend the Seafood Platter, which comfortably feeds two and allows you to taste various dishes. But as per the namesake, you might want to look at the Robata lobster.

If you’re not a great fan of seafood, fear not. From Duck to Noodles, you can rest easy knowing there’s a dish on the menu just for you. And if you can’t find it there, you might find it on their specials board.

The venue is large and offers great intimacy through its well-spaced layout. There’s a slightly exotic vibe hinted at by the oriental decor and certainly by the gorgeous plates of food that line the open kitchen bar.

Perhaps it’s the unique aspects it brings to the table or exceptional service. Still, one thing is guaranteed, Smoking Lobster is easily one of the best restaurants in Cowes.

  • Opening Hours: 12 pm to 2:30 pm & 5 pm to 9:15 pm Wed – Sat
  • Location: 127 High St, Cowes
Seasoned Baked Lobster Tails
Photo for illustrative purposes only: iStock.com/bhofack2

5. Number 3

A swanky, tiny venue offering a set menu where the chefs are in control of your evening.

Number 3 is the successor to the quaint and simple DB’s, which changed its name in 2011 to open a new shining era of dining on the Isle of Wight. It takes your expectations of classic dining and throws them out the window, so our only warning to you is this; if you’re fussy, Number 3 is not the restaurant for you.

The only reason we say this is because Number 3 threw menus out the window along with the simple homely cooking DB’s used to offer. Instead, they offer guests a unique experience that lets the chefs take the reigns for the evening. Simply put, you’ve got to have some faith.

While you won’t be completely voiceless in the matter, the array of dishes presented to you is already planned to match a concise set of courses. If the sample menu is anything to go by, it’s an exquisite rendition of fine dining and, surprisingly, real bang for your buck.

There’s clearly a reason locals and tourists agree that Number 3 is one of the main must-try restaurants in Cowes’: the food is a blessing and an absolute must if you find yourself on the Isle of Wight.

They say dynamite comes in small packages, and Number 3 is a perfect example. The venue is cute, with a small two-tabled terrace offering a lucky few some outdoor dining. But due to the limited seating, we’d highly recommend making a reservation.

  • Opening Hours: 7 pm to 9 pm Mon – Sat; Closed Sun
  • Location: 3 Bath Rd, Cowes
Chef plating food
Photo for illustrative purposes only: Unsplash+

6. Joliffes Eatery

Located in an historic building, this beautiful, trendy cafe serves up divine breakfasts and hearty lunches to locals and tourists alike.

If you stop to ask any local where the best breakfast spot in Cowes is, they’ll likely point you in the direction of a small Art Nouveau cafe called Jolliffes.

You can’t miss it; when you see the beautiful stain-glass windows against a historical facade, you’ve found one of the most popular breakfast and brunch restaurants in Cowes.

Open for breakfast and offering a late lunch, too, Jollifes is a perfect all-rounder to start or end your day trudging the retail hub of Shooters Hill. It’s located in a Listed Building, which historically served to offer Cowes locals fine, hand-made shoes. But its transformation is welcome; after all, shoe stores are a dime-a-dozen, but you can’t always find the perfect Eggs Benedict.

The menus are wonderfully short, offering a concise selection of the kitchen’s best. So whether you’re an early bird or settling for some afternoon tea, you can find a menagerie of options that will make you happy. From a Full English, renamed Joliffe’s Breakfast to a selection of robust sandwiches, there’s something on the menu for everybody.

Enjoy your food with a cup of Island Roast coffee under the colourful light filtering through the huge bay windows. Or lend yourself some time to enjoy the patio in the warmer months and people-watch. After all, you just need to sit and relax while their devoted servers take care of all your whims and wishes.

  • Opening Hours: 8:30 am to 4 pm Sun – Fri; 7:30 am to 4 pm Sat
  • Location: 11 Shooters Hill, Cowes
English breakfast display
Photo for illustrative purposes only: iStock.com/Taninwat Pichitnapakul

7. Murrays Seafood

A decades-old seafood restaurant in the heart of Cowes, serving delicacies fresh from the ocean in a relaxed and trendy setting.

As we’ve mentioned before, there’s something to be said about the seafood in Cowes. And Murrays Seafood is a prime location to taste the elaborate selection hauled from the waters surrounding the Isle of Wight.

It’s been around for close to 50 years, opening in the mid-’70s to breathe some new life into an old Cowes Pub. The building it occupies is certified old, having been around since the late 18th century. However, it can still bring some present-day charm.

The Scandi-style interior is surprisingly suited to the maritime-themed decor. It’s cosy and understated, with limited seating allowing guests to enjoy intimate dinners of some of Cowes’ freshest seafood.

The menu leaves little room for variations, but you’ll be pleased to find you can also have a touch of steak if you’re that way inclined. But whether you choose to eat a la Carte or from their Set Menu, you’ll satisfy any seafood craving you’ve ever had.

