Sometimes the thing you fancy is a decent fry-up, and nothing else will do. Well, if you’re Matt that is. Cat can normally make do with some eggs and mushrooms on toast, so long as there’s some coffee involved too. And in search of these things we found ourselves recently round the back of Waterside Swimming Pool, Ryde, where the former municipal cafe has been reborn as The Captain’s Table.
This seaside cafe is curious in that despite being nearer to the sea than almost any other eatery in Ryde, it has no direct access to the beach and no sea views. Nonetheless it’s a place that beach-goers drop into on the way to and from the shore, or the nearby pool. In recent years it’s been making a name for itself as a reliable purveyor of bargain-basement cafe food, plus ‘award-winning fish and chips’.
On the day we arrived, the Captain’s Table had a little bouncy castle running on the nearby lawn. Matt’s kids are a bit old for such fun now, but not so old that he didn’t nod with approval and acknowledge the parents sitting comfortably in the cafe whilst their offspring played safely and visibly. Such facilities are highly valued by those who need them. Arriving just as a large party of touring bikers was just leaving, we passed on through an oddly-constructed enclosed patio, and then a barn-like interior where food can be obtained. In the end we chose a seat outside in the warm late summer heat, and ordered some breakfast.
On studying the menu it became clear that the Captain’s reputation for cheapness was a well-deserved one. Matt’s ‘Large’ breakfast weighed in at a mere £5.95. He could have doubled up with the ‘Mega Breakfast Challenge’ for only £10. This was, we should say, nearly twice the price of a whole roast dinner, but it was the fear of death by sausage that turned Matt away, rather than the price. Cat was similarly pleased to see her favourite scrambled egg on toast as a standard menu item, and only £2.75.
We’ve often remarked that elegant recovery from a problem is the sign of really good service, and that’s what happened here. For some trivial reason the same table number had been allocated twice, and so when the food came out there was a bit of confusion on behalf of both tables. It was the tiniest of hiccups that inconvenienced nobody, but by way of apology our amiable and smartly-attired waitress made us feel as though we were getting the royal treatment when she brought the right meals out.
Cat tucked in to her brekkie with relish. The classic scrambled egg on toast, with Lavazza coffee and a glass of orange juice. Alas Cat had to forego mushrooms as there weren’t any available, but the egg wasn’t rubbery, the toast wasn’t cold, and she sipped her drinks as the sun managed to come out for a while and shine on the happy diners. Actually, despite the location the view from the patio wasn’t all that, and it seemed as though the Captain’s Table could have probably done a bit to improve it. Around us as we ate were a selection of ancient broken planters containing withered remnants, what looked like a long-decommissioned barbecue, and a sack truck. All doubtless useful props in the business of running a cafe, but traditionally such impedimenta are stowed away from the gaze of patrons, not right out in the prime dining space.
The Large Breakfast came with beans anyway – Matt always asks for these to be omitted but clearly this was a transgression that couldn’t be countenanced. The rest was an impressive pile. Chopped tinned tomatoes might not look quite as stylish as gently charred vine tomatoes, but by goodness they make a lot of tasty, sharp juice that cuts through the fat and soaks into the bread. And as well as toast, was that really fried sliced bread on the side? Oh, joy. A trip down memory lane as Matt happily recalled his days at the college canteen. And bacon that had been banged onto the hot griddle long enough to give the fat a really seared flavour. We were not anticipating originality or artisan ingredients, and we didn’t get any. This was a splendid breakfast, which for the price was particularly impressive. Alongside came plenty of tea, in a stainless steel pot, with extra hot water. Oh yes.
The Captain’s Table is a classic seaside cafe, with everything you’d expect plus a few bonuses. For service and value, it excels. It’s also going to be a very good place for groups with young children, especially in the summer when they can safely play outside. The food is generous but basic, and a bit of attention to the presentation of the patio would knock it up a gear, but if you’re not bothered about that, we’d say get on down there.
- Bouncy castle for the kids
- Good service
- Beach right nearby
- Scruffy patio
- No sea views