You know those winter Sundays, the ones where, after months of hiding coyly behind grey clouds, the sun decides to play peek-a-boo?
In that brief moment everyone who has spent the last few months watching old war films and clearing out their cupboards throws on their warmest anorak and runs outside, face turned skywards. On the first sunny Sunday of 2012, the sky was blue and the first flush of daffodils was emerging from the municipal verges. Matt and Cat poked their noses out of their burrow and joined the throngs of promenaders taking the air.
It hardly needs mentioning that Matt and Cat had lunch in mind, and thus their winter walk was a brisk but short one – straight to the door of the Watersedge Café, Gurnard. This seaside perennial stays open throughout the seasons, and has grown up over the years from a glorified ice-cream kiosk to what is now a smart eaterie with more than a hint of the cosmopolitan stripped-pine and pastel shades that characterise lunchtime venues throughout nearby Cowes. If a few jaunty images of boats and seagulls in oversized frames are all that’s needed to complete the formula, Watersedge rises to the occasion there as well.
Matt and Cat settled at a clean and tidy pine table, and noted with approval a sign which told them to expect waitress service. In fact, the diners began to notice a theme throughout the Watersedge – the management seem to be fond of their signs. A nearby step had a sign on it warning of the drop. The door had a full page of A4 on it explaining the winter opening hours. The toilet had a sign in it instructing how to dispose of paper towels – although, oddly enough there was no sign on the outside of the toilet door, leading unwary visitors to suspect they might be about to enter a broom-cupboard and be obliged to retreat in comic confusion; perhaps with one foot in a mop-bucket.
Although this was a very busy Sunday afternoon, the Watersedge was well-staffed with able waitresses. This was actually more impressive than it sounds, because in such circumstances – sudden sunny Sunday after weeks of dreary weather – many otherwise commendable seaside cafés tend to crumble under the unanticipated pressure (and yes, Dell Café, we are looking at you). But obviously Watersedge is flexible enough to anticipate its market and have plenty of help on hand when needed. Thus, after Matt and Cat had spent a few moments looking at the menu, a smart young lady arrived, ready to take their order. And no more than a minute later, she returned with the drinks – water for Cat, and a pot of tea for Matt, which came with a big jug of milk, and enough tea for three and a half cups. All very efficient.
Similarly, the kitchen was turning stuff out rapidly, so there wasn’t an overlong wait for the food. Cat’s soup of the day was French onion. Three little cheesy croutons bobbed on its surface, retaining the soup’s heat; alongside were also a couple of hunks of warmed baguette with butter. The soup was tasty, thick and seasoned – it didn’t claim to be homemade, and probably wasn’t, but was none the worse for it.
Soup of the day £4.95
Fried squid £8.95
Pot of tea for 1 £2.00
Tap water (free)
Matt had been swayed by a more unusual item on the menu: lightly-battered squid. He remembered the exquisite lemony fried squid that they’d been served at Elliot’s, in London’s Borough Market, which for both Matt and Cat had been one of those great culinary experiences that you don’t forget. Could the Watersedge measure up to that?
Matt’s lunch looked promising – a big bowl of piping-hot squid pieces in batter, served with a generous side-salad, two lemon segments and not only tartare sauce but also mayonnaise and coleslaw. He was delighted to find that the salad came without raw onion, and, equally pleasing, it wasn’t buoyed up with a raft of dismal iceberg lettuce but featured a generous handful of fresh leaves, baby plum tomatoes and a dash of dressing. Definitely an above-average salad. Once the squid had cooled enough to be eaten Matt found it pretty good too. Although lightly-battered was clearly a euphemism for ‘coated in a thick layer of batter’, it was tasty: moist but not greasy, with distinct hints of the promised salt-and-pepper seasoning. Rather like a high-class version of the classic deep-fried scampi, the squid pieces had a soft and slightly rubbery texture, and a mild taste which was given necessary depth by the fresh lemon and tartare.
Matt and Cat were pleased by their lunch – the Watersedge is a café which is well worth seeking out. By comparison with other seaside venues at say, Ventnor or Sandown, the Watersedge prices may perhaps reflect the proximity of well-heeled residents of Gurnard and the lack of competition in the area. Nonetheless, the quality of food and very efficient service were above par. If you want to lunch well in the seaside café style, the Watersedge is recommended.