The attractions of East Cowes are well-known, but for us as food reviewers they have historically been relatively few. Not to say there haven’t been highlights. We’ve enjoyed the classy food at the Albert Cottage, the cheerful atmosphere at hipstery pizza joint Prego, and even nodded in approval at the worthy Seabreeze chip shop. We might prefer to draw a veil over some of the offerings we have had at Osborne House, but that’s a bit of an outlier. It is definitely true that dining-out options in East Cowes have improved over the years. And now word has reached us of a new venture from a familiar stable – Artisan Cafe, run by the family team who formerly delivered delicious home-made bread and baked goods under the Rustic Crust brand.
Set up in part of the old garage next to East Cowes fire station, Artisan Café is well-positioned to attract passing trade. The venue is open 8am till 4pm six days a week, focussing on breakfasts and lunches. Looking at the menu, it was clear that this was not simply a place for toasted paninis and waffles. A whole page of breakfast dishes included chorizo eggs; homemade banana bread, and the awesome-looking muffin stack – pressed caramelised onion sausage, sauté garlic mushrooms and spinach, chipotle mayo, pan-fried egg, and house pickles on an English muffin. We were beside ourselves trying to choose, so when the canny proprietor suggested the Artisan breakfast special we jumped at the chance.
To go alongside the breakfast we took Indian chai tea, and were delighted when this came in a proper teapot, with milk on the side. A teapot which had more than two cupfuls in it, as well. Not a glass of hot water with a teabag on a plate and a Biscoff lotus biscuit, as might be found in other comparable establishments. In this place, a lotus biscuit would swiftly be shown the door – this is after all a baker’s café, and the alluring range of fresh-baked items on display across the counter included cakes, scones, doughnuts and breads.
As customers came and went we soon got the idea that Artisan has already won itself a loyal following in East Cowes. It was a real little community, where almost everyone got a personal greeting, the occasional dog got a treat, and one chap was chuffed to be able to redeem his loyalty card for a free drink. This is the lifeblood of a sustainable venue on the Isle of Wight – make the locals welcome and in return they’ll keep you afloat through those desperate months before the summer season returns.
Chai tea: £2.70
Artisan breakfast: £11.50
The special breakfast was one of the best-presented breakfasts we have ever encountered. A steaming-hot mango, lime and coconut sausage was sliced neatly to allow saucily fruit-infused steam to escape. Rosemary and garlic-braised mushrooms were moist and aromatic, and a perfectly-poached egg wobbled precariously on a neatly-sliced avocado. A seared lemon segment was there in case you wanted to spritz your avo – who wouldn’t? – and naturally there was fresh sourdough bread, lightly buttered. Alongside came a big steaming pot of home-made spicy beans, and all across the plate a scattering of well-chosen garnishes elevated this from a satisfactory breakfast to a great one. Pea shoots, a light tomato relish, radish slices and a few sweet slivers of quick-pickled red onion. This is the kind of handiwork you expect to pay £25 for at dinnertime across the Medina; not less than half that for breakfast in East Cowes. The meal was as good as it looked – and by this we mean it was outstanding. The range and quality of the ingredients here made this a plateful that would be hard to better.
Settling up at the counter, it was impossible not to look those cakes in the eye and resist. We took a box of baked treats back with us, and truly, these were worth the trip alone. Without even looking at the lunchtime menu we know we’re coming back here to try it. And you should too. Artisan Café is an unusual and exceptional new place, and we predict it will do very well. Get in now, before everyone outside East Cowes gets to hear of it.
Phone: 07730 886928
This is the full-length version of the review first published in the Isle of Wight County Press.
- High quality home-baked food
- Great community atmosphere
- Not open for dinner