Matt and Cat\'s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide
Last Sunday Matt had his mainlander parents to entertain; plus young Bill and the ever-present Cat twining around his legs. There were too many...

Last Sunday Matt had his mainlander parents to entertain; plus young Bill and the ever-present Cat twining around his legs. There were too many of them to squeeze into the car and drive to Fields for Sunday lunch so they decided to stroll along Ryde prom and see which venue could accommodate them all.

Filled ciabatta

Cat’s freckly skin does not mix well with the summer sun. She was keen to take advantage of the unexpectedly clement autumn weather and get her bingo wings out without out fear of second-degree burns. So, off they all sauntered in best Sunday bimbling mode, passed children on stabilised bikes and in the incidental company of several dogs.

The upper storeys of the Seashell Cafe were closed and the only available table outside was next to a geriatric man singing karaoke. Nearby most of Ryde’s smokers were enjoying the last of the mild days before they were condemned to suck their poison in the chill winds of winter. It was great to see the seafront so well-used, but it also did not bode well for finding somewhere for lunch. Would the gang of five have to walk to Seaview before they could find room at the inn? Or would a kindly beach hut owner brew up a Pot Noodle for them to share?

Filled ciabatta

Eagle-eyed readers just by reading the title of this review will know that of course the walkers did indeed find succour. For the less attentive, the next venue that Matt and Cat encountered was the Dell Café, previously known as Jill’s Pantry. This unimaginatively designed building is in an absolutely fabulous spot. With no direct access by car, patient walkers are rewarded with a view across the protected zostera beds to Ryde’s famous pier and northwards to Hampshire’s south coast. For those unable to manage the relatively flat walk from Appley car park there’s usually a space at Puckpool Battery.

The patio had just one free table when the party arrived, but that was all they needed. However, they did not particularly need the meal remnants of the previous occupants and Cat, under the supervision of Matt’s mother, clucked about; piling up the debris and fishing discarded crockery from the table and environs. It appeared that the table’s last incumbents had carried out their own makeshift tidying by bunging all the stuff they’d found on the table behind a nearby wall and out of sight. Eventually a waitress turned up with a tray and, after three trips, had cleared all of the plates and cups. Encouraged to bring a wet cloth, she disconsolately flicked all of the remaining food onto the floor, presumably for the dogs, gulls and other scavengers to enjoy later.

Chicken Caesar wrap

With one menu between them Matt and Cat and the rest of the family poured over it intently. By now it was two o’clock and there was still a big queue for food so, having chosen, they sent the most stoic member of the team to place the order. He came back about ten minutes later. Having arrived at the front of the queue he found that the café did not take plastic. Purses were snapped open and folding money was gathered and passed over to Norman who once again took his position at the back of the queue.

The food is great and there is an excellent choice… However, this time the service was exceptionally bad.

Ten minutes later he returned once more. The kitchen, it seemed, had run out of Stilton. this was not necessarily a surprise at the café was extraordinarily busy. But it was a problem as more than half of the party had ordered the tasty-sounding bacon, Stilton and cranberry ciabatta. With the revised selections scribbled on a piece of paper and his fist still full of sterling, it was third time lucky.

By now, the heat of the walk waning, Cat’s bingo wings were getting goose pimples and, spotting a table indoors, she requested that the party reconvene in the shelter of the flat-roofed construction. And so in they trooped, only to sit at yet another table piled up with leftovers, including discarded tissues. Half of the stuff was cleared away, and the table did not need to cower in fear of The Damp Cloth as that had obviously finished its shift. So, using the provided tissues – there were no napkins – Matt’s mum pushed the crumbs about and left the screwed up tissue on the table for lack of anywhere else to put it. When the food arrived the matriarch of the party marched purposefully off in search of cutlery. There was none. Apparently it was all waiting to be washed and she was informed that the kitchen staff would clean some presently. This was indeed that case and dripping utensils were placed in a heap on the table. Strictly, the staff had promised to wash the cutlery, but not to dry it. Fortunately the box of tissues was not depleted so all wiped their fighting-irons dry and commenced the business of eating.

After such a protected and dysfunctional rigmarole to actually obtain food, the party was close to exasperation. Thankfully the food proved to be lovely and, apart from a tale about a balloon, the hungry walkers were disinclined to chat as they munched through the delicious meals.

Cat had a chicken Caesar wrap and Matt had beef pastrami in his ciabatta. All of the dishes came with a good helping of salad, home-made coleslaw, a slice of orange and either vegetable crisps or tortillas. The wrap was nice and soft and stuffed with the perfect Caesar ingredients including a splendid garlicky dressing. The ciabatta was crisp, fresh, and packed with decent meat and tangy rocket. The others nodded their accord: the food was very good.

Minghella ice creams for pudding finished off Sunday lunch at the Dell Café. Obviously the venue is a success, and not due entirely to its spectacular view. The food is great and there is an excellent choice of light meals and a few specials. It’s particularly commendable that this café rejects the typical seaside caff image and serves creative, fresh food that should tempt anybody. On past visits at less busy times M&C have had the same quality stuff from the kitchen, and not had so much trouble with the service. However, this time the service was exceptionally bad. The tables were either not cleared at all, or half-heartedly so. Though the plates dumped behind the wall can’t really be blamed on the café’s staff, those plates shouldn’t really have been left on the table in the first place. That and the pile of wet cutlery were just embarrassing. The experience reminded Cat of the recent visit to Granny Winter’s Pantry and the subsequent comment by Ellen, who implored, “It isn’t their fault that they are constantly rushed off their feet with customers to not have the time to constantly clean cutlery.” Matt and Cat can’t support this view. Having clean tables and cutlery is not incidental to the business of a café, it’s a fundamental part of it. The Dell would be recommended by Matt and Cat if it wasn’t for the lacklustre table hygiene.

