Cowes has quite a dynamically-changing high street. During the famous yachting festival particularly, the place is bursting with temporary retailers and eateries. However it’s not all seasonal pop-ups; there are some establishments like Benzie that have been there as for as long as Brucie has been entertaining us on Saturday night TV. Another long-standing fixture in the middle of this ever-changing streetscape is Eegon’s café. This little venue is a rare exemplar of the unreconstructed vintage style – yes, children, there was a day when all cafés were like this. Most have moved on, or faded away – but not Eegon’s. This doughty survivor is still offering budget café fare with no frills, in a venue that looks as though it might have been meticulously dressed by an ITV set-designer for yet another 70s retro drama..
Matt and Cat had been doing their bit for the Isle of Wight Walking Festival – did you know they lead free guided walks for the Festival every year? You didn’t? Well, come along to the next one and find out more. Anyway, in 2013 it was the turn of Cowes, and after a stroll from the Floating Bridge to Gurnard and back, your reviewers were ready to tackle some food. Eegon’s seemed like a suitable place for refuelling and recovering from a prolonged stroll. This venue is one of the places Matt and Cat first reviewed, way back in January 2006, when they judged it “very enjoyable”. How had it got on in the intervening years? Very much by staying the same, if outside appearances were to be believed. So in they went to find out.
The interior of Eegon’s, rather like the exterior, is an unapologetic and unreconstructed retro experience. No chic ‘vintage’ twee here, this is the real thing: melamine tables, fixed seats, pastel walls and signs, signs everywhere. Even the signs had signs on them. This was something Matt and Cat remembered from previous visits to Eegon’s, and indeed to some other cafés around the Island. The laminated sign is a genre of graphic design that has rules all of its own, and Eegon’s has certainly embraced this style with abandon. Sitting down at a window table, Matt and Cat were first taken with the large sign advertising in detail Karen’s Choice – a substantial breakfast and drink offer for the knock-down price of £6. The sign itself was adorned with a smaller sign which read, assertively – “Karen says her choice represents great value so she cannot offer any variation to its content (sorry)” The “sorry” was in much smaller font – as well it might be. Once Eegon’s starts apologising for signage, and for inflexible menu choices, they will have a lot of apologising to do. So it’s probably best for Karen not to be sorry at all; this laminated largesse is an important part of the idiosyncratic charm of Eegon’s, and should be encouraged, not diminished.
After some careful scrutiny of the menu on the table, Matt was pretty confident he would order one of the set breakfasts. “Please note, this is a set menu” warned a brightly-coloured sign applied to the menu. “Any variation will incur an extra charge” said another. Aha, a charge you say? So there’s hope then? Thus emboldened, when the lady came over to take their order impertinent Cat actually asked for something that wasn’t on the menu. What Cat really likes is scrambled egg and mushrooms on toast: and this wasn’t on the list. The lady was most concerned. However, after some reflection she agreed that all three of these ingredients were in fact on the menu, albeit separately and under different headings. Thus Cat’s apparently off-menu choice was revealed to be a legitimate combination. There were sighs of relief all around, and the orders were placed.
Waiting for their food, Matt and Cat had the opportunity to earwig on their fellow diners. Eegon’s was well-patronised by people who were certainly locals, and very likely regulars – often a sign of a good establishment. Two old boys sitting behind your reviewers were both a little hard of hearing, and conversing loudly in Island accents of a sort that would have made W.H.Long reach for his notebook. “Who were that woman I saw with Dave’s sister?” one asked one of the friends. “Oi’ve no idea.” was the succinct response. But the interlocutor – as is often the way with such enquiries – was not to be deterred. “You know, Dave who had the house. No, not ‘er, the ugly one. ‘ad a nipper. Not ugly ugly, just overweight. Went out with Chris. You remember Chris. Had that car. Looked loike summat out of a Grattan’s catalogue…”. This entertaining ritual of suggestion and reluctant antiphon went on for the entire time Matt and Cat were in the café. Who ‘she’ was was never clearly established.
All-day breakfast, including tea £6.50
Scrambled egg £1.20
Cat’s melange of officially-sanctioned menu items was actually pretty generous when it came. There were so many mushrooms that she generously donated some to Matt, who readily received them. His breakfast, reasonably priced, was comprised mostly of pretty generic ingredients. The fried bread and bacon had been cooked in some sort of press, making them perfectly flat. The sausages were rudimentary, but sausages nonetheless. It certainly filled a hole, and Matt was appreciative. The tea, by contrast, was only just acceptable. Although served in jaunty branded mugs, the brew was impressively weak, and served with milk and bag all in the cup, allowing no real opportunity for any steeping.
Eegon’s is an entity all to itself. Matt and Cat enjoyed their visit, and found the place pleasingly similar to how it had been in 2006. With the feel of a good-quality workmen’s café about it, it somehow attracts a steady clientèle from Cowes High Street and surrounds. Doubtless in the high season the place is jammed with boat crews readily devouring their breakfasts before the race, but it also stays open all year around and provides reasonably priced, basic food – just so long as you’re not wanting to deviate from the menu.