A café in Romsey run by a chef with 20 years cooking experience has been crowned the Daily Echo's Cafe of the Year 2023.

Echo readers have voted dog-friendly Chambers café as the area's top spot to get tea, coffee, breakfast or cake.

Thousands of Echo readers nominated their favourite Hampshire eatery, and the entries were whittled down to a top ten.

Reacting to the news of his win, Mark Chambers, who owns the cafe with his partner of 18 years Russell Whitlock, said: "Initially I was very shocked but now feel so proud and privileged to have such strong support from our customer base in Romsey and around Southampton.

"It's so relaxed and friendly here and customers can feel that as soon as they walk through the door - you can come here just for a laugh and a chitchat.

"I want to say a huge thank you to the customers who voted for us - we have only been open 19 months and without the incredible outpour of love from our customers it would not have been possible."

Hampshire Chronicle: Mark and his staff Jackie Lonergan (left) and Allison Frost (right)Mark and his staff Jackie Lonergan (left) and Allison Frost (right) (Image: Ross Marshall)

The café was taken over by the 55-year-old in December 2021.

He said that residents love having an independent café.

He continued: “People love independence – there are lots of big chain cafes in the area that don’t have the warm friendly atmosphere like this.

“Customers' favourite part about Chambers is no doubt our breakfast, baps and omelettes.”

Mark has worked in catering for 20 years, cooking in many restaurants across Hampshire and he has brought his years of culinary knowledge into the kitchen at Chambers.

Hampshire Chronicle: The café serves a variety of cakes and hot food The café serves a variety of cakes and hot food (Image: Submitted)

The accomplished cook once regularly visited his future café as a customer when it was still under previous ownership.

He expressed interest in the café to the owners during an ordinary visit to get a cuppa.

“Sometime later I got a call, completely out of the blue, and the owners told me they wanted to retire," Mark said. "That was it and I decided to buy the business."

He added: “What stood out to me about this place was its incredible coffee. I’m so proud to have inherited that coffee and to be able to serve it myself.

“The support we have got from our customers has been needed now more than ever with the cost of living.

“This building is fully electric, so the electricity bills are through the roof. Unfortunately, we only have limited space for seating and increasing prices can drive away our loyal and supportive customers."