Disclosure: Matt has a professional involvement in the management of the surrounding park – but is not connected to the management of the café.
Dell Café, Puckpool

  • vfbb says:

    The weekend Tapas night are fab! We ate there last night and were grinning from ear to ear when we finished. Lovely views and the best tapas I’d tasted.

  • pete says:

    Yes, a good place, but oh dear, the service left a lot to be desired at the weekend.
    There is not really a proper queuing system, so when busy if you just want drinks, you have to wait for the people ordering food to be dealt with. Surely a “food queue” and a “drinks queue” might help things along? Mind you, with one queue snaking around the interior, you are continually pushed around by folk requiring cutlery or going to the facilities. We waited just over 30mins for 2 cups of coffee on Sunday and even then they got that order wrong!! Hopefully just a one-off error.

  • linda says:

    We go to the Dell Cafe all the time as it is such an amazing current and lovely venue, we feel that people have given some very strange comments as the service and the staff are so lovely and laid back, they never make you feel uneasy or uwelcome which is just what you want from a beach cafe. The interior is funky and quirky and the food and coffee are really just plain good!!!! Great views and lovely location, it knocks the socks off other cafes. You expect to wait on busy days and also plates on tables is kind of expected when the cafe gets as busy as this one, it shows just how popular it is. The staff are always busy and never stop working, or cleaning they are always on the go it shows they enjoy working there. So all in all a great place to go with lovely staff I recommend it to all.

  • da yw wyth says:

    Yes, this place is a little bit of a conundrum! A brilliant spot to cycle to for breakfast after the early-morning Sunday lane swim at Ryde pool, with good alternatives to the ubiquitous eggs and bacon – I had an ample and tasty helping of scrambled egg on toast with salmon. The panorama is unrivalled, even if the owners of certain dogs think their main contribution is to allow their pet to sniff at your table, or to yap unchecked to its hearts’ content!

    It’s great to see the newly-prepared cake mix carefully spooned out and put into the oven – freshly made stuff, and not imported from Nottingham or somewhere! But this issue about the service is a puzzling one; it is all very happy-go-lucky! It really is like dropping in on one of those very welcoming but chaotic families where you have to “take us as you find us” or not at all. There is something to be said for not being too obsessive about hygiene after all – people from those families usually tend to avoid the sniffles and snuffles that plague the rest of us! So the dried-up danish pastry on the counter, which I was kindly offered for nothing before it went in the bin – was I’m sure nothing untoward as far as the staff were concerned.

    Only snag is – visiting a take-us-or-leave-us family does not incur a charge – going to the Dell cafe does!

  • Wendy B says:

    Just come back from a few days on IOW. We have flat in St Helens and love the walk from Seaview to Ryde. Always try and get a bit of lunch at the Dell cafe if we can but agree that it seems better out of season. The menu is different and quite extensive, I love the Baked Potatoe with warm Cajun Chicken!The interior is a bit quirky and different and its a bit of a haven when you have had a blustery walk along the front. Its just that sometimes the service is not as good as the food.

  • MintyMat says:

    Visited again at the weekend and was in for an amazing treat. A super menu and specials to die for. I had roasted vegetables in focaccia. Really good, everything fresh, nicely seasoned and full of flavour. The staff were much better, organised and prompt service. The place was buzzing and we secured a table outside, overlooking the sea. My wife had a fresh crab sandwich, which she loved and my girls shared beetroot and bacon soup. The waitress was happy to split this into 2 bowls AND brought extra bread for the girls to enjoy. We’ll definitely be going again. Huge improvements!

  • Mat says:

    I think they have a limited winter menu, just nice to find it open. I had a great homemade rock cake here last week. Still warm and kept the chill wind at bay!

  • D says:
    the food quality makes it so close to being brilliant!

    I don’t know if it’s just me but the shambolic headless chicken impersonations of the staff actually kind of add to the charm of this little place! They obviously care about what they do and the quality of the food is actually rather good. However, last time i went along a couple of weeks ago I was presented with a rather shabby menu with about 40% of it crossed out with a marker pen. It just needs whoever’s running it to get a bit of direction and regain control so they can offer a reliable level of service. It’s a shame as the food quality makes it so close to being brilliant!

  • aaf says:

    Agree totally with Ringo. Nice food, great setting, but I tend not to use the cafe because of disinterested & slightly rude attitude of staff.

  • mattfromryde says:

    The setting and food is great, but at busy times the service is lacklustre and the tables dirty. We avoid the busy times and thus the problem, however I agree with the general setiment that it should not be beyond the management to produce a more consistent offering.

  • carlos says:

    I have been a regular here for at least two years and i am supprized by the comments made on this website. My friends and family have all shared their joy when dining here especially during the summer when they are open eveings. With the fantastic view at their disposal, great food, good coffee and friendly staff, it’s hard to beat. I have reccommended the dell cafe to all i know, this must have been a one off.

  • ringo says:

    Yes, I’ll second that – the food at the Dell is usually great but the staff there do sometimes give the impression they’re doing you a favour serving you, and that your presence there is disrupting their private party to which you’re not invited. But it still knocks the socks off most Island caffs.

  • Mat says:

    This sounds about spot on. I’ve seen some delightful food combinations on the menu but the staff always appear to be shambolic, although usually pleasant. I really want to like this place as it’s local to me and is in a beautiful setting. Just needs a bit more organisation.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.