Wanna know a secret? Matt and Cat don’t have one but, like many Island folks, they have been privy to all sorts of open speculation about the next occupant of the suddenly vacated Ocean Blue Quay.
From Michelin hopefuls to Mediterranean transients and maybe even One of the World’s Best-Loved Television Personalities™ Jamie Oliver (clearly the wildest of speculations): all have been in the frame. Why, Matt and Cat themselves considered stirring up the rumour-mill with a whisper that they would be opening their own eatery there. Imagine! The Island’s tongues would be sharpened to stiletto-like points as slighted restaurateurs queued to give M&C a taste of their own medicine. But be reassured – such eventualities will remain firmly the stuff of fantasy.
As it happens, none of the above have become the latest tenants in Ventnor’s newest and shiniest purpose-built restaurant. That privilege goes to Besty and Spinky. Having run a very popular cafe on Ventnor Esplanade for over half a decade, it came to pass that the duo were given their marching orders. The reasons behind this are documented elsewhere and are of no concern to Matt and Cat who are far more interested in eating top nosh in a nice place. So, a month or so after pop-up chef Mourad Sahnoune popped out, the Ocean Blue Quay welcomed its new occupants. Would Besty and Spinky be able to transfer their culinary magic to their new home at the other end of the seafront?
The first hot weekend of the year is the day when everyone heads to the coast. Matt and Cat, although residents of Ryde, which has its own delectable beach, decided nonetheless to go on a day trip to Ventnor and try out some of its southern sea air. Ventnor proved to be a great place to bump into friends and fellow bloggers and indulge in retro purchases at the fab Suzes Room. And, as at Ryde, all that parading up and down the hilly High Street is hungry work. Matt and Cat, with a gaggle of friends in tow, trooped down to Besty and Spinky’s to replenish.
Having never been to their previous café, Matt and Cat had little idea of what to expect from Besty and Spinky’s. They knew that the proprietors had a good local reputation but, as ever, wanted to check it out for themselves. Parking at a sunny table by the municipal paddling pool – splashtastic entertainment for children for decades – M&C and party let out a collective sigh of sunny-day satisfaction before turning their attention to the menu.
Ventnor Bay Special £6.50
Smoked salmon and scrambled egg on toast £5.25
Overcoming their desires to proof-read the menu, (“omlette” anyone?), Matt and Cat were pleased to see a good range of typical café fodder: eggs cooked in a multitude of ways, burgers, meaty stuff and sarnies. Although there was also a good range of specials, breakfast was a popular choice and several of the party could not resist the bargain-priced full English, a range of ubiquitous pork products served with eggs, tomatoes, hash browns, beans, tea or coffee and toast – which also came with jam and marmalade. Matt, who’d worked up an appetite carrying Cat’s newly-purchased Finel bowl, rewarded himself by ordering the Ventnor Bay Special breakfast. Its constituents were the same as in the full English but in double rations and, obligingly, Besty or Spinky (Matt didn’t know which; are they interchangeable like Ant and Dec?) allowed a last-minute substitution of extra hash browns in exchange for unwanted beans. Cat opted for one of her default Saturday lunchtime preferences, scrambled egg on toast. However, in B&S’s café, she was pleased to see a smoked salmon option and eagerly ordered it with a can of coke.
While they waited for their lunches to arrive, Matt and Cat fiddled about on Twitter, reviewed their Ventnor wall lizard photos taken earlier that morning and played with Cat’s marine traffic app to see what vessels were in the vicinity so that they could wave to some friends on a cross-channel ferry. Distracted by communications with their real and virtual chums, the time waiting for their meals flew by and, before long, their lunches arrived.
Matt’s breakfast was a handsome pile of sausages, bacon, the most perfectly-cooked fried eggs, double hash brown and big fresh fried tomatoes. Two slices of toast and a cup of tea were included: this was a contender for all-day breakfast of the year so far.
Cat was delighted with her scrambled eggs and smoked salmon on toast. The big slice of salmon was folded in an attractive manner and garnished with a sprig of parsley and accompanied by a wedge of fresh lemon which Cat squirted over the fish. The eggs, like Matt’s fried ones, were done to perfection: not too dry and not too snotty. Like the fairytale heroine Goldilocks, Miss Cat declared the eggs to be just right and gobbled them all up.
Even after the unsurprisingly empty plates were promptly cleared away it was difficult to leave the café. The sun was shining, the company was good and their tummies were full of unsophisticated yet satisfying food. All the friends needed now was an ice cream. Alas, Besty and Spinky’s ice cream freezer was out of action (although with a promise of impending restoration). So, reluctantly, the friends heaved themselves out of their chairs and left the sun-soaked terrace in search of hokey-pokey. They didn’t have to go far to find some.
Matt and Cat’s experience of Besty and Spinky’s was great. The food was some of the best of its genre; good quality ingredients, well-cooked and promptly served. The location and, of course the weather, added to this positive review. However, even on the most uninspiring of days it seems likely that you won’t be disappointed at this ‘new’ eatery.