The Island’s landscape is often called ‘England in Miniature‘. Maybe it is. But if so, it’s a bit short on some things. Thank goodness,...

The Island’s landscape is often called ‘England in Miniature‘. Maybe it is. But if so, it’s a bit short on some things. Thank goodness, there are no nuclear power stations, no motorways, no slag-heaps and no international airports. And no pylons.

Bacon and brie spud, The Hungry Caterpillar

Or are there? Here’s a game you can play to torment Island know-it-alls – ask them if there are any pylons on the island, and if so, where they are. Most will have no idea, as despite the size of the huge metal structures, for some reason they’re not at all noticeable. Actually, there is just one set of pylons on the Island, running a short distance alongside the Medina and ending up near Wootton Common. Next to the big substation where this solitary branch of the National Grid comes to its terminus is the Medina Garden Centre and Butterfly World – and inside these attractions is the Hungry Caterpillar café.

Matt and Cat were on their way from an appointment when they dropped in at the Hungry Caterpillar. It’s set in a former glasshouse, and has many outside seats – a necessity when the sun is shining, as the glasshouse still seems to be highly effective, and the inside is stiflingly hot. A little courtyard garden is on one side, and a grassy area on the other, including some play houses. Matt and Cat chose the courtyard, and settled down on the picnic-style benches to look at the simple menu.

Hot food is served from 1100 to 1530, and includes soup, pies, jacket potatoes and omelettes. Sandwiches and baguettes make up the light meals section. Cakes, tea, fizzy drinks… you get the idea. Matt and Cat quickly made their choices: soup of the day for Miss Cat, and a jacket potato with brie and bacon for Matt, with two teas to wash it down.

Idling in the sun and waiting for their lunch, your reviewers realised that there was no way on earth that anyone in the Hungry Caterpillar was going to miss out on those pylons – the café is situated right underneath the wires and when the wind blows, the aeolian thrumming of the cables makes a sound like nothing on earth. Tin-foil-hatters would be well advised to lunch elsewhere!

Robin, Hungry Caterpillar cafe

However, undeterred by imaginary electromagnetic phenomena were some chirpy companions: sparrows, finches and a very courageous robin all fluttered and cheeped happily around the little courtyard and pecked at crumbs. For some reason the bigger birds which can sometimes be a nuisance in such circumstances were absent, and Matt and Cat enjoyed the company of the feathered diners.

When the food arrived, it wasn’t too bad. Matt’s spud had some very nice freshly-cooked bacon, and a good supply of brie. Cat’s cream of vegetable soup was pleasant enough, although it came with a bit of a skin on it. Without a doubt it originated in a tin or packet, rather than being freshly made, but in this kind of cafe there’s really no problem with that. The tea came in a pot, with real milk.

Cream of vegetable soup, The Hungry Caterpillar cafe

Matt and Cat finished off their lunch with pleasure, and returned to the world of work: another lunch-hour pleasantly passed.
The Hungry Caterpillar, Medina Garden Centre, Wootton

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  • patrick

    31st October 2016 #1 Author

    Much the same as in your 2008 review – this place is decent, unpretentious and unspectacular. It offers efficient if uninspired fayre, and is probably more convenient for anyone with limited time that some of the swankier venues nearby.

    The apparently unchanged set-up since 1983 with a distinct whiff of Victoria Wood, is no bad thing, and quite refreshing in these days of flashiness. The atmosphere is pleasant, and the welcome friendly, at this place which does what it says on the tin…

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  • Steve Davis

    24th June 2008 #2 Author

    I have stopped here several times and have to say that the sandwiches each time were excellent – good size and the fillings weren’t stingy either and tasted very good.

    The wait at times for cooked food can be a bit long but has so far been worth it.

    I agree that its best to eat outside in the hot weather having tried to eat inside on one hot day and nearly wilted away after ten minutes !

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