Shops in Cowes – and indeed people – seem to be divided into two broad groupings. Either impossibly chic and inaccessible; or quaint to...

Shops in Cowes – and indeed people – seem to be divided into two broad groupings. Either impossibly chic and inaccessible; or quaint to the point of impracticality. Both have their merits, but Matt and Cat undoubtedly tend to favour the fanciful when faced with the choice.

Cream tea, Watchouse Barn, Cowes

So with that in mind it is perhaps no surprise that when strolling through Cowes one afternoon, Matt and Cat stopped for a late lunch at the Watch House Barn in Bath Road. Quite a few other places to eat had already put up the shutters, but the Watch House still looked warm and welcoming. As M & C stood outside peering vaguely at the menu, any last traces of indecision were eliminated when they looked in to see a working model train chugging around the eatery. That definitely counts as quaint. So in they went, and took their seats underneath the whooshing wheels of the constantly circling locomotives.

Inside, the Watch House is a temple to tea-shoppe twee. Apart from the train – the track for which was inexplicably festooned with Christmas lights and artificial fir – the walls were dotted with little shelves and nick-nacks. Tiffany lampshades hung from the ceiling, and behind the well-stocked cake counter the crockery and cutlery was neatly arrayed on the shelves in farmhouse-kitchen style. Service at the Watch House was friendly and prompt. What’s more, despite the lateness of the afternoon a quick enquiry of the waitress confirmed that hot food was still being served. Matt and Cat had a look through the padded, embossed menus. On offer was the usual tea shop and café fare, with light snacks (including burgers, chips and the impressive-sounding devilled whitebait and buck rarebit); as well as more substantial meals such as roast duck, rainbow trout and home-made steak and kidney pie. Matt went for the advertised daily special, which was a highly reasonable £5.95 meal deal of braised scrumpy pork hock followed by lemon sponge pudding and custard. Cat, not entirely ready for a cooked lunch, defaulted to her favourite cream tea.

braised scrumpy pork hock

Now, pork hock is an unusual cut of meat to be served in a café, but one that seemed appropriate in the splendidly old-fashioned locale. On arrival, it was obvious that the eccentricity of the place extended to the food also – as well as a roast potatoes and veg, the joint came accompanied by pasta. Nothing wrong with pasta, mind you. Nothing wrong at all. No. And when, later, the proprietress came round to clear the plates, she was at pains to ask whether that pasta had pleased her guests – which it had. It was an experiment, she said, which they were trying that day. Perhaps she felt it necessary to explain that, in case the diners formed a suspicion that the kitchen had run out of something at that late stage in the afternoon, and substituted pasta at the last moment. Matt ate his pasta with pleasure, and enjoyed the meaty hock joint.

Matt and Cat’s bill Cream tea £4.75 Special lunch £5.95 Pot of tea £1.00 Total: £11.70

Cat was delighted with her cream tea. In a café with such a splendid cake display she expected some good scones, and was not disappointed. Two moist, fresh and tasty scones were undoubtedly the highlight of the meal.

Cakes, Watch House Barn

Perhaps if Matt’s special meal hadn’t come with pudding, your reviewers would have had a go at that array of cakes. As it was, Cat was replete with scone and cream, and Matt was looking forward to lemon sponge pudding and custard. When it arrived, he was slightly less impressed. The decent-sized bit of sponge actually appeared to be a slice of lemon cake, complete with icing. Maybe Matt was getting something from the cake-stand after all. But an unexpected development was the custard – it was arguably the runniest custard that could still be called custard. Any runnier and it might have come into the category of lemon squash. Still, it tasted good enough, and was warm. Matt ate the sponge with pleasure, but was obliged to leave the majority of the custard – perhaps he should have asked for a straw.

 Matt and Cat can’t fault the welcome and the enjoyable eating environment at the Watch House Barn. A good, traditional café and tea shop that manages to stand out from the herd with its determined quirkiness. And maybe next time, there will be a chance to eat some of those cakes!

