Taking refuge on a cold, wet and windy evening, we settled down in our seats for a hearty homemade meal. The venue? The Paddle in Highcliffe.

This new cafe, bar and eatery first opened its doors in November, 2013 and over the last few months it appears to have already made a name for itself and is a firm favourite with locals and visitors alike. The Paddle, on Waterford Road, is a unique eatery with a choice of food, cakes, drinks, daily smoothies and barista standard freshly roasted and ground coffee.

Local entrepreneur Donna Darbishire is proud to have launched her first venture. Having grown up in Hampshire, Donna is a keen advocate of using local produce and promoting local suppliers, such as the Fresh Fish Hut in Highcliffe and The Stone Bake Oven Company in Christchurch, which supplied their wood fired pizza oven.

Donna describes Highcliffe as “A great village with so much potential being so close to the beach, Highcliffe Castle, train stations and on the main route to two big towns. It’s the place to stop for a coffee and cake or something a little more.”

The Paddle offers daily homemade specialties for breakfast, lunch and dinner. For those with a sweet tooth, freshly baked cakes are available throughout the day.

On our visit we were greeted with a warm and friendly atmosphere. This newly renovated bistro conveys a relaxed and comfortable vibe – adorned in a simple, yet stylish manner with cushioned seating, rustic wooden tables, contemporary chairs, low hung lamps, candles and wooden floorboards, thus creating a calm and natural setting – beach chic at its best. Music also contributed to the relaxed dining ambience.

Whilst perusing the menu we sipped our drinks; Sierra Grande Chardonnay, Chile – a delicious ripe white with notes of peaches and mango and a touch of vanilla creaminess, (£14.95 a bottle), and chilled bottled Peroni beer, £3.50.

The menu, crafted by chef Dave Reid, features a fine assortment of original dishes and a selection of daily specials are also presented on the chalk board. All the food is freshly prepared to order and is produced on the premises.

The day menu showcases a unique array of mouth-watering treats, including traditional favourites The Full Paddle breakfast, £6.25, wood oven baked flatbreads from £4.75, toasties, £4.95, and homemade soup of the day, £4.50.

The Paddle is already famed for its pizzas – wood fired homemade pizzas are cooked to perfection in a wood fired oven and extracted with their very own paddle! Topped with their homemade tomato sauce and mozzarella, specialities include The Deep Blue (local blue cheese, chutney and spinach), The Billy (goat’s cheese, red onion marmalade, cashew nuts and spinach) or The Superman pizza – a popular dish (I’ll come to that in a moment).

The dinner menu includes a selection of intriguing daily specials and Fish of the Day. Dishes, for sharing or starters, include calamari, crackling with apple sauce, BBQ chicken wings, and tomato, olive and red onion bruschetta on sourdough (made by a baker in New Milton).

To start, I plumped for the deep fried cheddar and spring onion couscous balls with sweet chilli sauce, £5.25. My husband chose the chilli and garlic calamari complemented by a delicious lime Greek yoghurt, £6.25. We devoured our starters as both dishes were bursting with irresistible flavour.

For mains, I chose the fish pie, £10.50 – a scrumptious, creamy homemade pie with pollock and smoked mackerel, and honey roasted carrots on the side, a perfect winter warmer.

My husband couldn’t resist The Superman pizza, £9.25 – this freshly wood fired pizza was topped with tender pulled pork, chorizo, onions, peppers and a runny egg. Presented on a wooden board, the dough base was light and crispy and the toppings were a genius combination of textures and flavours, delicious.

We couldn’t resist trying the desserts. I sampled the local cheese and biscuits, £5.95. Presented on an attractive wooden platter was a selection of blue cheese, Somerset brie, Dorset Coastal cheddar, goat’s cheese, chutney and crackers. This was a wonderful variety of rich, smooth local cheeses.

Richard enjoyed an Affogato, £3.10, a fresh, rich roasted espresso with a cool scoop of ice cream. The perfect finale to a fresh, wholesome, homemade meal.

With food this good, I predict that The Paddle will become a local gem for Highcliffe.

  • The Paddle, 397 Waterford Road, Highcliffe BH23 5JN,01425 275148, thepaddle.co.uk, facebook.com/thepaddlebar. The Paddle is open 8am-5pm Wednesday & Thursday, 8am-10pm Friday & Saturday, 9am-4pm Sunday. Dinner is served between 6pm and 8.45pm, Friday and Saturday evenings. Bookings can be taken for groups, evenings and private functions