THE wait is finally over for a couple who have dreamed of running a busy and charismatic restaurant in the New Forest.

Paul and Toni Eaton have been regularly visiting the area during the past 15 years and jumped at the opportunity to take over Le Chateau Hotel and Bistro at Cadnam last autumn.

“It really was a dream come true for us,” said Toni following a turbulent first nine months.

“I really wanted to run a B&B and Paul wanted a restaurant so to end up here suited us both.”

A bright start to their dream jobs came to a sudden halt as coronavirus took grip. But Paul and Toni have put the constraints of the Covid lockdown behind them and the signs of a bright future on the edge of the New Forest have returned.

“It really is just a matter of starting again,” said Paul who used to run a pub and sandwich bar in Suffolk. “We had 60 tables booked for Mother’s Day this year - without even advertising - and we also had weddings booked. Thankfully the weddings didn’t cancel and will be back next year.”

Le Chateau, built around 120 years ago, has been a popular restaurant for many years and for much of that time was known as Le Chanteclerc.

It has five refurbished bedrooms, which have been full since the end of lockdown, a bar, restaurant and separate function room which can also be used for diners when necessary.

A large frontage provides al fresco dining and the menu includes everything from ‘build your own sandwiches’ and light bites to an extensive menu that offers a wide range of choices - far more than the French influence the name Le Chateau may indicate.

“Everything is homemade to order and prepared on the premises, even though that may mean now and again you have to wait a little longer,” added Paul.“We use local produce where possible, apart from the fish which comes direct from Brixham and again is prepared on the premises. Price-wise we are competitive with the local gastro pubs.”

Dog walkers are welcome, so long as their pets stick to the bar, garden or function room.

Le Chateau has been full to bursting point with the introduction of the Government subsidised Eat Out to Help Out scheme.

“We have had to turn people away as we do not want to be greedy. It’s important to still give a good service and if people book a table for the night then that is fine. We will not rush anyone - it is still their evening out,” said Paul.