We love Ryde’s No 64. Of course, we’re all about the nammet so, with their Asian-inspired dishes and hearty stews along with traditional favourites, we’re always spoilt for choice. But what sets No 64 apart is the incredible customer service. Often that choice we want to make is made for us. Server Sally will demand that Matt has the wagyu beef burger special (as if there would be any doubt), and Cat is challenged to veer away from halloumi flatbread – already ordered for her. “Don’t argue, Cat – you know you want it.”
From arrival to departure, each customer is greeted by name, many also relishing a sincere embrace. Dogs are similarly attended to; a biscuit duly sneaked into each friendly muzzle.
You might think that, with the arrival of the pandemic and the necessity to socially distance, the cafe will potentially lose this unique selling point. As crestfallen as we were to no longer enjoy a squeeze on our entrance, the food itself has not fallen victim to the virus. No 64 has closed its doors to the eat-in brigade, but eater-outers can still experience their favourites from the takeaway menu.
The food on offer is impressively diverse for a takeaway – with nasi goreng, katsu chicken curry wrap, quesadillas and frittata, as well as reassuring classic cooked breakfast, corned beef hash and soup.
We picked up our pre-ordered meals hot from the kitchen, right on time – and experienced a real warm No 64 welcome through a safe layer of perspex before retreating home to see if the food was still as good as the service. Spoiler: it really was.
Jackfruit bao buns £8.95
Calamari salad £8.95
No 64 is hot on presentation, but how will this translate from a deftly decorated dish to a clamshell carton? We need not have worried. Our meals travelled well. Hinging open our boxes, we discovered that there had been no scrimping on detail.
The first impression of Cat’s pulled jackfruit bao buns was an olfactory one. The sweet, plummy aroma of hoisin whirled with Chinese five-spice on its way out of the box. The meal had pleasing symmetry; the open bivalve boxes matched the gaping mouths of the bao buns, which similarly was reflected in Cat’s own jaw, hanging slack in anticipation. A hint of the Asian slaw peeped out from below the chunks of meaty jackfruit, and both spilled out of the steamed dough. The buns bookended a dressed leafy salad and, sprinkled on the whole array were black and white sesame seeds and trendy pink pickles.
If she had been at a street food market, Cat might have considered eating the buns with her hands, but as the takeaway had retained its warmth to her dining table, she did the civilised thing and ate with cutlery. She forked the pork. Except it wasn’t even meat. Where jackfruit has been all our lives is something of a mystery. This soft fibrous vegetable is the perfect alternative to trendy pulled pork – and, in this dish, came with bonus vegan credentials. It absorbed the Asian flavours like Matt binge-watching vintage Blake’s Seven in lockdown. Sweet, spicy, umami juices were sucked up by the doughy buns. The salad added to the texture, and pickles delivered a further flavour pop. It was a great-looking delicious and filling dish.
Pineapple-cut calamari in a crispy salt-and-pepper coating came on a pile of Asian-style salad with lime wedges and fresh coriander. The tangy foliage was slathered with a sweet and tangy dressing that did a great job on the big, soft slabs of fried squid. It’s too easy to overwhelm the gentle taste and texture of calamari – that didn’t happen here. How such a comfy, street-corner cafe ended up also being such a great place for accessible Asian fusion food is a bit of a mystery, but chef Andy has a deft touch with the flavours of the far east.
Takeaways are not the same as eating in, and we’ve had a few that were really some way from the expected experience. This one was reassuringly good – just like No 64 itself. The easy ordering, the smooth pick-up experience and the friendly welcome were faultless; and the food itself was as enjoyable and innovative as we have come to expect from this chirpy little venue.
This is the full-length version of the review first published in the Isle of Wight County Press.