The Horse with the Red Umbrella restaurant sounds fun – and it is. After all, we associate theatres with fun and 10 High Street West is a former theatre – the Loyalty Theatre. The last play performed at the Loyalty Theatre in Dorchester was The Horse with the Red Umbrella and so it is a befitting that this little restaurant should be named as such.

When you enter this restaurant you have the sense of a play being acted out. The furnishings, from red-and-white checked tablecloths, pillar-box red seating, and quaint teapots, all add up to a theatrical atmosphere. And with the staff dressed in traditional black garb, you could be mistaken for thinking you’ve stepped back in time.

The theatre ran performances on this site for 45 years, and owner John Fiori and his wife Frankie have created a community of fun and community spirit since 1970. It is a theatre in its own right.

I have sat sipping my coffee on several occasions, unable to ignore John’s jovial remarks as he greets customers and takes time to speak to them. This is a true community café where John, Frankie and four full-time staff know their customers – and you can almost imagine the dramas behind the scenes of each conversation. There are not many places these days where customers can feel so welcome. It is a true ‘meet and greet’ venue.

John first started work in the Savoy in London and had a café in Belgravia for a time. Thankfully he chose to bring those skills to Dorchester to present both traditional lunch-time dishes, an amazing selection of breakfast dishes and cakes to drool over. Every sandwich-filling imaginable is also on offer.

The menu on the wall sets out traditional dishes: my friends chose bubble and squeak and an English breakfast – there are more than 20 combinations of breakfasts. I chose the tricolore ciabatta specials and enjoyed the mix of avocada, mozzerella cheese and tomato.

The cakes are all baked by Frankie, and what a wonderful selection. Chocolate pecan flapjack is a delicious variation on the normal flapjack. Or how about toffee and banana cake – or lemon polenta cake? Or pecan and maple? The list is seemingly endless. I chose the pecan and maple and it certainly had that ‘wow’ factor.

This is a delightful little café-restaurant. Whether you are new to Dorchester, or simply like to chat and feel part of a community, the Horse with the Red Umbrella is the place to go. Enjoy!

Sheena Pain

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