Entrepreneurs widen Swanage’s dining choices with new venture

A new food destination called The Narrows, has just opened in Swanage’s historic High Street, which is fast becoming a thriving hub of activity again.

The restaurant described as a kitchen and bar, replaces the former Castaways restaurant at 67 High Street following the owners’ retirement in September 2023, and the new entrepreneurs are now ready to provide a very different experience.

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The Narrows kitchen and bar
The Narrows

A new frontage, a new focus and a new start for Luke Puntorno (left) and Chris Fry (right)

Great dining in a relaxed atmosphere

Old school friends Chris Fry and Luke Puntorno have worked in the restaurant and hospitality trade for the past two decades and have long joked about opening a business of their own.

So when the closure of Castaways left a space in the High Street frontage, Chris – who has been running a mobile bar for weddings and events – and Luke, who has been cooking at Morton’s Manor in Corfe Castle, didn’t think twice about taking the premises on themselves.

Their vision, a kitchen and bar serving brunch, lunch and dinner, backed up by an impressive wine and cocktails list, opened its doors to its first customers on Wednesday 6th March 2024.

The Narrows is aiming to give Swanage a new dining experience

The Narrows is aiming to give Swanage a new dining experience

Making sure people have a good time

Chris Fry said:

“Since we opened, we have had a few former customers of Castaways come through the door, interested in trying something different.

“We are in the same building, but we were never going to be the same thing as Castaways. We recognise what they were doing, but we have our own very different ideas and want to bring a new clientele here.

“We created The Narrows to be a destination space for those looking to dine and enjoy great company. We take pride in the food we make and the drink we serve.

“We have always enjoyed hosting events, and serving good food and drink – we are passionate about making sure that people have a good time.

“Have a look at the menu, have a look through the window and decide whether it’s for you – we hope people will have a good experience and hope that people will enjoy what we do.”

The Narrows on the High Street, Swanage
Swanage Museum

The stretch of the High Street by the new restaurant was called the Narrows as it was a pinch point in the road, however a German bomb demolished the buildings on the left, leaving the road now much wider

Celebrate history of the High Street

A refit has given a new tone to the bar and kitchen as it celebrates the history of the High Street – which used to be known as The Narrows where the road narrowed to a single carriageway beyond the junction with Chapel Lane.

Many of the buildings were flattened following a bombing raid by the Luftwaffe on Monday 17th August 1942, but Chris and Luke want the name to live on and will eventually include artwork from historical photos and paintings of Swanage.

The Narrows kitchen and bar will open four nights a week, from Wednesdays through to Saturdays from 6 pm to 9 pm and will open for brunch and lunch on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 9 am to 2 pm, with extra hours on bank holidays and in the high summer season.

A brunch menu includes smoked salmon and scrambled egg on sourdough, smashed avo and shaksuka, while lunchtime options include three small plates of their dinner menu for £15.

Dinner options include mackerel, wild mushroom arancini, seabass, rump steak and roast chicken, with vegetarian and gluten free dishes, while snacks from rosemary focaccia to olives, charred padron peppers and croquettes are also offered.

The well stocked bar includes beers from Hattie Brown’s brewery and cider from Purbeck Cider, along with a full wine list including two award winning sparkling wines from Dorset.

Cocktails at The Narrows
The Narrows

Chris’s cocktails speak for themselves – check out the drinks menu online!

“We know the challenges”

Luke Puntorno said:

“We have lived round here long enough to know the challenges and limitations of the food trade in Swanage, we wanted to provide a different option, using our interest, passion and experience to achieve what we think will work round here.

“You see places open, you see places close – there are a lot of good eating places in Swanage, but there’s also a lot which offer the same kind of fare and experience. We hope to provide something different.

“There are lots of places where you can get a really nice slice of cake, so I don’t see the point in us trying to push that, even though my background is pastry – and it’s good to focus on something else a little bit different!

“We have a really interesting wine list and Chris’s cocktails speak for themselves – there’s a lot of flair that goes into ours and a bit more honesty about the alcohol we are using, we don’t use cheap alcohol or pre mixes.

“We are delivering what we would expect to get ourselves. We don’t mind if people just come in here for drinks, it’s a venue and people can use it how they like.”

A new frontage, a new focus and a new start for the former Castaways restaurant

Work in progress – but The Narrows has arrived to bring a new eating experience to Swanage

“Quality over quantity for us”

Luke added:

“The Narrows is a small place, perhaps 30 seats at a push, but we are not looking to turn over tables – we want everyone who comes through the door to be well fed and well looked after.

“Trust in this industry is a big thing, so I want anyone who comes through the door to be able to trust us and recognise the work and effort that we put in, which you don’t necessarily get from a chain restaurant or one with a hundred seats – it’s most definitely quality over quantity for us.

“We know we can create a great atmosphere which will have people wanting to come back and that’s our ultimate goal. The menu will change with the seasons – it’s not in our nature to stand still, we want to do different things.

“We serve good food, but it doesn’t have to be at a daunting price, we are not trying to be a fine dining place. Food doesn’t have to be fussy, this is quite a casual restaurant, but the food that is served will always be at a high level.”

Bucking the national trend, more new businesses are opening in Swanage’s High Street each week

“Swanage is on the way up”

The Narrows will be using a lot of ingredients produced locally by farmers, butchers and fishers, along with herbs like mint, rosemary and sage picked in the gardens, and fresh ingredients from local markets.

Chris Fry said:

“Most of the restaurants are in the centre of Swanage and this is a slight walk out, but a two minute walk to go somewhere different for good food and an enjoyable atmosphere isn’t too much of an issue.

“Besides, with new places popping up in High Street, like Tied the florists, a new antique shop and a renovation for the Red Lion, it is feeling more vibrant all the time.”

“We hope that The Narrows will become a place that people will travel to, not just from Swanage but beyond as well. Swanage is on the way up, with these new independent businesses opening up it is offering more variety that people will come out to experience.”

Lots of people on Swanage Beach in Carnival week

Covid staycations have brought new opportunities for local businesses to succeed

“Eating is such a social thing”

Luke Puntorno added:

“Covid was a massive concern, but it actually provided an opportunity for places like this, when people began to stay at home for holidays and rediscover areas like Swanage, which they will come back to.

“I do feel that people are struggling with money at the moment, everything is more expensive at the moment, even turning on the lights, but I still believe people want to go and enjoy themselves.

“It may be that people don’t feel they can spend as much, but we are very reasonably priced and eating and drinking is such a social thing that people won’t give it up.

“It is a risk that we are taking, but we think we have a platform to provide good food, drink and service and we know we have the experience to deliver it.”

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