If you’re on the Isle of Wight, and seeking somewhere to eat, there’s a high likelihood that you are going to look favourably on somewhere with a sea view. We have remarked before on the curious fact that there are actually surprisingly few such venues. If you doubt us, do the mental exercise of counting how many dining spots on the shore you can identify going anticlockwise around the coast from Fort Victoria to Steephill Cove – we reckon slightly more than one hand’s worth. The Island’s highest concentration must surely be along the busy esplanades of The Bay, and it was with a sea view in mind that we strolled along Sandown beach one morning, hunting breakfast overlooking the glittering sea as the sun burnt off the haze at the start of a glorious warm spring day.
Sandown’s Eastern Gardens seems to be a curiously-named area, because although a century ago it was indeed a charming little municipal park, with lawns and rockeries, it is now almost entirely covered in sand. In the 1970s it became the childhood playground of Sandown boy Matt, who fondly recalls visits to the trampolines, orange sand staining his knees, and of course the promise of an ice cream from a nearby kiosk. The trampolines are gone, the sand is still very much in evidence, but the kiosk, like Matt, has grown considerably. There we took our seats at what is now the Sundial Cafe in front of one of the Isle of Wight’s most comprehensive sea views.
The Sundial is positioned right on the beach itself, and kids and dogs were disporting themselves cheerily on the sand at our feet. There were some indoor seats for the sun-shy, but if you’ve got a location like this, you might as well sit out and enjoy it, so we settled down to some proper breakfast.
Full English £7
Halloumi ciabatta £6.50
Drinks (tea and coffee) £3.90
Service was noticeably better than the archetypical seaside cafe. Our cheerful, uniformed waitress wiped our table within moments of us sitting down, and there was a good community feel to the place, with regulars chatting and enjoying the sociable atmosphere. One suspects that in the height of summer this prime spot would be significantly more frantic, but for us on a warm March morning, it was idyllically relaxing.
The Sundial full English promised Isle of Wight sausage amongst other things, and Matt was pleased with what he got. A heap of fresh, buttery mushrooms was so good that he shared one with Cat. The ultimate arbiter of fungal quality nodded her head with approval. Matt’s lightly peppered fried free-range egg was perfectly runny, and two substantial rashers of bacon made crispy goodness all round. The sausage was particularly satisfactory. Often the weakest component of a full English, this local rendition was rather excellent. Everything on the plate was a winner.
Cat was favourably impressed by her grilled ciabatta. Not one of those tediously chewy breads, but a fresh and tasty soft bun that overflowed with a hot, tasty morass of soft halloumi, garlicky hummus and grilled baby plum tomatoes, all washed down with a decent cup of barista coffee and refreshing orange juice with bits in.
Sundial is a traditional seaside cafe that is doing things right. The food is fresh and tasty, the prices competitive, the service is pleasant and prompt, and of course the location is beyond compare.
This is the full-length version of the review first published in the Isle of Wight County Press.
- Local ingredients
- Efficient service
- That view!