The best recommendations on the menu would be the Fish Soup, the Lobster and the Scottish Salmon Fillet.

But Murray’s has far more to offer than just exquisite food. There’s a lot of history and a sense of the Cowes community you won’t get elsewhere.

After all, most of their patronage is made up of regulars who often find themselves heading back for the wonderful service and the good times that Murray’s provides.

  • Opening Hours: 12 pm to 2:30 pm & 6:30 pm to 9 pm Mon-Sat; Closed Sun
  • Location: 106 High St, Cowes
Seafood and wine
Photo for illustrative purposes only: iStock.com/Petrenkod

8. The Lifeboat

A pet-friendly, picturesque riverside restaurant with expansive water views and a menu that’s sure to blow your socks off.

The Lifeboat lies in the heart of the East Cowes Marina, overlooking the pristine waters. It’s a “home away from home” with a family-friendly atmosphere that draws in locals and tourists all year round.

It’s become a hub for visiting yachtsman throughout the summer, with a sprawling deck that provides an idyllic view and a special knack for producing some of the best food in Cowes.

The menu is extensive and promotes local, with fresh ingredients in each dish. From breakfast to dinner, The Lifeboat is sure to provide for everyone, with ample vegan and vegetarian options, too, and even some snacks for your four-legged friends!

The versatile choices mean there’s something to suit any taste, with a globally inspired menu bringing in wholesome flavours from all our favourite cuisines. Whether you’re in the mood for hearty British-style breakfasts or a whopping American Lunch, The Lighthouse has you covered.

The menu undergoes seasonal changes throughout the year and can vary depending on the events at the time. That’s right, not only is it a swinging spot to enjoy a Summer afternoon, but they often host live music and themed dinners too, so be sure to keep an eye on their social media.

Guests adore the atmosphere and have nothing but compliments for the chef and staff, who work tirelessly to provide one of the best dining experiences in East Cowes.

  • Opening Hours: 10 am to 10 pm Sun – Thurs; 10 am to 10:30 pm Fri & Sat
  • Location: Britannia Way, East Cowes
dog and food
Photo for illustrative purposes only: iStock.com/Finlay Buchanan

9. The Coast Bar and Dining Room

A lively bar on Shooters Hill boasting a global menu, exquisite drinks and occasional events.

Cowes have their fair share of bars and pubs that open up a vibrant nightlife in this quaint oceanside town. The Coast Bar and Dining Room is no different, and while being open from dawn to dusk, it attracts its best crowd throughout the evening.

People flock here for the great atmosphere and, of course, the spectacular food. It’s an intimate and trendy establishment, fusing maritime and Scandi-style decor to create something unique and refreshing.

It’s swanky, with a small interior and an even smaller patio allowing a lucky few to people-watch along Shooters Hill.

The menus available cater for all-day dining. Its concise breakfast menu is overwhelmed with a choice of hot beverages to start your morning and delicate breakfast dishes with global inspiration to sate any appetite.

The lunch and dinner menus are much alike. They feature a versatile and dynamic selection of dishes ranging from homemade woodfire pizzas to famed Cowes seafood. Also joined by an elaborate drinks menu of sublime cocktails and wine choices.

The service is impeccable and brisk even in their busiest hours, making Coast Bar without a doubt one of the best evening restaurants in Cowes for food and cocktails.

  • Opening Hours: 9:30 am to 11 pm Daily
  • Location: 14-15 Shooters Hill, Cowes
Expert barman is making cocktail at a bar.
Photo for illustrative purposes only: iStock.com/santypan

10. Gastronomy

A vibrant street-food emporium with a global menu and plenty of interesting events on the agenda.

Gastronomy is a fairly new addition to the High Street. Still, it offers the same prowess and excellence as its competitors, and is fast becoming known as one of the best restaurants in Cowes.

Opened in 2019, the idea was to bring people together over delicious food. The menu is a small and irresistible expedition of global flavours; from Asia to America, you can treat yourself to the likes of Rib Eye and Boa Buns.

If you want to get into the spirit, make yourself a tapas-style dining experience by sharing small plates around the table. That also allows you to try a versatile array of their dishes.

The menu varies monthly, with new dishes being added, meaning there’s always something exciting happening here. And speaking of excitement, Gastronomy is also well known for its array of events throughout the year.

Special dinners, shows and a travelling kitchen are all part of the Gastronomy experience. Alongside excellent service and a vibrant atmosphere, it’s certainly not a venue you’d want to miss when visiting Cowes.

  • Opening Hours: 6 pm to 12 am Tues to Thurs; 10 am to 12 am Fri & Sat; 6 pm to 12 am Sun; Closed Mon
  • Location: 46-47, High St, Cowes