A CAFE that opened its doors just days before the first Covid lockdown has been named the Daily Echo's Cafe of the Year 2022. 

The Retreat in Brockenhurst has been announced as the winner of the Southern Daily Echo Cafe of the Year award.

Opening ten days before the first Covid lockdown, owners Fleur Mccarthy and Paul Mortimer said they "couldn't have timed going self-employed and buying a business at a worse time". 

But just two years later, the cafe is pulling in customers from miles around to try its range of cakes, traybakes and millionaire shortbread. 

The owners said: "We kept calm, kept baking, and we are still here.

Daily Echo: Paul and Fleur at The Retreat, Brockenhurst.Paul and Fleur at The Retreat, Brockenhurst. (Image: The Retreat, Brockenhurst.)

"We would like to thank everyone who has supported us since we opened, we couldn't have got this far without them.

"We are so proud and pleased to have been chosen for the Southern Daily Echo Cafe of the Year.

"Thank you to everyone who nominated us, and our fantastic staff who make us smile every day."

The Echo received 500 responses to its Cafe of the Year nomination with The Retreat being chosen above the rest. 

Fleur and Paul have now received a framed certificate as a result and a bottle of Prosecco to congratulate them on their achievement.

Daily Echo: The Retreat, Brockenhurst.The Retreat, Brockenhurst. (Image: The Retreat, Brockenhurst.)

They added that the cafe is the "perfect place to stop for a freshly cooked breakfast or homemade light lunch".

"Paul's homemade flavoured Sausage Rolls bring in cyclists from 60 miles away at the weekends!

"We have superbly roasted coffees, teas, cold drinks and delicious smoothies.

"We've made the Cafe light, fresh and airy, with just a bit of sparkle ~ exactly how we would like to go into somewhere... and it seems to be working with the fabulous feedback we get from our customers and regulars."

Rated five stars on Tripadvisor, the site on Lyndhurst Road is described as a "great little spot". 

Daily Echo: The Retreat, Brockenhurst.The Retreat, Brockenhurst. (Image: The Retreat, Brockenhurst.)

One customer wrote: "Great food, great atmosphere. We were seen to straight away by a very attentive young lady, very patient with our orders and very flexible with preferences too.

"The eggs were poached magnificently and my partner's egg Benedict was marvellous I'm told. All in all I will be definitely visiting again. Well done guys."

Another said: "Every year we have a break in the New Forest, went twice during our trip, very good service and warm welcome, great for breakfast, lunch or just coffee, lovely toasted sandwiches and homemade sausage rolls, see you on our trip next year.

"Great job by owners since opening in the past few years."

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