A PICTURESQUE café housed in a 300-year-old building has been crowned the winner of the Bridport News Café of the Year competition 2021.

Maria's Pantry, at Mangerton Mill, is one of nine winners for the South West region, and the champion for the Bridport and Lyme Regis area.

Despite the building, which sits in a rural valley next to a 17th century water mill, being more than 300 years old, Maria's Pantry has only occupied the premises for three years.

Previously operating from a site opposite Washingpool Farm for four years, owner Maria Winters and her team adapted the business to the larger venue and have seen the café go from strength to strength.

Maria said: "It's quite good timing really as we've just celebrated our seventh anniversary. I've contacted all the staff to let them know and everyone's very excited. I'm looking forward to being able to tell all of our customers.

"There was some very good competition, some popular cafés so its fantastic to have won this award."

She added: "Obviously its been very hard at times over the past 18 months but the holidaymakers have been down a lot and really helped us out. It does seem like a lot of people are holidaying in the area at the moment and many of our locals are back in now too.

"We were shut from before Christmas right through the lockdown, so it did get a bit boring. But we did a bit of decorating and spruced the place up and were back up and running by May."

Maria's Pantry has amassed a loyal following of regulars from 'all walks of life', including many older people who frequent the venue and motorcycle groups, alongside the holidaymakers.

The café serves up everything you could expect, with breakfast and lunch available alongside tea and coffee and a selection of cakes, along with roast dinners on Thursdays and Saturdays.

Maria said: "We've got a lot of really great regulars, people from all walks of life. We have a lot of older customers and at the same time regularly welcome large groups of cyclists and motorcyclists.

"It's a really picturesque location with the mill right there so people tend to have a look around when they come to the café, or come to visit the mill and decided to stop for a drink."