In the distant past, when this website was all fields, Matt and Cat had separate but enthusiastic interests in other people’s cast-offs. Matt, in his role as vicar’s son, would be enlisted by the vicar’s wife – who he impudently referred to as ‘mum’ – to help out at the church jumble sale. Cat, who at about the same time was living the life of an impoverished art student, would also spend her Saturdays picking through old clothes and bric-a-brac to eke out her modest grant (yes, a student grant – ask your nan).
And so it was that Matt and Cat spent their weekends on either side of a bulging trestle table in a dank church hall, exchanging old goods for new money, all in aid of some Good Cause. These days, with eBay, bootsales and Cash in the Attic hinting at the promise of a decent return on your pre-loved possessions, most people find other ways to dispose of their unwanted stuff. Some benevolent folks donate their surplus property to the Island’s Earl Mountbatten Hospice and this selfless generosity – plus a massive bequest from former Brighstone resident John Cheverton and also a hefty capital investment by the NHS – enabled the John Cheverton Centre to be built. The centre has been designed as a hub for the hospice and the wider community and includes a café, which before long was on Matt and Cat’s radar.
Nabbing the last space in the busy car park, Matt and Cat wandered past the existing red brick buildings that make up the Halberry Lane complex. It may interest readers to know that just before the First World War, Halberry House was home to a community of Cingalese, servants of estate owner and retired tea planter Mr Martin. His nieces, the Misses Harrison, visited their uncle at his home and were photographed with one of the native servants. One of these little girls grew up to be renowned cellist Beatrice Harrison who dueted with nightingales in a Surrey garden in the BBC’s first outside broadcast. This performance became an annual event making Harrison and the nightingales internationally famous – and she received 50,000 fan letters. Now there is no trace of shackled servants and Edwardian children, yet a handful of the red brick buildings prevail.
Tucked around the back of the complex is the flagship John Cheverton Centre. M&C strolled through the double doors and entered the tranquillity of the hospice hub. Nodded at by a smiling receptionist they made their way past the little avenue of therapy rooms, a hairdresser and other antechambers before entering the café. The neat little space had a friendly vibe and was full of people chatting and enjoying their lunches. Uniformed staff occupied a couple of tables and people of all ages were nattering over light lunch or just a cuppa. Matt and Cat flopped into a comfy sofa overlooking the terrace. It was too cold to have the doors open but on a sunny day they could see that this would be a particularly lovely spot.
Clearly many others thought so too, as when Cat went to the counter to buy her and Matt’s lunches their first and second choices were sold out. The early birds had snaffled all of the baked potatoes and soup. But no matter, M&C were happy to have bacon and Brie paninis. Cat watched the lady fill the breads and pop them into the panini warmer, keeping one eye on the counter’s burden of fabulous-looking cakes.
Bacon and Brie panini 2 @ £2
Tea 2 @ 50p
Black Forest gateau free
As they ate their lunches, marvelling on how much meat and cheese they got for their two quid, Matt and Cat considered whether they should actually be there. With such excellent-value food and delightful new surroundings, surely this was a subsidised café for hospice patrons only? But no, a quick tweet to the Earl Mountbatten Hospice account confirmed that not only were they allowed, but they were welcome.
Having washed down the warmed paninis with the last of their tea, M&C turned their attention to cake. Cat had been discretely monitoring the other patrons’ plates and noticed that many of them were laden with generous slices of the stuff. Like the pizza and quiche, it looked like it might soon all be eaten. Fearful of missing out, Cat joined the queue at the counter and watched as the last wedge of Victoria sponge was doled out to a protesting woman. “Surely there’s enough there for two slices? I can’t eat all of this!”, she exclaimed. Cat was graciously about to take one for the team and offer to go halves when the woman decided that perhaps there was just enough room in her cake stomach after all – and off she went with the sponge booty. Now there were only two people left in the queue and Cat was not next. There was also only one piece of cake left – a massive triangle of Black Forest gateau. Can you see where this is going readers? In a parallel universe, Cat may have used the power of her elbows to stake a claim on the cake. However, this was real life and she was in a venue peppered with people worthier than her, so she did the right thing – and demanded half.
The chap at the counter happily obliged; wielding his knife through the cake in an approximation of equal shares. One half fell intact and was given to the lady at the front of the queue. Cat got a pile of slightly crumbled remains which, for her, wasn’t a problem. However, the hospice volunteer who, it turned out, had actually made the cake was so appalled at its appearance that he gave the cake to Cat gratis. Cat offered to pay but he insisted. The cake was none the worse for its barely discernible dishevelment – it was delicious. Really, really lovely. The sweet cherries, thick soft chocolate and light sponge were heavenly. Matt and Cat fought over the crumbs and eulogised about how this sweet from the 1970s should be resurrected with unironic haste.
The café was emptying out and soon it was time for Matt and Cat to leave this unexpected little haven. The food had been excellent value and there was a surprising range of light lunches – sarnies, pizza, quiche and the like – all prepared in the compact kitchen. The service was extremely friendly and the venue neat and welcoming. The icing on the cake was, well, the cake. Soft and moist, it was worth the visit alone. However, if you want to have the choice from the café’s full range of food, you’re advised to go early.