Back in the day, our descriptions of East Cowes included slightly pejorative terms like ‘tired’, ‘statistically deprived’ and the even more harsh ‘miserable’. These words have been quoted from a review more than a decade old – today we’re pleased to say such descriptions have been superseded by more optimistic ones.
We’ve spoken before about the slow rise of East Cowes, from Victorian aspirations of a garden village to its current gentrification; in food terms we’d point to the arrival of Taste of India and the swanky Prego, bringing its industrial-chic fittings and mid-European flavours.
Still, to concentrate on the shiny newcomers does a disservice to the old guard; venues that have slogged it out through East Cowes’ lean years. Alas there were some casualties; the old-school Laura Jane’s Cafe bit the dust and was replaced by the even older school (and much lamented) Mrs Jones’ Tea Depot – itself replaced by Prego.
Throughout all this shuffling around in Castle Street, Seabreeze has stood its ground on a prominent corner of York Avenue. To give you some idea of the longevity of this stalwart of the street scene, the last time we reviewed it, the adjacent supermarket was Somerfield. Now that shop is the Co-op, itself having gone through at least one rebranding exercise under the watchful eye of the Seabreeze’s vast picture windows.
So, longevity credentials established, is Seabreeze actually any good? After all, inertia isn’t necessarily a virtue. Our 2017 experience of the cafe was not dissimilar to the one we had back in 2006; we were greeted by the same friendly chap (and, Dino, we want to know what your anti-ageing secret is – you don’t look a day older!), we sat in the same airy dining room with a view of the area’s most visible heritage asset – Cowes’ hammerhead crane.
The menu at Seabreeze is also comfortingly heritage. To be honest, we didn’t pay much heed to anything other than the first page as we were there with some chums for breakfast. Along with a few homely specials we could see that there was none of your new-fangled nouvelle cuisine here, it’s mostly reliable standards of the cooked breakfast, filled sarnies and famous fish and chips variety.
Matt, naturally, had the big breakfast; not dissimilar to the regular breakfast, but with bonus mushrooms and double eggs. Cat, as per, went off-menu; her request to substitute the dressed salad for fried mushrooms on the smoked salmon and scrambled eggs offering was happily accepted. The big breakfast came with a cuppa included and a satisfying mug of builders’ tea was delivered to the table, along with Cat’s mug of filtered coffee.
Big breakfast £7.95
Smoked salmon and scrambled eggs £5.95
Big breakfast is a staple item on any cafe’s menu; and judging Seabreeze by this, it came out pretty well. The ingredients were unremarkable, but it was all hot, fresh and as it should be. The tomatoes, just slightly browned but hot and soft throughout. The eggs, runny but still with a little hint of crispiness at the edges. The sausages were not the finest but hey, this was £7.95 including tea.
Everyone around the table agreed that the home-made bread was the business. So much was supplied that even Matt was defeated – we reluctantly had to leave some. The bread was exceptional – great slabs of solid, soft, fresh and tasty seeded loaf that would not have seemed out of place in some upscale hipster artisan joint. Here, served hot and toasted with butter in little packets, it was remarkable. Its wholemeal goodness was the perfect substrate for Cat’s scrambled eggs. A pile of folded salmon came alongside and a heap of quartered mushrooms made up the dish. There’s not much can go wrong with scrambled eggs, unless you are the most cack-handed and neglectful of chefs, and these eggs were cooked by an experienced hand. Cat was rather hoping that her mushrooms would be gently fried in salted butter. Although visually, they looked like they might have been, the taste suggested otherwise. There was something different about the flavour; mushroomy, yes – but like they might have been tinned or something. Still, pepped up with a squeeze from the fresh lemon, it was an agreeable start to the day.
A couple of our party had extra drinks and there was plenty of toast to go round, so we nibbled on that while discussing our proposed weekend activities. One of our friends was off to give a training course, another was building a bookcase. Someone else was moving to Sweden on Sunday. Our plans were much more prosaic; we went and had a shufty around East Cowes retailers. Cat bought a few dressing-up bargains in the hospice shop and we smashed a bottle of cider on the floor of Waitrose.
While at Waiters, we bumped into a pal of Matt’s who was agog when we told her that we’d come to the town for breakfast at Seabreeze. “Where else in the town do you suggest?” we enquired. Our query was met with silence. East Cowes’ weakness in providing daytime cafes is Seabreeze’s strength. We hope to it the venue prevail through the town’s next exciting phase, as the brand new floating bridge brings the west side’s beautiful people to this (finally) up-and-coming area.
- Friendly service
- Outside seating
- Lovely home-made bread
- Smoke wafting in from outside tables