The Wimpy Restaurant or ‘Wimpy Bar’ – an English institution. Or so Messrs Wimpy would have us believe.
Named after J. Wellington Wimpy – The burger-loving character from the cartoon, Popeye – these now somewhat quaint establishments were massively popular in suburban British towns until McDonalds began to take over their traditional ground in the 1980s. Needless to say, as with anything slightly out-of-date, you can be sure to find a good supply on the Isle of Wight, and so it proves with Wimpy Bars.
As franchises, these places vary tremendously. There are some diabolical kiosks which bear the Wimpy logo and which, frankly, leave something to be desired – like demolition. And then there is the Wimpy Restaurant on Union Street, Ryde. This venue is a particular favourite of junior reviewers Bill and Jack, who clamour to go there with embarrassing regularity. As well they might: despite the hideous styling and retro connotations the place is clean, spacious, and rarely crowded. Service is quick and polite. Although it has the appearance of a fast-food joint it is quite definitely a café, with diners enjoying china plates, glasses, metal cutlery and full waitress service. Much more sustainable than the disposable packaging which festoons the hedges around the nearby McDonalds drive-in.
The menu is simple, and the food is slightly better than normal ‘greasy spoon‘ café fare. And, for those interested in the nutritional composition of their food, the Wimpy’s illustrated menu has full details. This is very commendable – and interesting reading. Other burger chains should take note: providing that information in a leaflet or on your website just isn’t as good.
Kingsized cheeseburger £5.40
On a recent visit Matt had a cheeseburger with a good hot cup of tea, in a china mug, with real milk. Jack chose from the excellent value kids menu, and even got a free ‘Mr Wimpy’s Lucky Bag’ of sweets and goodies which was providing entertainment days later. See, Mr Wimpy lives on, they must just keep him in the back, packing bags.
Even The Cat was tempted to enter the cafe at the weekend. The Proustian experience took her back to her art student days when she would have a cheeseburger (if flush with grant money) at the Charlotte Street Wimpy in Portsmouth. Sadly the Wimpy and the architectural behemoth in which it was housed, the Tricorn, are both demolished. However, in 2008, the unmistakable texture of the processed cheese complimenting the burger and the crunchy salad garnish – no gherkins to flick out here – seem unchanged. All washed down with a special offer glass of coke (30p), served in a glass complete with bobbing straw. Takes you right back. And they still do meals with those crazy frankfurters!
And here’s a free tip for Wimpy – if you make a big sign to display on your front window, make sure you can spell the name of the place you’re trading in, the locals will thank you for it.