Some people imagine that Matt and Cat are orderly souls; with a neatly-written list of candidate venues to review, fully researched and scheduled in their diaries at regular intervals.
The truth is so far removed from this cosy vision of administrative tidiness that, to be honest, M&C could probably collect the prize for the most chaotic and disorderly food reviewers on the Isle of Wight – if only they could organise themselves to do so.
Take today. When Cat finally woke from her slumbers at mid-morning o’clock, she was told by amnesiac Matt that they had a meeting. In fifteen minutes. Half an hour’s drive away. And he only knew this because his phone had reminded him with one of those nagging but essential beeps. Cat threw on some clothes and tugged a knitted beany hat over her knotted bedhair before driving her and Matt as fast as the speed limit would allow to their rendezvous at the Folly Inn, East Cowes.
They had a pleasant morning catching up with an ex-colleague and Cat, who had not had time for breakfast, subsisted on a vast cup of coffee and all of the tiny complementary almond biscuits that she could snaffle. Their meeting over, M&C decided to visit Waitrose, as they were in the area, to buy some much sought after shelled pistachios. Then it was off to lunch. Or for Cat, her first meal of the day. And this, dear reader, is how they roll.
When Royal Warranted-grocer Waitrose set up shop in East Cowes in 2010 gauntlets were defiantly thrown down to the owners of local eateries. Suggestions were made that the supermarket’s patrons would like a Prêt à Manger-type café, not the typical “greasy spoon” offerings of the existing small businesses. Of course, this shot across the bows was robustly deflected by several proprietors of the town’s cafés, who described their food as local and homemade and far from greasy. This got Matt, who’s a big fan of a fry up, a bit worried that all he’d find to eat in East Cowes would be cupcakes and lettuce. However, tucked away in Castle Street was Laura Jane’s Café – with an inviting sign in the window proclaiming all-day breakfast.
Breakfast special inc tea £5.90
Scrambled egg on toast £1.80
Orange juice 65p
The clean little café was sunny and bright and, although only one of the tables was occupied, the place had a friendly vibe. The staff were chatting among themselves and the radio yammered away. A few of the day’s newspapers were on the tables, and commendably, the wi-fi password was prominently displayed on the wall. There were normal and large all-day breakfasts on offer – you can probably guess which Matt chose. Cat instructed Matt to get her some scrambled egg and mushrooms on toast – a perfect brunch combo.
While they waited for their meals, Matt and Cat browsed a pamphlet extolling three walks around East Cowes, with points of interest along the way including the site of an old council depot, and the spot where Sir Christopher Cockerell’s house used to be. Commendably soon they had to put the leaflet down and receive their food. Their dishes arrived promptly but without the accompanying drinks, and indeed without much fanfare at all. When Cat enquired about cutlery, the youngster serving pointed out the location of the cutlery tray up by the counter, which she proceeded to stroll past on her way back to the kitchen, leaving Cat to follow in her wake and collect two sets of cutlery. Shortly after, Cat had to pay yet another visit to the counter to remind the staff that Matt had ordered drinks. These arrived followed in short order with a courteous apology.
The breakfasts looked good. Matt had opted for no beans, and got to choose what he wanted in exchange – he asked for an additional hash brown. He’d also forgotten to ask for Cat’s extra mushrooms, so he suffered the ignominy of having to offer up the mushrooms from his own breakfast as a penance. Once all this fussing around had been sorted out, the brunchers were more than ready for their food. It was good stuff, and proved to be an entirely satisfactory experience. Cat’s toast was nice and warm, made with thick white bread in the café-style and lavishly lubricated. Her scrambled eggs were the right side of rubbery and Matt’s donated mushrooms help to fortify her after such a long time without food.
The breakfast was above average, with black pudding as standard, plus fresh tomato and two well-cooked fried eggs. The extra hash brown help mop up the runny yolk and a side portion of toast was put to good use by Matt to wipe his plate clean. Both breakfasts were chased down with tea and orange juice.
Suitably refreshed, Matt and Cat left the café with the intention of seeing some of East Cowes’ places of interest, as identified in the health walks leaflet. However, as they stepped out into the street, they by chance spotted a chum of theirs out on his bike. And, within a matter of moments all three were at the Petty Officer Quarters, Osborne House gossiping over tea and cake.
So, a hastily convened day in East Cowes turned out to be pretty good for Matt and Cat. They had refreshments in three diverse places, a pub, a café and a tea room, bought some shelled pistachios and discovered some little known facts about this historic town. As for Laura Jane’s Café? The food and location were above par, but some of the service wasn’t. Still, on a day like today, Matt and Cat are hardly going to criticise anyone for being disorganised!