For a county surrounded by water there are surprisingly few beach-side eateries on the Isle of Wight. Those venues lucky enough to be within a nostril’s length of salty air generally capitalise on their sea view – and why wouldn’t they? A refreshing cool beverage on a sunny terrace or hot chocolate with winter waves crashing about is an attractive proposition. And you can’t go really wrong with a drink.
Away from the bar, we’ve often rather cynically suggested that some coastal places don’t always make an effort in the kitchen as punters will visit anyway, drawn by that ocean panorama. This may be an old-fashioned view. Certainly restaurants like Gurnard’s Little Gloster and The Hut at Colwell have rather upped the ante and offer high quality food in a picture postcard setting.
Like many folk finding themselves hungry in Ryde on a typically sunny day, we considered the options of the town and the beach. Appley Park is a glorious historic landscape, quite different from the kiss-me-quickery of Sandown, with its landmark tower and ancient wood skirting the vast protected sands and it was there we headed.
Having strolled past Appley Café and its upstairs neighbour Three Buoys, we were fortunate to spot a family leaving a table on the terrace at the Dell Café. So we nabbed it. To be honest, it’s worth forking out the cost of a light lunch just to stare across the Solent as far as the future-scape chimneys at Fawley.
The previous occupants of our table had been typically multi-generational and the paterfamilias of the group warned us to “watch out for what’s under the table” as they left. Expecting a dog, it turned out to be the remnants of the baby’s lunch. If half of the sprog’s meal had ended up in its mouth then it would indeed have had a decent feed. Within moments of us sitting down, a waitress busied herself clearing our table and even got a long-handled dustpan and brush to sweep the floor.
We briefly turned our attention away from the sea – did we mention the fabulous view? – to look at the menu. There was a goodly array of specials plus some tempting-sounding salads, tacos and burgers.
We were having a gay old time. Having retrieved an unusual-looking spider, Matt then befriended a child who was keen to have a closer look at the invertebrate. We then received a stone with our number on and exchanged pleasantries with a lady manoeuvring her mother in wheelchair, who declared “it’s been a long time since I pushed a pushchair”.
Cat really enjoyed her Moroccan-style wrap. The flat-bread was filled with meat-free goodness; warmed chickpea and mushroom falafel generously dressed with delicious mint yogurt. The wrap also included sweet pickled red onion, Nomad-style, which added a vinegary contrast to the cool yoghurt. The wrap was served with undressed leaves (more garnish than salad) which were nonetheless varied and tasty. In fact the lettuce stepped welcomely over the line from peppery to mustard-hot. Alongside it were served sweet potato fries – the trendy alternative to the potato chip, which is showing no signs of becoming unfashionable.
Salt and pepper squid and fries £9.95
Chickpea wrap £8.95
Tea pigs tea £2
But the view! Did we mention the view? It was almost too distracting for Matt but he eventually knuckled down to his salt and pepper squid. The mollusc fragments were served searingly-hot and with a crisp batter, some sweet chllli sauce, and a miniscule lemon slice. A handful of skin-on fries and a decent dressed salad made a nice light lunch.
In order to bathe in that view a bit longer we bought a slice of red velvet cake. This scarlet sponge was probably more exciting to look at than to taste, nonetheless it was extremely Instagram-worthy and was soon receiving likes from our loyal followers.
Frankly that view takes some beating all year round. We recommend that you get yourself a ringside seat and while away an hour or so with a delicious light lunch, efficiently served in a friendly and relaxed dog-welcoming venue.
This is the full-length version of the review that appeared in the Isle of Wight County Press.
- Fantastic view
- Interesting dishes
- Big umbrellas if you prefer a seat in the shade
- Popular venue, so you might not always get a sea front table