The Wimpy Restaurant or 'Wimpy Bar' - an English institution. Or so Messrs Wimpy would have us believe.
Named after J. Wellington Wimpy - The burger-loving character from the cartoon, Popeye - these now somewhat quaint establishments were massively popular in suburban British towns until McDonalds began to take over their traditional ground in the 1980s. Needless to say, as with anything slightly out-of-date, you can be sure to find a good supply on the Isle of Wight, and so it proves with Wimpy Bars.
As franchises, these places vary tremendously. There are some diabolical kiosks which bear the Wimpy logo and which, frankly, leave something to be desired - like demolition. And then there is the Wimpy Restaurant on Union Street, Ryde. This venue is a particular favourite of junior reviewers Bill and Jack, who clamour to go there with embarrassing regularity. As well they might: despite the hideous styling and retro connotations the place is clean, spacious, and rarely crowded. Service is quick and polite. Although it has the appearance of a fast-food joint it is quite definitely a café, with diners enjoying china plates, glasses, metal cutlery and full waitress service. Much more sustainable than the disposable packaging which festoons the hedges around the nearby McDonalds drive-in.
The menu is simple, and the food is slightly better than normal 'greasy spoon' café fare. And, for those interested in the nutritional composition of their food, the Wimpy's illustrated menu has full details. This is very commendable - and interesting reading. Other burger chains should take note: providing that information in a leaflet or on your website just isn't as good.
Kingsized cheeseburger £5.40
On a recent visit Matt had a cheeseburger with a good hot cup of tea, in a china mug, with real milk. Jack chose from the excellent value kids menu, and even got a free 'Mr Wimpy's Lucky Bag' of sweets and goodies which was providing entertainment days later. See, Mr Wimpy lives on, they must just keep him in the back, packing bags.
Even The Cat was tempted to enter the cafe at the weekend. The Proustian experience took her back to her art student days when she would have a cheeseburger (if flush with grant money) at the Charlotte Street Wimpy in Portsmouth. Sadly the Wimpy and the architectural behemoth in which it was housed, the Tricorn, are both demolished. However, in 2008, the unmistakable texture of the processed cheese complimenting the burger and the crunchy salad garnish - no gherkins to flick out here - seem unchanged. All washed down with a special offer glass of coke (30p), served in a glass complete with bobbing straw. Takes you right back. And they still do meals with those crazy frankfurters!
And here's a free tip for Wimpy - if you make a big sign to display on your front window, make sure you can spell the name of the place you're trading in, the locals will thank you for it.
They do seem a bit incongruous now, but I much prefer them to the ghastly McD's, and now it has the Matt and Cat imprimatur, I guess I should try the one in Ryde again.
Know what you mean about the sign, though, which rather confirms all our worst fears about current standards of literacy. Still, you don't have to be Proust to cook a decent hamburger, or even one of those frankfurters with cuts in to make them cook into a circle. Do they still do those?
Anyway, I have taken my own advice, and revisited the establishment, with partner and two smaller reviewers, all of whom enjoyed the experience. I could repeat M&C's review almost verbatim, so the only thing I will add is that they don't take plastic. To be fair, there is no suggestion anywhere that they do, but it's an easy assumption to make, and potentially embarrassing if you don't habitually carry much cash.
Apart from that (as they said to Mrs Lincoln as she left the theatre) there was little to complain about. The tea doesn't always come in the advertised pot (you have to ask) and the service was a tad slow, but perhaps that's deliberate, so you know you're not in a fast-food joint!
The prices were reasonable, and the burger buns very lightly toasted, which is just how we like them, so we would definitely go again...
When it's good Wimpy can really shine though. For sarters you get proper crockery and cutlery that is more civilised and doesn't add to the maountain of waste.
The "different" wholemeal bun used for the quarter pounder and its garnish make a really tasty combination and you can up this with a man-sized half pounder. There are othere great options like breakfast. I was a little underwhelmed by the blaness of the famous bender in a bun, but probably would have liked it as a kid.
All in all though, the food walks all over the fodder churned out by McDonalds. Against Burger King (who have a good marque in burgers for adults and we sadly don't have on the island) it still compares well. Even if you still prefer BK beef patties in terms of taste, I think the overall let down in larger American franchise burgers is a kind of sloppy eatiung experience which you don't get with Wimpy. Wimpy also win hands down concerning fries/chips.
I visited at the weekend after not having visited for quite a while.
I'm pretty sure it's under new management since my last visit, it was only 2 in the afternoon when I entered but the place smelt like mouldy old cleaning cloths, the toilets were so filthy I decided to not risk it as I think clean toilets say a lot.
They werent just messy they were filthy. Urine all over the floor and seat, the bin had not been emptied in a while and there was no loo roll, I had a peek in the men's to get toilet paper but the condition was even worse. I've seen nightclub toilets at the end of the night in better condition.
I hope they sort it out.