Matt and Cat\'s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide
The Waterside Cafe has closed. Summer’s a busy time for food reviewers. New places open like flowers – and sometimes wither in a similar...

The Waterside Cafe has closed.

Summer’s a busy time for food reviewers. New places open like flowers – and sometimes wither in a similar way.


Avid readers are keenly recommending new places for Matt and Cat to review, and as new eateries are popping up faster than the duo can visit them their list of potential reviews is longer than a very long thing.

This bodes well for the Isle of Wight’s leisure economy and, with the promise of a heatwave this summer and the inevitable influx of day-trippers that always brings, it looks as though quite a few Island enterprises are already doing well.

Many of these ‘new’ venues are actually pretty old but, with a lick of paint and a new team behind the stove, they are reborn. One such place is the Waterside Café in Ryde. This seafront stalwart has a new tenant and is open again for business after a couple of year’s languishing and even a threat of demolition. With so much competition along the Esplanade, will it be sink or swim for this municipal café?

Bacon, Brie and cranberry sandwich

The café looks pretty good despite its fairly utilitarian design. Its exterior has been spruced up with fresh paint and signs: flags and bunting all go to show how a clever eye can do wonders with the most unpromising of canvases. The new proprietors have done well to draw attention to this half-concealed venue, hidden from the road by a grassy bund.

Matt and Cat visited it on a hot Saturday afternoon with one junior reviewer and two grandparents in tow. There were plenty of tables outside but only a couple had shade-giving umbrellas. Cat, whose delicate skin blisters at the mere mention of the word sunshine, chose a table in the cool of the café’s overhanging roof. Matt and the rest of the party went into the café’s capacious interior to order their light lunches while Cat guarded the table. Matt, entrusted to chose something suitable for his consort, returned having ordered bacon, Brie and cranberry sandwich for The Cat. Matt was unable to resist the all-day breakfast – the classic fry-up is a barometer of a venue’s standards, or so his rather too well-worn excuse ran. Honestly, he’s just eating all this fried food for your benefit. Really.

The group had plenty to chat about, covering subjects as diverse as cave painting, cathedrals and Nelson’s flagship, HMS Victory. It was probably for the best that they were able to amuse themselves as the café does not any more offer much of an outlook. The building is positioned to give a scenic view down to the ornamental lake, which must have been delightful when the café was first built, back in the day. Since the construction of Waterside Pool, the café’s patrons can no longer see the lake as they have the less picturesque vista of the pool’s pumphouse to enjoy, although like the rest of the café, it’s all tidy and clean at least.

Before long a young boy arrived and competently served the drinks, followed by a waitress with the rest of the order. Cat’s sandwich was constructed of the softest white bread and there was plenty of filling; generous amounts of mild Brie, a good dollop of sauce and some thick bacon, all served with a small dressed salad garnish. It was excellent.

Matt’s breakfast came with beans – he’d forgotten to request a swap. Nonetheless it was a good example of the genre: although the sausages were a bit wizened everything else appeared to be fresh. The bacon in particular comes in for praise as it was thick, tasty and cooked exactly right. Yum! The others in the party all nodded their approval as they too cleaned their plates.

The Waterside Café is the newest in an already crowded market of eateries on Ryde Esplanade. The food and service were top notch, and it has an excellent location, but without a beach view can it keep its head above water?

Disclosure: Matt has a professional involvement in the management of the surrounding park – but is not connected to the management of the café.