Matt and Cat\'s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide
Archive review: At Sarah’s House is now closed. Ventnor has always had a glut of antique shops and bric-a-brackeries to satisfy the desire for...

Archive review: At Sarah’s House is now closed.

Ventnor has always had a glut of antique shops and bric-a-brackeries to satisfy the desire for vintage housewares like carnival glass and old lace runners. This recherché resort is also one of the best places on the Island for an award-winning dinner, with more AA rosettes than the rest of the Island’s towns can muster between them. When fine dining isn’t the order of the day, Matt and Cat also enjoy a stroll along Ventnor’s sinuous streets where they are spoilt for choice when seeking out a venue for light lunch or a cosy dinner with chums. A decent cup of coffee is also not that hard to find in Ventnor – with Tramezzini and now Cantina both producing an espresso that could be candidates for the best on the Island.

At Sarah's House, Ventnor

But despite all this, there’s been something missing. Where can you buy household essentials such as fabric bunting and Cath Kidston crockery? And, of more interest to Matt and Cat, where do you go for a nice cup of tea and a cake? There are quite a few places to enjoy a a chef’s superlative creation or a continental pastry, but on this particular day M&C were after a wedge of cake and a hot brew. Enter At Sarah’s House. This substantial unit has successfully fused a modern gift shop with a clean and stylish tea room. It was the very thing Matt and Cat wanted to see after their cultural afternoon at Ventnor Fringe.

Matt and Cat like a good cup of tea and a sit down – and preferably a cake. Similarly, they like to have a good moan when the essential elements of this ceremony are in some way displeasing. In fact, it’s possibly true to say that tutting over the tea is as much a part of the process as a teapot or sugar bowl. So if you want to prevent M&C clucking, make sure you serve them tea with fresh milk. Thankfully a rarity these days, there was a time when the heathen practice of UHT cartons was shockingly ubiquitous. And while you’re at it, the teapot should be full, the hot water really piping hot, and the tea itself nice and fresh. And… well, you get the idea. M&C have got their own view on just about everything really. And just to make the job of tea-purveyor even harder, every English family has a different, and strictly enforced, set of rules and standards. MIF (Milk In First), tongs or fingers – the permutations are limitless.

At Sarah’s House is a spacious place: half mart, half biscuits.

At Sarah’s House is a spacious place: half mart, half biscuits. M&C clearly weren’t the only ones with a nice cup of tea and a sit down on their minds; even at 4pm the cafe was pretty busy. However, a table became free at the right moment and M&C grabbed it. Cat was dispatched to the counter tasked with the tricky duty of choosing cakes for herself and Matt. Earlier in the day there may have been a bigger array but that’s beside the point; there was still a good range to make Cat swish her tail with indecision.

Returning to the table she spotted a couple of Fringe hipsters, both reading Penguin paperbacks in comfortable silence and sipping at their tea. Similarly, at the nearby Prufrock pop-up earlier that day, M&C had chatted to an achingly hip velvet-jacketed neo-beardy, jabbing pretentiously at a manual typewriter. Festival visitors or local bohemians? Does it matter? Their presence helped give the place a metropolitan vibe. At Sarah’s House provided the perfect atmosphere for chilling with a book; it was all stripped wooden floors, white walls and fresh flowers. From the adjacent shop came piped Elvis and the hubbub of customers exclaiming over gingham and polka dots – adding to the pleasant ambiance.

The tea was served well and there were no complaints from the fussy tea-drinkers. It was good. In fact, very good. All the requisites were in attendance: pretty cups and saucers, hot water, milk in a jug – you know the drill. There were also some Illy coffee paddles – flattened spoon-a-likes for stirring the drinks. Probably ubiquitous in That London, but a novelty for provincial M&C. The cake was the tea’s equal: Matt described his slice of sticky ginger cake as “really, really good”. The spicy-sweet loaf was fresh, moist and delicious. Cat’s chocolate brownie was the perfect afternoon pick-me-up; a good slab of textbook brownie, with a slight crust and a gooey centre. And the whole lot was less than £7. As they waved goodbye to the folks behind the counter, Matt and Cat were confident it wouldn’t be long before they’d be back At Sarah’s House.

Archive review: At Sarah’s House is now closed.