Anyone who keeps an eye on the Isle of Wight County Press will note that, following our favourable review of the Woodman’s Arms, Gordon Pollard from Sandown was compelled to put pen to paper. He complained about our analogy between the pub’s gravy and a millionaire footballer. We had said that the meaty sauce was “as rich and thick as Wayne Rooney“. Gordon went on to infer that our writing abilities were certainly no match for the Scouser’s footballing ones. We’ll admit, we’re not in the same league. We have no knowledge of sport and, it has to be said, no interest in it either. Football may be the national game but we couldn’t give two hoots for it, nor cricket, darts, or snooker. So, if we are such sports refuseniks, how did we find ourselves in a tennis club one Saturday morning? You know how – and the answer is, of course, BACON!
Courtside Cafe, Ryde has been generating a bit of a buzz on social media. Someone has been busy uploading pictures of delicious-looking hotpots and stews which have made us sit up and take notice. Finding ourselves in Ryde, pre-breakfast and looking for somewhere to eat, we heading to the Courtside Cafe to see if the pictures were as good as their, uh… word.
Courtside Cafe is a single storey structure with a small verandah and picture windows overlooking the courts of Ryde Mead Lawn Tennis Club and the Solent beyond. We didn’t see much sign of the lawn but we could watch youngsters practising their strokes, as indeed could their eager parents. We’d chosen a busy time to visit the cafe but, as we were hungry and it was warm and welcoming in there, we decided to stay and nabbed the last seats, which were on a cosy sofa by a small electric fire.
As we read the menu we almost had to pinch ourselves. Were these prices correct? Toasties from a couple of quid? Jacket potatoes starting at three English pounds? It seemed so. Matt wanted to see if the all day breakfast was a good as it sounded and Cat’s head was turned by a poached egg – so easy to get wrong and perfect when right.
While children swung their rackets about on the damp tennis courts and their parents had at least one eye on the action, we chatted with a mate we’d brought along for the ride. The interior furnishings of the cafe, citrusy brights and matching crockery, put Cat and Sally in mind of a recent Jacques Demy musical they’d seen at Yafford Film Club. It was probably for the best that there wasn’t really room to re-enact some of the more energetic dance moves from the French New Wave classic Les Demoiselles de Rochefort.
English breakfast £5.95
Courtside brunch £4.95
The full English was an impressive spread, with toast and a seemingly bottomless pot of tea included. Matt dug into what was billed as An Old English Sausage, finding it tasty and certainly not that old. The bacon he was particularly impressed by, two sizable and crisp rashers were ideal for mopping up the juice from the big, fresh grilled tomato. The menu even helpfully pointed out the meat was from Ryde’s own Island Foods – commendably local.
Cat’s Courtside Brunch was delicious. A cute brace of muffins, piled high with sauteed spinach, mushrooms and tomatoes and topped with free range poached eggs. It’s usually all about the eggs and, at Courtside Cafe, it was possible that the chef had the help of poach pods to get the eggs just right. No snotty white, but plenty of runny yolk got the thumbs up from Cat. But it’s not all about the eggs; mushrooms too can be a deal breaker. You’ve had those deep-fried abominations, we’re sure; over-greasy and bitter. It’s obviously personal preference but you can’t really go wrong with a mushroom sauteed in salted butter, and the tennis club’s mushrooms fitted the bill admirably. The tomato added an acidic note to the dish and the spinach was wilted without being slimy.
Parents and their charges departed once the lessons were over, and we pretty much had the place to ourselves. Using our second pot of hot water we were able to wring out the teapot to an impressive six cups, lubricating our gossiping with seemingly endless tea.
It might have been easy to overlook this little gem of a cafe. It’s unlikely we’d have set foot in the tennis club without the lure of food. The small venue somehow manages to ‘serve’ up excellent and remarkable value dishes, with homemade cakes too. We were very impressed with our breakfasts, the sparky-coloured crockery and tea presented the way we like it – in a pot with hot water on the side. In the summer you can sit out on the lawn – which we definitely recommend. Add a great panoramic view of the Solent and the mainland beyond, this is a venue to ‘love’!
This is the full-length version of the review that appeared in the Isle of Wight County Press.
- Great value
- Local produce
- Tea in a pot
- Can get busy at tennis lesson times