This is an old review. See the new one here.
The creation of The Orrery cafe in Ryde’s Union Street has been viewed over the past year with great interest by your intrepid reviewers; intrigued as the windows to the existing globe workshop were whitewashed and the gates across its entrance closed in 2005. Then, in summer 2006, a giant gold grasshopper appeared on the roof along with the amazing hemetic globe, ‘reflecting’ life in the historic street.
And then, at last, on the summer solstice – amid much fanfare and publicity – the cafe was opened… for about 10 minutes. Matt and Cat missed this brief window of opportunity to enter the building and, for the subsequent four months have been peering through the bars of this cafe, waiting for it to re-open. There have been tantalising notices about the intriguing celestial interior, including metres of fibre optic cable and mirrored tables through which to view the wondrous ceiling. There have even been menus posted outside the ever-locked bars of the place.
Disappointingly, whenever Matt and Cat have visited the place in the quest for sustenance, its doors have always been firmly shut. Initially closed straight after its triumphant, but obviously premature, opening ceremony in June, the further failed attempts to gain access to the bar were probably due to M and C’s timing. It does seem to have been open during the day, but never at the times when your reviewers have been able to go in.
Yet one autumn Saturday afternoon the planets were obviously in alignment as not only were Matt and Cat in Ryde but also the Orrery was open. Finally, they would be able to try the place out and give you, the eager reader, the long-awaited review of this bizarre cafe.
Having settled themselves at one of the little tables and briefly viewed the spectacular ceiling via the mirrored tabletops Matt and Cat then surveyed the, frankly limited, range of snacks available. The menu was a kind of essay on the merits of globe-making, in which information about food and drink was cunningly concealed. The range on offer seemed to suggest that the Orrery was more of a coffee bar than a cafe, and as there also appeared to be no alcohol on offer this did restrict things a little. Nevertheless, having chosen pitta stuffed with falafel, and a cheese, tomato and basil chiabatta, Cat went to the bar to order. Despite Cat being one of two customers awaiting attention, the waitress seemed much more interested in chatting to her mate. However, Cat was not going to be put off – after all she and Matt had been waiting for months to try this cafe and a little poor service was not going to put them off.
Eventually Cat got her chance to put in her order. No sooner had the word ‘falafel’ left her lips, than she was told in no uncertain terms that there was no food available.
Disappointed, yet somehow not surprised to be thwarted once again, Matt and Cat left the cafe and had a nice lunch at Bar 53.
The Orrery seems to be a bizarre globe-making and astrometric project of great interest and potential; which has somewhere along the road confused itself with a cafe. There is understandable frustration by those attempting to access either aspect of this service. So is it too much to ask this novel establishment whether Matt and Cat (and presumably many other frustrated potential customers) can at least try the food?
UPDATE: Matt and Cat finally got served in The Orrery. Not even bothering to ask for food, they sat down one Saturday afternoon for a refreshing cup of tea. Pleasingly, it was served without delay by a polite lady. Predictably enough, the next customers were overheard asking for food – only to be rebuffed. So it seems that The Orrery really is only a place for hot drinks. That said, it would be satisfying to report that the drinks were good. Sadly they were not. Two mugs of tea were served with teabags in them. Matt’s mug even had the tag submerged which made extraction tricky. Real milk accompanied it, as did a small chocolate – a nice touch. But however much Matt and Cat willed it otherwise, the tea was not good. Cheap bags, casually served – it just did not match up to the location. It seems as though the Orrery somehow is less than the sum of its parts. Every last tiny detail of the construction of the venue has been given exquisite attention. No expense has been spared, as might be expected of the craftsmen who build those spectacular globes. It’s worth visiting the Orrery for the delight of seeing the interior. You can even donate a coin to the museum fund, in the hope that one day the globe museum could actually be created. But don’t bother with the tea or food.
UPDATE UPDATE: Matt and Cat really want to like The Orrery. It is a fascinating looking place and has done a great deal to enhance Ryde’s street scene. Following extensive feedback from the proprietor (see comments below), M and C were keen to give The Orrery yet another chance to live up to its exciting décor and, less than 24 hours after receiving such detailed feedback, Cat forewent her breakfast and made a return trip to The Orrery. Arriving at a prompt 12:00 noon to ensure that, once again, she was not left wanting food (due to the apparent success of the place) she was thwarted; The Orrery was closed. Still, there were plenty of other places in Ryde to choose from for her Sunday brunch and, just a few doors down, she entered La Croute. After eating there she went back to The Orrery, but it was still shut. There is no indication of opening times outside the premises.
Certainly there seems to have been an explosion of interest in Matt and Cat’s review, with no fewer than four highly detailed and complimentary comments from visitors, including the proprietor of The Orrery, in two days – after two months with only one other (not so complimentary) comment. It’s good to know that others have managed to get access to The Orrery and its food and enjoyed it so much. But, unable to make their own assessment, Matt and Cat will now bring to a close their efforts to evaluate the food at The Orrery, and allow their readers to form their own views.
This is an old review. See the new one here.