Matt and Cat\'s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide
ARCHIVE: Smuggler’s Haven, Bonchurch ARCHIVE: Smuggler’s Haven, Bonchurch
ARCHIVE REVIEW: Smuggler’s Haven is now closed, and following a huge landslide in the area doesn’t look likely to ever open again. Which is... ARCHIVE: Smuggler’s Haven, Bonchurch
ARCHIVE REVIEW: Smuggler’s Haven is now closed, and following a huge landslide in the area doesn’t look likely to ever open again. Which is a shame, they did great cream teas.  So long, Smuggler’s Haven, and thanks for everything. 
Smuggler's Haven, Bonchurch landslip

The Landslip at Bonchurch is an intriguing place, describing itself on an old sign as an historic pleasure park. It is a vertiginous jungle with windy paths, rocky outcrops and precipitous steps. If you have the energy for an aerobic hike about this landscape then you will do well to treat yourself to a cream tea at the spectacularly positioned Smuggler’s Haven cafe. Which is exactly what your reviewers did one pleasant afternoon in October.

Having panted up and down this wildly undulating landscape, from the beach at Luccombe and up the spectacularly claustrophobia-inducing Devil’s Chimney, Matt and Cat headed for the only refreshments for miles around. Despite the wide selection of food available, such as traditional cafe fare including egg and chips plus a wide variety of filled sandwiches, M and C had their hearts set on cream tea.

The cafe is in the traditional style, and its little tables, lino floor and old-fashioned tea urn were all very smart and clean. It even sells a few souvenirs, and, like much of Ventnor, is pleasantly reminiscent of a bygone, more innocent age of tourism.

Served by a friendly chap with a pleasingly heavy hand when it came to doling out the jam and cream, a tray of tea for two soon appeared. Your reviewers took advantage of what may have been the last warm Sunday of the year and sat on the cafe’s terrace with its panoramic views of the English Channel.

The cream tea was reasonable value for money (£3.50 per head) – there was plenty of jam and cream and, with judicious use of a generous pot of hot water, their teapot never ran dry. There was an adequate supply of real milk given, with no need to ask for more. The scones were dry and crumbly, though not excessively so, and had an unexpected, but not unpleasant, taste of allspice or cinnamon about them. With this welcome injection of sugar, carbohydrates and plenty of tea, your reviewers were well prepared to tackle a further section of the Landslip’s unique and challenging landscape.

  • Yvonne Lewis says:

    Regarding Smugglers’s Haven Bonchurch,reviewed under the best cream tea accolade. I went yesterday and found that your last review was way off the mark and needs to be revisited. The scones are quite dry but the worst thing is there is cinnamon added which ruins the unique “scone experience”. As Alice said the jam is very basic they could serve better quality even f it’s not home made. The cream was over whipped which left it tasting a bit watery so all in all not a great experience!!!!.

    The Landslip is worth visiting and the tea is good so just swing by for a cuppa.

  • Lee308 says:

    Last used this delightful place in 1976 when I was 7 years old and was heartened to discover last Saturday that it doesn’t appear to have changed one bit. Let me tell you that this is a very, very good thing. Had a cheese and tomato toastie to fuel me for the drive back up to the West Midlands and washed it down with a banana milkshake which I probably last had back in ’76. Pleased with food and service. I even bought a souvenir mug. As far as I’m concerned the only additions this tea room needs is that hot ’76 weather and clientele wearing cheesecloth shirts and denim flares which isn’t something you could blame on the proprietor. Please don’t modernise the place, modern life really is rubbish but the Smugglers’ Haven is not. Good unspoiled little place and great for a nostalgia trip.

  • Christine says:

    I too am surprised at the comments submitted by Alice for the Smugglers Haven. We visit every year at least once in the summer on our holiday and have always been remembered by the chap who serves at the counter. The Tea has never been a “Labelled” bag but is always a good tea. There is usually a “Spare” bag on the tray for folk who prefer a stronger brew. My partner prefers Coffee and this is always hot. My partner always has a Rock Cake if we visit in the morning and I have a slice of either Victoria Sponge or the Walnut and Coffee Cake if we have an afternoon visit. They are always delicious and fresh. The ambiance is that of an old fashioned cafe that we can relax in and take in the scenery before we set out on our landslip walks.

  • Alex says:

    Alice, are you sure that you were at the Smuggler’s Haven? I cannot agree with any of your comments (along with people who return there year after year).

    I cannot think of anywhere on the Island who provide homemade jam and loose leaf tea for a cream tea costing only £5. Last time I had a cream tea there it was great. BTW they do keep Earl Grey tea if you prefer.

    I am very happy with the way the place looks, its charming rather than looking like an outpost of Ikea or some vile coffee chain and I hope it never changes.

    The service is always friendly and welcoming and no, I have nothing whatever to do with the business.

