THE votes have been counted and judges’ decision is in – and the winner of this year’s Daily Echo Best Local awards is the South Western Arms in St. Denys, Southampton.

The lovely local came out tops after impressing the judging team with its attention to detail, friendly welcome, tip top staff and sensational approach to providing the very best in ales.

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“It is a true local pub, just the kind of venue that all communities wish they had just down the road to drop into,” commented Editor in Chief Ian Murray who headed up the judging panel.

“It is so obviously at the very heart of the local community and used by all kinds of people, which is just how a modern local pub should be,” he added.

Daily Echo:

“The staff we met were lovely, the pub absolutely spotless with a delightful beer garden being enjoyed by folk on a sunny afternoon.

" We were very impressed.”

Ian added that in fact the team, who visited all five finalists unannounced and did not reveal who they were, had been hard pushed to choose an outright winner, so high was the standard.

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Of the other finalists – The Victory in Hamble, The Rockstone in Southampton, the Prince Consort at Netley and The Saints at Southampton – Ian said all were obviously well supported and loved by their customers.

“The Victory offered lovely food and there was plenty of evidence of its role in raising funds for local charities.

Daily Echo:

The Prince Consort had undergone a major renovation and again the food offering looked appetising.

“The Saints is a classic inner city pub with a strong clientele which welcomes all comers with open arms.

And the Rockstone had a tremendous range of ales and spirits and as well as a hearty welcome offered quite the most eye-popping range of food,” added Ian.

Daily Echo:

“All of our finalists should be very proud of themselves.”

As winners The South Western Arms will be able to celebrate in style with 80 of their regulars with a fantastic hog roast provided by Go The Whole Hog of Botley.

Landlord and landlady Graham and Lisa Morris have only been in the roles for the past four months and said they were “flabbergasted” to win the award.

Daily Echo:

Lisa said: “We are elated and surprised.

There was really strong competition and we didn't think for one minute we would win.

“It's a great community pub, and it's always nice to have new faces come in, but the pub is a little community itself – everyone looks out for each other.

“When the previous landlord was selling we didn't want it to go to an outsider or see it turned into a Tesco Express. It’s a local pub with a lovely warm atmosphere.

“This is absolutely fantastic and made all the long hours worthwhile.”