Amazingly, there aren’t many cafes with a view of the Solent. The Dell at Puckpool has it stitched up of course, and Gurnard’s Little Gloster and Watersedge are worthy contenders, but there aren’t many more notable ones. Even on a day of exceptionally high tide like we had recently with Storm Brian, when the waves are practically kissing its walls, Appley’s Big Kahuna puzzlingly faces the wrong way and has its back to the sea.
Some way from Ryde’s shore is a cafe that has a quite wonderful, if distant, view of the Solent and the mainland beyond. From its elevated position on the corner of Cross Street and George Street you can enjoy coffee and cake while you watch the hovercraft manoeuvring its way towards its slipway, its Pompey backdrop punctuated by the Spinnaker Tower.
No 64 was a traditional chemist for a long time: its interior all mahogany cabinets with mysterious gilt lettering. It eventually closed and sat empty for a long time – the chemist’s wooden counter allegedly ending up as the bar in the (now long-decommissioned) Orrery Cafe on Union Street. Then the place reopened as Fired Art pottery cafe. It was followed by Missy J Cafe, purveyor of some great exotic stews and curries that Matt was particularly keen on. Do you know the link between Indian biryani and South African breyani? No? Well, that’s where we learnt it.
After another brief closure, the cafe has reopened. Many of the fixtures from before remain and it still has its off-site toilet (just ask for directions and the key). However, it has been given a bit of a hipster makeover, with raw wood surfaces, upcycled hessian coffee sack cushions and chalkboards.
The team behind No 64 has really hit the ground running, gaining a good reputation in a short space of time. The cafe is very popular and this is not only down to the food, but also the very cheerful and welcoming service. On the Saturday we visited, we managed to get the last two seats in the house. The waitress knew our drinks order despite the fact that we’d only been there a few times.
All day breakfast £6.95
Fish finger bap £4.50
Marmalade finger £1.50
Date and apple cake £2.95
There are always some warming specials: today it was beef stew with sweet potato mash. Cat was offered ‘vegetarian’ fish cakes (salmon and dill, haddock and mozzarella), which sounded tempting, but she chose the classic fish finger brioche sandwich.
What was a student staple back in Cat’s art college years has become a standby on many cafe menus. Gnarly fish goujons have their place, but really the oblong finger is what it’s all about. Gone are the days of vivid orange-breadcrumbed, 1970s-style fingers; the ones in No 64 have a pale crumb coating surrounding tasty and flaky meat, not mashed up fish pulp. They were served in a lovely sweet soft seeded brioche bap, with a ramekin of tartare to dollop on as preferred. No salad leaves this time, but still a warm and satisfying light lunch.
As it was only just gone noon Matt felt that he could probably get away with breakfast so thought he’d give No 64’s ‘all day’ version a go. He was allowed to substitute beans for extra mushrooms. Two sausages of superior quality were included – chunky, meaty bangers that put the breakfast far above the ‘greasy spoon cafe’ level. Thick chunks of toast came alongside, making the whole experience a very good one.
The cakes in No 64 are a bit of a speciality. Some are home made; last time we went we were encouraged (if pushing at an open door requires any hard sell!) to have the nanaimo, a sweet nutty delicacy created by Canadian waitress Aneta. Today there were none of those, so Matt chose sticky ginger, date and apple cake, which happened to be gluten-free. Cat’s equally sticky marmalade finger was, like the apple cake, really moist. The dense sponge had a rich glaze, with that slightly bitter orange flavour. No 64 gives really good cake.
Although Ryde has many baguette shops, like Bagel Wrap, French Franks and two branches of Subway; there’s always room for a venue serving hot food and decent coffee, and No 64 has found that niche and filled it very effectively. With its chirpy service, decent and varied dishes plus that bonus view of the Solent, No 64 is a great addition to Ryde’s food firmament and has become our regular home-town cafe.