  • Alice says:

    Had what I thought would be a pleasant cream tea here this weekend, and it was anything but. You’re paying for the view, plain and simple. I knew the quality would be awful the moment I walked through the door, but my friend being a polite sort ploughed on with her order.

    A cream tea was £5. It came with two dry scones with a sour after-taste as far too much bicarbonate of soda had been used. This came with Tetley tea served in a metal cafeteria pot, some jam that was likely from the Co-Op’s basic range, overwhipped grainy cream and a butter pat. I wasn’t expecting finest darjeeling in a bone china pot, but I do expect homemade jam (it isn’t as though there’s a shortage of delicious homemade produce on the Isle of Wight!) and tea which doesn’t come from a bag. The scones would have been better had they not been homemade. My friend’s toasted sandwich was charred to pieces and was advertised as “crab” but had about a teaspoon of crab within. That was £5.90, I think. For two slices of burned cheap bread, a soggy tomato, a slice of cheese and a teaspoon of crab.

    Very disappointed. It’s a gorgeous setting, but park in the car park and walk through without paying to access the look towards the sea instead. People willing to rip off tourists with such lacklustre food don’t deserve anyone’s custom. Perhaps this place was better, but from the looks of the 60s-style ordering area and the tired decor, I’m thinking not. They ought to be ashamed of themselves. Matt and Cat, I think you should get someone to check it out incognito and if their experience is like mine make sure your sticker is removed from their door post haste!

    Matt and Cat respond: sorry you had such a bad time Alice 🙁 We have been to the Smugglers’ Haven on numerous occasions since our original review, and haven’t found it greatly changed; so at present we’re not considering changing the review or indeed withdrawing any stickers. Plus, we do always go incognito when we’re reviewing anyway. We’re not that (in)famous.

  • Karen says:

    What a wonderful setting, the view is fabulous! The toasties are the best I have found on the island. A great stop of point whilst on a long walk.

  • Gary and Jackie Rogers says:

    We have visited for years and I always send a Smugglers Haven Cafe postcard home to Norfolk,it has become a great source of amusement to our friends who receive the same card over and over.we love the place and would recommend it to everyone as a very special place-may it never change.Ps we have two Dalmations and it is very dog friendly.

  • Lorraine West says:

    The best cafe in the world,
    best cream tea
    best apple pie
    and best view
    been there every year for 20 years can’t wait to go in June

  • Alex says:

    I love this place and have used it for more years than I care to remember, She makes the most wonderful blackberry and apple pies (sadly sold out on my last visit). My dog always has two sausages which she brings out cut up in a plastic container – an important consideration! Basic food, but sometimes that is just what is needed in a pit stop half way though a walk.

    I hope it never changes.

  • Ventnor Lass says:

    This is my favourite cafe. The views are amazing the owners are friendly and helpful and the homemade scones are wonderful. The rock cakes cannot be equalled anywhere. It may be small but that is part of its charm. I can wholeheartedly recommend it.

  • Reeny says:

    We stopped here yesterday in the hope of having a nice coffee and a scone. The views are lovely from the outside area, I wish I could say the same about the inside. I nearly decided to go somewhere else when I walked into the cramped cafe to order our drinks etc. Although the coffee was poured from a filter jug it tasted like awful cheap instant. The scones on display did not look home made, but tiny, tired and dry, which matched how they tasted. There was a healthy serving of cream to go with the jam for the scone which made it edible, but not worth returning for.

  • Norfolk Nick says:

    Stopped for a snack & ice cream break here last week.

    The kids had a bowl of chips each (£1.95) – OK (frozen chips deep fried) but very small portions.

    My wife enjoyed her coffee & cake and said she would come back…..praise indeed from the cake chomping monster (if only I could stay as slim as her!!).

    Really stunning location with fantastic views across the sea. I could have stayed there all day just watching the ships go by…….you lucky locals!

    For all you tourists out there this one is a must!

  • Rainbow says:

    I love this place- gorgeous channel views, delicious Ventnor bay crab sandwiches, generous pot of tea and (the best bit) the most wonderful home-made bread pudding I’ve ever had the good fortune to sample! I shall be back.

  • John & Janet says:

    We called in here a couple of times as we were billetted a short walk away.
    An excellent establishment, and agree that you could believe that it has’nt changed in perhaps the last 60 years – and thats a good thing. After the long uphill haul back from Ventnor we called in for tea, it had started to rain but we wanted to be outside. The thoughtful proprietor provided a parasol as shelter and we sat out on our own in the rain, looking out over the channel. It was magic.

  • Steve and Qiu says:

    A fantastic place to visit and enjoy delicious home cooked cakes , and generous amounts of very good tea and coffee… We stopped by on our bikes for a few minutes , but couldn’t resist staying much longer to enjoy the lovely food and friendly atmosphere…

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