Hippies, eh, with their free love and beads. Ventnor’s bloody full of them. In the 1960s they say all the beardy-weirdy sandal wearers ended up in this most southerly town because it had the perfect climate for growing cannabis. Whether or not that was the reason, it seems that some of them never left. So today their children, the second-generation Ventnorians, might not look quite so Bohemian but still carry the ideals of the Summer of Love.
The heart of this nest of peaceniks is the Community Café, open every Saturday morning in a well-used space on the corner of Albert Street and Pound Lane. Here one imagines well-intentioned comrades can eat gluten-free cakes and stroke their tufty chins earnestly whilst decrying the state of the planet. But, as is often the case with Ventnor, appearances can be deceptive. The Community Café’s reality is not the tediously worthy hippy Elysium one might assume – it’s actually pretty good.
Fragrant Cat skipped into this ‘green’ haven one Saturday morning just in time to catch the community shop – a small selection of home-grown vegetables, jam and tarts were for sale plus some woven and knitted items. However, these attractions were not enough to keep Cat from her mission. She’d heard that the food in the café was worth seeking out, and so as it only opens once a week she was determined to take this chance to commune with it.
Soup and bread: £1
In the café, a graceful-looking lady in a pinny stirred a cauldron of soup. She had the demeanour of someone who, as well as serving home-made broth, also dispensed a ladleful of TLC to the patrons, all of whom sat in their coats enjoying their soup responsibly.
Fortunately for Cat, who is sometimes overwhelmed by choice, there was only one item on the menu: mushroom soup. Obviously the single dish had to appeal to the lowest community denominator so meat, gluten and nuts were not among the list of ingredients. Proffering her quid, Cat took her bowl of soup and some nice chunks of fresh baguette, and hunkered down at a nearby table to eat. Much pleasure ensued. It was a delicious bowlful; tasty, obviously home-made and pleasantly woody. For £1 you’d be hard pressed to get better value anywhere on the Island. And a more friendly and welcoming atmosphere might be even harder.
Wafting away an earnest petitioner (surely the whales are either saved or doomed by now?) Cat finished her lunch and glided peacefully away.
There’s something satisfying about eating in the Community Café. If you’re in Ventnor on a Saturday morning, you should give it a go. There’s one other thing worth mentioning too: it’s run by volunteers as a public service. That’s pretty impressive – looks like there’s something in that hippy stuff after all.