“I DIDN’T even know the Nightjar had closed,” was the reaction when I told a friend where I’d been eating.

It’s a tribute to the rapid transformation of this Canford Cliffs pub that its reopening has caught many people by surprise.

Now known as The Cliff, the building has been extensively refitted inside to create a more open plan restaurant.

Though retaining a pub feel, with the sizeable bar facing you as you enter, the aim of the renovation has been to create more room for dining.

Clever use of colour has ensured the open design hasn’t meant sacrificing intimacy and warmth, while a smart patio area outside will doubtless be heaving the moment the summer lands.

The rebranded pub had been open for less than a fortnight on the Saturday I visited, but it was absolutely heaving.

The trick for any new restaurant is always converting initial enthusiasm into repeat custom.

But on first inspection, The Cliff should encounter few problems in impressing curious foodies.

The menu nicely balances pub favourites with pizzas, salads, pasta and some carefully chosen specials.

From starters ranging from potted duck and smoked chicken to a Dolcelatte and pear tart, I chose the lamb koftas, while my girlfriend could not resist the scallops special.

The dense, meaty koftas were subtly flavoured with cumin and coriander, without the overpowering hit of garlic that can sometimes creep in, and all the tastier for it.

They were outshone, however, by the pillow-soft scallops, seared to caramel perfection on the outside and served with the perfect complement of black pudding mash.

I followed up with an excellent cut of rib-eye steak, topped with a smoked paprika and tomato butter – an inspired addition that added a satisfyingly deep flavour to the meat.

My girlfriend’s smoked salmon gravalax, cured in half salt, half sugar, was equally tender and was finished with a mouthwatering Dijon mustard crust.

Stomachs well and truly distended, we happily ploughed on through the desserts.

The vanilla rhubarb with pannacotta was the star, the fruit positively zinging with vanilla flavour.

An intimidating slab of chocolate brownie proved a pud too far, but would easily please any cocoa addict.

The service was friendly, relaxed and chatty – even attentive to the point we got offered the dessert menu before we’d even had our mains!

But there was never a feeling of being rushed, with plenty of time between courses to enjoy a drink and take in the buzzy ambience.

Starters range from £4.95-£8.95, and main courses start from around £10, with all pizzas and pastas hovering around the tenner mark.

Our three-course meal for two, with a very fine bottle of Marlborough Sauvignon, came to £75.