New cafe owners have Bijou designs on good coffee

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Helen and Keith Webb, proud owners of Bijou coffee shop in Barton

A NEW café owner has combined her passions for really good coffee and interior design to create the beautiful Bijou in Barton.

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Anyone entering the premises on Cliff Terrace, Marine Drive, will be struck by its decor – dark blue walls contrasted with exposed brick walls and industrial style lighting – not to mention the array of delicious looking homemade cakes.

If you recognise owner Helen Webb behind the counter, it may be from Bradbeers restaurant, where she worked as a waitress for more than three years.

Now, with husband Keith, she’s finally realised her dream of owning her own eatery, which opened just three weeks ago.

“I actually worked here when it was a cafe called Sails,” said Helen. “I always wanted to own it because I had a real affection for the place and could see the potential.

“Design-wise, we wanted to create something unique for the area, which I think we’ve achieved. We didn’t want a clichéd ‘seaside’ look, but somewhere that looked inviting from the outside and inside was like a really chic London coffee shop.”

For the last 25 years, husband Keith has been running Imagic Studios – a design company that also specialises in renovations and interior design. Helen helped with the business, so they were well placed when it came to doing their new place up.

Keith is enjoying his new role, saying: “I wanted to do something different after working for so many years sitting alone at a desk in a room. It’s been really nice to actually get out and start interacting with people.”

Helen laughs: “I didn’t know my husband could do banter! Actually, we always knew we worked well as a team, so this is brilliant for us.”

The couple were also driven to set up their new business by a shared love of excellent coffee. Helen said: “We spent ages visiting coffee roasting companies before we decided on Bad Hand Coffee, which is based in Bournemouth.

“We’ve gone for their Single Fin Blend, which is 50% El Salvador and 50% Columbian – we think it’s exceptional.

“Food-wise, we’ve gone for local produce as much as possible. Our artisan sourdough bread is from Bakehouse 24 in Ringwood.

“We’ve kept the menu simple because we want to make everything from scratch using top quality ingredients.

“We make half the cakes – Keith’s specialty is the chocolate ganache cake while I make the tea loaf. The good thing about making cakes yourself is that you don’t skimp on ingredients; with the tea loaf I add loads of fruit.

“A local baker makes the rest of the cakes.”

Among the savoury offerings on the menu are sourdough toasties, and apart from the coffee they serve ice cream milkshakes, smoothies and “posh” hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows.

The couple are also offering takeaways for anyone who wants to get a drink and a snack to take down the beach

So far, the coffee shop has proved a roaring success. Helen said: “We didn’t expect it to be so busy from the start. We’ve already got regulars, including one man who comes in everyday, which is really lovely.”

Keith and Helen are looking forward to a busy summer, but say they feel it is important to cater all year round for locals.

“They are really important to us,” they said. “We want to provide a service for them; a little meeting place. A lot of people who have come in so far said they were just waiting for us to open, which has been really nice to hear.”