The Borough Cafe, Downton

Downton sits on the northern edge of the New Forest and 4 miles south of Salisbury.  Pretty enough with its fair share of chocolate box cottages and views of the Avon as it leaves the water meadows and winds south to join the Stour at Christchurch but, neither being in Salisbury nor the New Forest, it’s somewhat lost on the traffic grinding past on the A338. Which is a shame, as a short detour in the village centre leads to the Borough Café, a new appearance on the local food scene but one that would sit well in either of these more visited tourist hotspots.
But then maybe it’s being slightly off the beaten track that makes the Borough Café try that little bit harder? Sure, the honeypot villages of the New Forest are chock-full of quaint little tea rooms but the regular coachloads of tourists being poured through their front doors means that beyond offering a clean tablecloth, a cup of tea and a toasted teacake they really don’t need to make much effort to draw in the crowds.
In Downton, without its tourist hordes, a little more work is required and that’s exactly what Caroline Bromilow and her team seem to be putting in. A building that was previously a dark and dreary village bank has been transformed into a light and airy café staffed by a friendly team serving food that makes a trip to Downton well worth considering.
I’ve made 3 trips in as many weeks now and each time there’s been a buzz about the place with a mix of the usual working lunchers, and daytime child-free mums combined with walkers, cyclists and locals interested to see what’s happening. The team seem to know their regulars and with prompt and friendly service that new openings often struggle to achieve at such an early stage, the Borough Café has clearly cracked the basics of getting the right food, to the right table at the right time!
Good service alone won’t bring the punters back though and this is where things get better still. On the surface, the menu doesn’t look hugely different to a hundred others but the difference is in the detail here. Coffee freshly ground to order, Teapigs teas, home-made soup changing every day and served with a huge chunk of bread from New Forest Bakeries down the road in Breamore, a bacon ciabatta served with tomato and pepper relish rather than the standard bacon sarnie with ketchup and a wide enough selection of sandwiches, wraps and panini to guarantee happiness to even the most difficult customer.
And as the New Forest Bakeries bread suggests, there’s a focus on sourcing food locally with a host of Dorset and Hampshire food producers listed as suppliers on including Dorset Tea, Pig & Pickles relishes and even Prices the local butcher supplying the bacon. Any suggestions? Hmmm….well Lyburn cheese is made only 10 mins up the road in Landford so it’d seem an obvious addition but after barely 3 months of business, this is a good start!
So yes, Downton, you may have lost a bank, (admittedly one that only seemed to open for about 25 minutes twice a week), but I think you’ve gained something far more valuable. A meeting place for the locals, a haven for those like me who want to grab a decent bite on a rare lunchbreak and somewhere that might even draw in a few newcomers to the village who would otherwise have continued their journey along the A338 without a second thought. Here’s to you, and here’s to the Borough Café!

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