Who’d have predicted Sandown would be the place where the Island’s newest big hotel would be built? As we walked in town we were amazed to spot not one but two massive cranes at work on the seafront. We pressed our noses on the glass at the under-construction Boojum Brewery and saw lots of activity inside – is Sandown getting ready for a renaissance?
Of course the traditional delights of Sandown’s High Street are still there too. On our stroll we stopped at Island Girl for Cat to admire a particularly fetching little jacket, and Trevillion Jewellers where trays of sparklies caught her eye. Matt lingered at Fields Menswear, almost tempted by the jaunty display of hats. Can a man have too many hats? Matt might put that to the test one day. Eventually, as we approached the end of the street, so did lunchtime. So to complete the experience we nipped into the classic Sandown cafe that is Muzza’s Kitchen.
The board outside Muzza’s promotes the headline dish – full English breakfast for an astonishing price of £3.50. This is the sort of thing that will pull in the crowds. Even with the addition of tea and toast, it is still a competitive £4.95 and a very tempting prospect too. However, Matt had been chatted up by one of our twitter followers who told us that the burger was the “best value quality burger” on the Island. Colour us interested enough to make this special visit.
Muzza’s was buzzing. Regulars and visitors filled the place, a happy mix of families, dogs and the smell of coffee. As one group left we appropriated their vacated window seat. The proprietor rushed over with a friendly greeting and instantly cleared the table, an activity we saw with prompt regularity throughout our visit. Some untidier venues could learn a thing about turning tables from this little cafe.
Along with standard breakfast options, the menu had some trendier choices of the egg and muffin variety. There were also some hearty stewy specials; hotpot, stroganoff and cauliflower pie with an oat crumble. Matt was eager to try the burger and Cat thought she’d go for that hipster’s favourite, avocado and scrambled egg on a toasted muffin.
As we caught up on the County Press over tea and ‘machine coffee’, we watched the activity in the street outside. The summer season is at an end; October half-term stragglers, battling their way along the gusty street, among delivery drivers, builders and local shoppers.
4oz bacon cheeseburger £5.65
Scrambled egg and avocado £5.25
Bread and butter pudding £3.75
Our meals arrived; Cat’s delivered with an unsolicited apology for the egg being over-cooked (which it was a tad). What happens in these circumstances? Should it not have been served at all? Could it be sent back to be cooked less, or a fresh version demanded? It’s only a scrambled egg, so Cat ate – and enjoyed – it. The avocado was unsmashed. Who knew it could come any other way these days? It was fanned-out attractively, in a style the Northbank Hotel would think progressive. Cat has had both woodier and also slimier avocado in a lot more salubrious venues; Muzza’s had hit that rare window when the avocado was just perfectly ripe. With the addition of a bit of seasoning from the jolly character cruet, Cat’s breakfast went down well, chased with a cup of Lavazza.
Matt’s burger was indeed good value, coming in a toasted floured bap, with optional cheese, cooked onion and crispy bacon. Alongside were chips, salad and relish. It was hot, fresh and very satisfying. If you’d been served this burger ten years ago you would have thought that you had won the jackpot – as it is, there are fancier burgers available these days, but not at this knockdown price.
We were still only at the paper’s opinion piece, so we decided to hang around the cafe a bit longer. Our host recommended the whisky and marmalade bread and butter pudding, and we had no hesitation in accepting his suggestion. The comforting afters was soft, warm and oozing a whisky-infused juice that smelled divine. Our brunch dessert was served with one vanilla and one bonus scoop of home-made gooey dulce de leche ice cream – yes, home-made ice cream with Briddlesford milk is a feature of Muzza’s Kitchen that we can highly recommend.
As with many of the Island’s coastal cafes, like Shanklin’s Tumblers or Ryde’s Coffee Pot, Muzza’s benefits from its sheltered town centre location, rather than being subjected to the potential pitfalls of winter trade directly shoreside. With plenty of regulars, drawn presumably not only by the first-name service, but also the reasonable prices and tidy environment, Muzza’s Kitchen seems to have what it takes to survive. The food is neither innovative nor adventurous, but on the other hand is good wholesome fare served with genuine pride and care. As an example of its genre, Muzza’s hits the mark.
This is the full-length version of the review first published in the Isle of Wight County Press.