Watch House Barn, Cowes

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  • BARRY GRAZIER

    7th November 2011 #1 Author

    HI EVERYONE, THE WATCHOUSE BARN HAS A FABULOUS 3 COURSE CHRISTMAS MENU AVAILABLE FOR ONLY £10 BEST VALUE ON THE ISLAND.Starters/prawn cocktail or duck pate or homemade thick vegatable soup.
    Main courses
    Roast norfolk turkey and all the trimmings/or Roast beef and yorkshire pudding orBraised loin of pork with a brandy and orange sauce or Panfried Rainbow Trout and almonds.
    All the main courses served with a selection of fresh seasonal vegetables and potatoes.
    Desert/Rich plumb pudding and brandy sauce or Homemade celebration Gateau and cream

    Reply

  • barry grazier

    3rd January 2011 #2 Author

    Barry (owner} i am normally the chef but due to health problems i have been unable to do as much cooking as i would like,i had a total knee replacement in april2010 sadly it was not a success the surgeon operated again in october to try and rectify the problem and yet again it has failed,i am now currently back on the waiting list for further surgery hopefully in january,then hopefully i will be back in my kitchen doing what i enjoy best,

    Reply

  • B.grazier

    17th December 2010 #3 Author

    i am sorry you didnt enjoy the cakes ,you were obviously misinformed we do not reheat our cakes as they are not meant to be served hot,you say you are a chef ,well i hope your cooking is better than your spelling.Just to clarify a point Annie is not the head chef,Annie only covers the kitchen on the chefs day of.We have a very good reputation for our food and cakes and do recognise that with all the good will in the world we will not be able to satisfy everyones tastes,as i am sure you have recieved many complaints about your food.

    Barry {owner}

    Reply

  • Miss ward

    16th December 2010 #4 Author

    The food I found at this cafe is in no possibility the high class meals read here, I feel the standard off the food is quit possibly the worst I’ve seen intact hardly classes as being real food at all!! I’m a chef myself and found the cakes were not at all nice left to be frozen and later in the year re-warmed ( I no this due to speaking to the HEAD chef Annie) I hope changes can be made with food and intact the restaurant u call it itself, it’s dark and gloomy! After saying that the waitress service was very impressive and managed to keep smiling even after I had complained,.. Tina ward

    Reply

  • George Lemonofides

    4th February 2010 #5 Author

    Could you tell me your opening hours.

    Thank you

    George

    Matt and Cat respond:
    Hi George, thanks for your comment. Matt and Cat’s Eating Out Guide never closes – we’re here for you 24 hours a day! As for the Watch House Barn, you can contact them by email at b.grazier@btinternet.com or by phone on 01983 293093. We’re sure that they will be happy to answer your question about opening times. Regards, M and C.

    Reply

  • Andy

    29th August 2009 #6 Author

    You will talk to the chef ? i thought you were the chef barry

    Reply

  • b.grazier (owner)

    17th May 2009 #7 Author

    hi my name is Barry i opened the watchouse barn coffee shop and restaurant 13 years ago,we strive to keep our standards high,and offer a wide selection of home made cakes and freshly cooked meals,sorry about the custard i shall be having words with the chef.The propriertress is in fact Annie my managerses who has been with me since we opened the restaurant,she is warm and friendly and will try and geet every customer when possible ,that is when i havnt got her tied to the kitchen stove ,where bless her heart she works away to produce the quality meals we serve.
    My staff and i look forward to giving you a warm welcome when you next visit cowes.
    BARRY TOBY ALFIE GRAZIER.PROPRIERTERS WATCH HOUSE BARN

    Reply

  • Princess Tightwad

    12th May 2009 #8 Author

    Do you think they forgot to put the custard powder in?

    M&C reply: well it was yellow… but otherwise, quite possibly.

    Reply