AN 'OLD-SCHOOL' café at the beating heart of a football club has been crowned winner of Dorset Echo's Café of the Year competition 2021.

Weymouth FC Café, at the Bob Lucas Stadium, is one of nine winners for the South West region, and the only champion in the Weymouth, Dorchester and Portland area.

Having opened 17 years ago, the café has grown a big reputation locally for its all-day breakfasts, traditional interior and personal approach to customer service.

Nestled in the bottom left corner of the Malboro Restaurant Stand, the café is a focal point for fans to gather before, during and after games - and has even developed a weekday reputation for workers on the nearby Granby Industrial Estate to grab 'one of the best breakfasts in town'.

Dorset Echo: The cafe is located at the Bob Lucas StadiumThe cafe is located at the Bob Lucas Stadium

The café owner Matthew Avant said: "It's an old-school, traditional café and to win this award is a massive compliment - I'm over the moon.

"I'm a massive Weymouth fan and love being around the club - so it's always great to see the café full when it's matchday.

"I would agree that we're at the heart of the club.

"I think a lot of away fans, who gather at the ground before getting on the coach, like to use the café as a hub to start their day right.

"I would say our speciality is our breakfasts and I'd say we provide one of the best across the area."

Dorset Echo: Matthew AvantMatthew Avant

Throughout the pandemic, the café remained open for takeaways and offered deliveries to customers isolating in their homes.

Mr Avant, who has been running the café for 12 years, said: "When the pandemic hit, it was the hardest period during my time running the business - and admittedly it was touch and go whether we would survive.

"We tried to diversify through delivery but there was limited success.

"I started running the café around 2009 when the club was on its knees.

"However, the club has loyal fans and they were loyal to the café too after they came back in their droves when we reopened.

Dorset Echo: The Weymouth FC Cafe

"We kept plugging away and to be trading still is a massive bonus - and it's all down to the café's brilliant staff and customers.

"April saw a few tables outside - where we were able to serve customers again, with customers back eating inside by May."

Going forward, Mr Avant said he has proposed plans to expand the café into a bigger space.