Matt and Cat have spent a lot of time in Ventnor recently, so much so that Matthew is thinking of buying a phial of patchouli oil to perfume his Afghan coat. Having had an extremely pleasant morning with some astronomers at the very windswept and wonderful Castlehaven, M&C headed into town to find a light lunch before a pre-booked afternoon tea at Ventnor’s Royal Hotel.
Although tempted to revisit Goodman’s Deli; the delicious Forme d’Ambert cheese was still a happy memory, it was time to go somewhere new. Surprisingly, despite it being a very drizzly weekday, most of the shops and cafes seemed to be open and Matt and Cat took a slow stroll southwards until they found something that took their fancy. That something turned out to be Tilly’s Café.
Lured by the promise of a vast menu – there was just a “rough guide” in the venue’s window – Matt and Cat went in. A cheery girl called out a greeting from the back of the café and invited her two new charges to sit down. As the coveted window seat was free they sat there. If it hadn’t been so rainy, they may have had a better view and more people to watch. As it was the restricted view through the rain-lashed window showed only a handful of hunched scurriers.
Piling their soggy outer garments on nearby chairs, Matt and Cat perused the menu. Cat swished her metaphorical Tail of Indecision; soup of the day or crab sandwich? As it was, the choice was made for her as the crab was not available. Matthew however, did strike lucky with his seafood option of prawn baguette. There was so much to choose from on the menu that it would be tricky to even begin to summarise it here. Needless to say, if baked potatoes, sarnies and baguettes plus burgers, breakfasts and main meals are your thing, you certainly won’t die of starvation at Tilly’s.
Soup of the day £2.65
Prawn baguette £3.45
Tea for two £2.00
Having given their order to the waitress, Matt and Cat settled into their chairs and played at ‘tea party’ with the freshly-delivered tray of tea things. Given the amount tea-related paraphernalia – mostly novelty teapots – at Tilly’s it was no surprise to have their own pretty pot with extra water and cups and saucers – a Matt and Cat benchmark for a nice cuppa. Pouring milk out of the little jug they soon each had a steaming drink with which to warm themselves. Just the ticket!
Overcome with curiosity, The Cat examined the display on the windowsill and selected an elephant-shaped teapot. With clever design synergy, its trunk doubled as a spout – erect in a posture of vigorous, but silent, trumpeting. The pot’s lid was a little glazed Chinaman sat astride the pachyderm’s back. Nearby was a cylindrical pot in the shape of a drum with a be-ruffed clown emerging through its ceramic drumskin. This was just as jaunty as the quaint elephant and one had to admire the designer of such an audacious and unlikely-shaped vessel for tea delivery. Cat was quite taken with the pots and had a mild daydream about owning a teashop called ‘Harlequins’ where nothing matched at all; crockery, furniture and décor would be an Aladdin’s cave of bric-brackery. Thankfully the daydream’s cosy bubble burst abruptly with the arrival of the lunches.
Cat’s sweet potato and leek soup was not the thick purée of Cat’s own vegetable soups. Tilly’s soup was a thinner affair, with clearly identifiable veg. It was insipid but warming on such a miserable day and the chunks of French bread helped soaked up this watery broth.
Matt’s prawn baguette was, at first sight, an excellent sub of cooked and dressed
crustaceans. However, the accompanying salad garnish was a little past its prime and Matt spent some time poking at the yellowing cress and limp lettuce. It was not decayed enough for him to complain or even leave it on the side of the plate; he ate the lot then polished off the remains of Cat’s soup which he livened up with a generous sprinkling of salt.
During the time that Matt and Cat had been in Tilly’s there had been several more customers, some enjoying a light lunch, others gossiping over coffee. It was homely little café with an impressive choice of food for such a modest venue. Matt and Cat liked its location, the service of the tea and the friendliness of the staff. The salad would have benefited from a little more attention to detail and the soup, although home-made, was work-a-day. However, at those give-away prices, Tilly’s definitely deserves to have its place in Ventnor’s increasingly competitive café culture.