Matt and Cat\'s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide
Rylstone Tea Garden, Shanklin Rylstone Tea Garden, Shanklin
Rylstone Tea Garden, Shanklin

Matt and Cat don’t half bang on about it but for them a significant part of the Island’s charm is the steadfast way it refuses to move with the times.

Cheese sandwich

Yes, it is home to some top tech companies, future energy factories and even the electric bicycle has made its way over the Solent. However, there are plenty of places that just shrug their shoulders and give a nonchalant ‘meh’ to anything new fangled. Including the term ‘meh’.

Take Rylstone Gardens. This pretty park at the top of Shanklin Chine has seen its fortunes rise and fall. Alas now the aviary has been decommissioned and the chalet is all but a ruin. However, the toilets remain open and so too do the crazy golf and the tea garden. Which is where Matt and Cat headed after a quick spot of geocaching.

Before they could have lunch, there was the important business of establishing who would pay for it. And, what fairer way to decide than with a game of skill and dexterity? Putters and score cards in hand, Matt and Cat headed to the links for a game of crazy golf; loser buys lunch.

Sausage rolls and chips

Back in October 1989, Cat had a holiday in Shanklin with some friends. And, as it was practically winter, there was not much to do in the town back then but play crazy golf. Looking through her holiday snaps it is clear that, over a quarter of a century later, the crazy golf still has the same obstacles. Well, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? Working their way methodically along the course, Matt and Cat steered their golf balls more by chance than skill into the holes and around the challenges beloved of generations of holidaymakers: “The Cannon”, “The Rocket” and “The Tower”. Totting up their scorecards it became apparent that, with a shockingly high score of 85 strokes, Cat was in the chair for lunch.

Matt and Cat’s bill
Toasted cheese and tomato sandwich £2.50
Sausage roll and chips £3.10
Tea x 2 £4.00
Total: £9.60

Just as the layout of the crazy golf has barely changed, the menu at Rylstone Gardens was traditional, with tea, jacket spuds and toasted sarnies. Still, it didn’t mean that standards were low; far from it. The tea came in a vast pot with all the trimmings – as M&C always hope it will. And is it possible that the repellent single-serving UHT carton has finally had its day? Not only was there a milk jug but also a faceted glass sugar pourer.

Matt had sausage roll with chips. Pretty basic, but he got a nostalgic kick from his two heated rolls with plenty of fresh and hot chips. He was particularly impressed by the salad that came with it, not least the fact that there was one. The crispy leaves of iceberg and tomato quarters were visitors from an earlier time; this was a pleasingly retro salad. An elderly orange and a couple of sticks of woody carrot took their vintage credentials a little too literally, but nonetheless, the orange still had some juice under its dried skin. On the side was served in tiny steel punnets a dollop of pickle and a spoonful of coleslaw, which he and Cat shared. Everything came in steel containers or proper china plates – no plastic or paper disposables here.

Cat’s toasted cheese and tomato sandwich on white bread was pretty welcome after eighteen holes of crazy golf. The filling had barely melted, so stuffed was it with grated Cheddar. Cat’s lunch experience was garnished with the same retro salad as Matt’s, typical of a bygone era. But that’s what Matt and Cat went to Rylstone Gardens for. And at practically pre-decimal prices too. If only the bandstand had been open then the nostalgic experience would’ve been complete.

Cat's lunch experience was garnished with the same retro salad as Matt's, typical of a bygone era. But that's what Matt and Cat went to Rylstone Tea Garden for. And at practically pre-decimal prices too.
  • Classic vintage tea garden experience
  • Great value
  • Crazy golf
  • Tea with all the trimmings
  • Not ideal when it's raining

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  • Nigel Overner says:

    We have also visited this floral location many times over the years and enjoyed not only the retro food, atmosphere and prices but also the feeling that we are enjoying a well kept secret. The flower displays were always, without exaggeration, stunning and our running in-joke about OAPs ‘Huey & Dewey’ (with apologies to the 1972 classic sci-fi film ‘Silent Running’ and it’s gardening drones) continuously at work tilling and pruning amongst them. Anyway it’s May 2016 and it seems to have changed hands and although still a nice tea stop, pleasant staff etc. much of the previous persona seems to have changed. No sign of Huey & Dewey now! Could Matt & Cat have another look and comment?

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