THE OWNER of an acclaimed Weymouth seafood restaurant has spoken of his anger after a masked thief targeted the business - taking a worker's handbag while staff finished their shifts.

Chef Eric Tavernier, owner of Les Enfants Terribles on Custom House Quay, said a bag belonging to one of his waitresses was stolen on Friday evening - containing at least £150 cash as well as personal items and credit cards.

The incident was captured on the restaurant's CCTV footage.

Mr Tavernier said: "The CCTV shows the guy come in with his face covered, a hoody up - he clearly knew what he was doing.

"I feel bad for my waitress. She had been to the cashpoint to withdraw some money for her granny - around £150 - before the guy walked in and took the bag.

"My wife watched through four hours of CCTV footage and right at the very last minute of the shift this guy walked in, took the bag and left.

"My waitress is gutted - she's had to cancel all her cards, and has lost personal belongings - it's all gone just like that."

The restaurant - which was once visited by David Beckham - has recently reopened after lockdown, having invested in an outside terrace.

Dorset Echo: Chef Eric Tavernier and his wife JoannaChef Eric Tavernier and his wife Joanna

While the business was closed Chef Eric kept himself occupied by fundraising for the RNLI.

Waitress Kelly Simpkins, whose bag was stolen, described the culprit's actions as 'brazen'.

She said: "At first when I couldn't find the bag I questioned whether I had brought it to work with me or not - then worry turned to panic when I realised there was cards, cash and personal items in there.

"I can't believe how brazen they were - how quickly they were in and out. It just shows you've got to be so vigilant at the moment.

"I cancelled my cards straight away but it wasn't until the next morning when the cameras were fully checked I saw it had obviously been taken."

It comes after the restaurant was targeted last year by a group of 12 diners who ran up a £468 bill and fled without paying.

"We are too trusting and too kind to people," Mr Tavernier said.

"This is going to stop now. All day long we've had people from the harbour coming in wanting to use the toilet - so I said no - and the guys started having a go at me, accusing us of being all about the money.

"I don't have time to stand there explaining we can't let people in and out of the restaurant because of what happened a couple of days ago."

Mr Tavernier said he was not confident the police would be able to track down the person responsible for the bag theft. He claimed he was not seen by officers for 'five weeks' after the last theft and that they were unable to find those responsible.

Following last year's incident the community rallied to help cover the cost of the unpaid bill - with Mr Tavernier also fundraising and paying the money forward to local charities.

A police spokesman said: "Dorset Police received a report at around 2pm on Saturday May 1 2021 relating to the theft of a handbag that had occurred at Les Enfants Terribles restaurant at Custom House Quay in Weymouth at around 9.40pm on Friday April 30 2021.

"Officers will be investigating the incident and will be making arrangements to speak with the victim and obtain further details.

"While we will carry out a proportionate investigation into all matters reported to us, we have to prioritise the deployment of our resources based on an assessment of immediate threat, risk, harm and vulnerability."