As the reviews on Matt and Cat’s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide bear testimony, the quality of food in Island cafes is wonderfully variable. The economy-class cafe might offer meagre portions, passive smoking and a long wait on an uncomfortable chair. Thankfully, to continue the airline analogy, most cafes are of a standard-class and one or two qualify as club-class for their high standards of quality, service and leg room.
Based on their extensive observations, Matt and Cat are increasingly able to accurately predict the quality of the eating experience by its location. For example, if eating out in Matt’s old stomping ground of Sandown, one is likely to have a average meal of average quality in an average setting, all of which should satisfy the LCD (Lowest Common Denominator) visitor. Ryde’s venues, on the other hand, reflect the town’s diverse and cosmopolitan community, with good quality ingredients and imaginative dishes of international cuisine – as well as some rather more mundane offerings. So, what of Yarmouth; home of the sailor, retiree, summer resident and day tripper from the (up)market town of Lymington?
Amongst the surprising number of eateries in the picturesque town of Yarmouth is Gossips Cafe, in a dominant position at the head of the town square.
Matt and Cat visited late on a Sunday afternoon in winter, fearing that Gossips might be pulling down the shutters and preparing to close. Not a bit of it. The cafe stays open until 17:00 and was still doing a roaring trade despite the fact the sun was a short time from setting. On entering, Matt and Cat were arrested by the huge blackboard listing some of the many dishes, sandwiches and other offerings. The interior of the cafe is pleasingly neutral with its pastel wooden panelling and enormous picture windows. In the summer visitors can also sit outside in the square and along the pier. Matt and Cat soon chose somewhere to sit; for a shore-side venue Gossips successfully maximises the number of tables with a sea view; and what a spectacular view it is.
Cat did not prevaricate over the menu – cream tea was required. The menu was extensive, very reasonably priced, and included not only the usual range of sandwiches, baguettes and other lunchtime light bites, but also a range of curries, hot potatoes and other hot meals. Matt considered for some time and eventually narrowed it down to lasagne or chilli con carne. The chilli won the battle and Cat went to order the food. She was delighted to see not one, but two fruit scones jostling for position on her plate along with a little pot of strawberry conserve, a tub of clotted cream, two pats of butter, and ‘Carisbooke Blend’ tea in a pot with a jug of fresh milk. She poured the tea whilst Matt had a short wait for his lunch.
The chilli looked and smelt delicious; its aroma was sweet but hot and peppery. It was surely home-made, and included copious quantities of meat. Although the menu rather optimistically described it as ‘diced beef’, what arrived was certainly minced – but no matter. The rice was lovely and fluffy and it was accompanied by a little naan bread and a decent-sized salad garnish. Matt enjoyed it very much. Once finished he chased it down with the remains of half a scone; Cat was unable to eat all of her cream tea due to the sheer size of it! What she did eat was lovely; the scones were doughy yet crumbly, the clotted cream nice and crusty and the jam not too sweet. Her only disappointment was that, as the scones were so huge, there was only just enough butter, jam and cream to go round – she likes it piled high!. Although, in fairness, as her eyes are bigger than her belly she didn’t eat it all anyway.
So, hands up those of you who were expecting the Yarmouth cafe experience to be economy-class. None of you? And you were right! Club-class it is; delicious food in a spectacular location served promptly. And, as if things couldn’t get better, in the new year they won’t have that wretched Christmas music playing!