There was a time when each cafe sold us the same thing, and we had to put up with it. Brutally potent tea, camp coffee, dry sandwiches and an ashtray on every table were universally understood and expected. But oh, how things have changed. On the Island a few hardy survivors still wring out the surly service and sticky surfaces as a kind of historical re-enactment, but surely their days are numbered, as their staff and clientèle retire or die. Diners today want something different – and better – from their local eating-place, and by and large they are getting it.
Take No 64, in the outer reaches of Ryde’s up-and-coming stylish shopping area of Cross Street. This modern cafe serves as a meeting-place for locals, and is also at the forefront of the trend towards decent food and service. Some of the items on its menu would seem impossibly exotic to a time-travelling diner from twenty years ago, but the cheerful atmosphere and jolly décor would encourage anyone to make themselves at home and explore some good eating.
We have been to No 64 several times, and we are delighted with how this relatively new venue has developed its offering. As well as the usual cakes, burgers and sandwiches, the menu features a growing number of specials and house favourites that are worthy of attention.
On one of Ryde’s busiest days of the year, we sought out lunch at No 64 after the Pride parade. People were literally queuing out of the door for a table in this popular venue, but it wasn’t long before we were comfortably inside at one of the tables on the upper level, which gives a splendid sea view down George Street and across the Solent. Despite the crowds, we were given a personal welcome by the two ladies who run the place – and yes, everyone gets special treatment in No 64, not just us. The service really is exceptional – staff at one point in our visit were literally singing and dancing with one of the other customers. We were pleased to notice that even on this very busy day an older customer with her dog was welcomed and given a place to sit where her pet wasn’t going to be bothered by all the bustling feet.
Halloumi flatbread £6.95
Breakfast stack £7.50
Being a sucker for a poached egg, Cat was a whisker away from choosing green shakshuka: spinach, peas and spring onions served with feta cheese and the aforementioned egg, plus pitta bread. Instead she went for another meat-free flatbread dish, this time stuffed with grilled halloumi, plus roasted red peppers and mushrooms. The juices from the properly roasted veg (none of your half-baked peppers here) soaked into the harissa bread. The nicely-presented dish’s salad was a pleasing tangle of watercress and rocket with a few sticks of other vegetables; crunchy and flavoursome.
Matt’s head was turned by the breakfast stack special, largely because it whispered the words ‘black pudding’. When it arrived, he was astonished by how much more to it there was – the promised pudding in two big, moist rounds, but also a couple of perfectly crispy rashers of bacon and, joy of joys, liberal layers of delicious bubble and squeak. As if this was not enough, alongside came a moreish pot of spicy chorizo beans. Eminently satisfactory. This was cafe food taken to the max – all the elements of a humble full English were there, but the presentation and quality of the dish was something extra.
So our post-Pride lunch was well above average. No 64 is definitely one of the growing band of small cafes driving up standards on the Island, and we’re delighted to recommend it. If you think your local corner cafe could measure up to this one, we’d like to hear about it.
This is the full-length version of the review that appeared in the Isle of Wight County Press.
- Extremely friendly service
- Interesting menu
- Good value
- Outside toilet