One thing the global pandemic has taught many of us is how to be flexible. Today the government announced the possibility of a ‘last resort’ lockdown to thwart a winter wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. For some, this might simply mean business as usual; laptop ensconced on the dining table. Or maybe you’ve repurposed your shed into your office; ‘shoffice’ for the neologists of you.
But even the most diligent of desk jockeys likes a change of scene. And so it was that we found ourselves in a hip corner of Ryde that is part event space, art gallery, cafe and, on this particular day, our workplace.
The arrival of Monkton Arts has gone a long way to help gentrify the bustling community which we have enthusiastically promulgated as Monkton Village. And it IS like a village, with many local businesses nestling side-by-side, providing the sort of analogue services that Jeff Bezos can’t peddle in his online marketplace, such as a hand car wash, motorcycle workshop and upholsterers.
When Cat arrived early for her meeting, she sat in the pretty suntrap courtyard; Lavazza coffee by her side and paperback splayed open in her hands. The novel remained unread though. The Lounge Cafe at Monkton Arts is a friendly venue where you will soon find yourself engaged in chat with an existing pal or maybe someone new. Or both, as Cat was pleased to discover.
Moving indoors with the arrival of her lunch companion, Cat gave their order at the counter. Through its curved window, Cat eyed the cakes and pastries and was impressed to hear that they were made in the town. Behind her was a stand of non-edible local artisanal products, including soy candles, ceramics, greetings cards and jewellery. It’s not in every cafe that we will purchase a frittata, cheesecake and a sterling silver knuckle ring. Except perhaps at Quay Arts, which regularly tempts magpie Cat with its cabinets of shiny trinkets.
Vegetable frittata £5
We remember when Monkton Arts was a print shop. It’s been utterly transformed into a relaxing venue, with squidgy banquettes, warm woods and intriguing artwork. It’s an intimate space for live events too. While we were there, acoustic musician Steve Love was trilling his self-penned chirpy original songs about the Island, successfully shoehorning the word ‘somewhen’ into his song about Isle of Wight time.
Having got down to business with laptop hinged open, we almost forgot we were there for the food. For a fiver, Cat’s platter was an utter bargain. But it wasn’t just value for money, it was also attractive, nutritious and delicious. The frittata was a pleasingly dense slab of omelette stuffed with vegetables. The cheese-topped broccoli, potato and peppers were united by egg, giving the appearance of a savoury terrazzo. Coleslaw had been studded with a sprinkle of black sesame seeds and a handful of tortillas represented the carbohydrates. The salad was plentiful; way beyond a garnish. Sweet twirly peashoots wound among the slivers of beetroot and cherry tomato halves; all drizzled with tangy balsamic.
Cake was essential, but what to have from the homemade goods? A fruit or almond flan? A slice of Victoria sponge? We chose baked vanilla cheesecake with a strawberry glaze. The subtle cake let the berries’ flavour take centre stage, all washed down with more coffee.
Having chatted with the owners, singer Steve and the people at the next table, it was time to take our leave. Cat made a note of the upcoming spoken word event and, with her new ring twinkling on her finger, knew that she would be back.
We love how the team at Monkton Arts has established a dynamic and cordial hub among the industrial units. It’s a place where you can go alone and read, make new friends or enjoy the artworks. Or all three. It might even inspire you to take up a creative hobby if that threatened winter lockdown becomes a reality.
This is the full-length version of the review first published in the Isle of Wight County Press.
- Tasty light meals and great range of cakes
- Excellent value
- Friendly venue