In this article, we are asking “What is the best restaurant in Swanage?”. Over the generations that our families have lived in this wonderful seaside town, we have discussed this very question. We have also experienced pretty much all the eateries firsthand. There are (at the time of writing) over 40 trading ‘restaurants’ within the borders of Swanage in Dorset. They cater to its 10,000 permanent residents and an even larger number of yearly visitors.

swanage town sign posts with fishing boats

Defining The Best Restaurant in Swanage

How tricky it can be to find the “Best restaurant in Swanage” is immediately highlighted in Trip Advisor’s “Top 10 Restaurants in Swanage”. A sponsored café tops the lot – not even located in Swanage! Among the list is a beach café that is currently closed (as it is no longer the summer season). A couple of pubs and a ‘supper room’ that is, again, not in Swanage itself are in the mix.

Don’t get us wrong, they all provide good food. But it does go to show how difficult it can be for someone to find the best restaurant in Swanage. Even Greggs features as a restaurant in Swanage.

Now here lies a naming distinction. A restaurant is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as “a place where you can buy and eat a meal”. So Greggs is technically a restaurant. Yet, what percentage of people googling “What is the best restaurant in Swanage” are going to want to take the family out for a celebratory meal there? A birthday party or date on the metal seats situated on the pavement outside the local Greggs?

The answer seems to lie in the word best. Which is defined as “superlative of good“or more appropriately “giving most pleasure” or “most suitable or appropriate”. At first look “The best restaurant in Swanage” appears to be highly subjective.

There in lies the difficulty. If you are looking for seafood, an Indian, a Chinese, fine dining etc, what is the best restaurant for you is completely different to that of someone else.

Swanage’s Food Choices

For a small town Swanage boasts a wide variety of eating establishments. They range from beach cafes to a mass of pub grub, country focussed takeaways, seafood restaurants, hotels, restaurants, breakfast and traditional cafes. As a side note – cafes are generally thought of as smaller than restaurants. They tend to serve a more limited menu that focuses on hot drinks. Even so, café’s feature predominantly when searching online for the best restaurants in Swanage.

How Do We Go About Finding The Best Restaurant In Swanage?

Does Technology Provide The Answer?

Clearly, well-known directories and review sites such as TripAdvisor have their advantages when searching for local restaurants. But, some of these directories can base their results on location and very few reviews. All that is needed is to be located in Swanage and have a couple of good reviews.

google map pins for the best restaurant in swanage 2

Googling “The Best Restaurant In Swanage”

Our faithful friend Mr Google also has a mixed bag of answers. At one end of the scale, a terrible restaurant can appear on the top of the search results if they know (or use someone who knows) their way around Adwords.

On the other hand, the popular search engine allows restaurants that are not so tech-savvy to list locally. Deeper down Google also provides great insights into what people in the real world are actually using the service to look for.

Google suggestions (the drop-down that generates as you type into the search bar) bring up “Restaurant in Swanage dog friendly”. This is not surprising as Swanage is renowned as a town of dog owners. Now we know google statistics only represent an ‘internet familiar’ crowd. But they also feature amongst the typical searches “gluten free restaurant in Swanage”, “Swanage restaurants with outdoor seating”, “vegan restaurants in Swanage”, and of course “places to eat in Swanage that allow dogs”.

dogs waiting outside restaurant

Restaurant Review Sites and Rated Dining Directory Listings

A great tool when choosing a good restaurant are review websites such as Trip Advisor. Here you can browse ‘real world’ customers’ experiences and photographs of their dining choices. They can provide invaluable information and insights when researching local eateries. So much so that we feature our customers’ quotes on our restaurant reviews page.

However, the featured reviews and rankings have to be taken with a pinch of salt (especially when considering current listings also include locations that are not actually within Swanage itself!). One problem with these sites is that of negative bias. Negative bias is “where something very positive will generally have less of an impact on a person’s behaviour and cognition than something equally emotional but negative.” In real-world terms, people who have a bad experience are twice to three times more likely to write an angry review than customers who had a great experience are to post a happy review.

Don’t get us wrong, there is a silver lining here. When looking at restaurants any feedback can be seen as good feedback. It’s important to take into consideration the restaurant’s responses and behaviours around bad reviews. What did the restaurant respond to the review? Are they putting into place any behaviours to change or prevent this type of review in the future? Are they using these reviews to improve? We believe that HOW a restaurant deals with this situation can tell you more about the restaurant than the review itself.

A café or restaurant that focuses on getting good web ratings could rank on such directories as the “best restaurant in Swanage”. But what if that restaurant doesn’t cater to the non-internet-savvy generation? What if they are spending time on attracting good reviews online that could have been spent improving their menus, ingredients, and customer service?

fresh restaurant ingredients

Humanising The Restaurant Experience

Let’s put the benefits and flaws of an internet search to one side for a minute. What is it that we, as humans are actually looking for in a restaurant? What can use to compare the many establishments in Swanage? For example, you can’t compare an Italian restaurant and a Chinese restaurant by how good their masala curry is! But you can compare both of them on how friendly and helpful their staff are.

We prefer to focus on diners across a broad spectrum of age ranges, tastes, and backgrounds (i.e. holidaymakers, locals, passers-by, etc.). There are some commonalities that can be looked at when defining what makes “The Best Restaurant In Swanage” to them. In this case the thoughts, feelings, and questions they raise relate to the all-important ‘dining experience’.

The Restaurant Dining Experience In Swanage

These questions are (in no particular order):

Customer Service

Are the staff happy, friendly, and welcoming? Do the staff pay the customers the right amount of personal attention? Do staff provide an ‘experience’ as well as a meal? Are the staff well trained and knowledgeable? Does the restaurant use clear yet friendly communication? Does the restaurant take bookings of varying sizes? Is the menu reasonably priced? Does the restaurant provide ‘blue badge’ or carers discounts? Are takeaways provided? Is the menu easy to read? Is there an outside dining space? Do the staff listen to customers’ feedback and make real-world changes accordingly? Are the opening times easily accessible and appropriate? How easy is it to make a reservation? Does the restaurant provide free WIFI? Can the menus and pricing be seen before visiting the restaurant? Are cash, card, and mobile payments accepted? Is the restaurant’s website clear, informative, and easy to navigate?

Location And Feel

Is the restaurant location welcoming? Are the restaurant and kitchen clean? Does it have a five-star food hygiene rating? Does the restaurant provide a warm, bright space? Are the views and decor aesthetically pleasing? Does the restaurant provide adequate space? Is there unobtrusive music playing in the restaurant? Is there allocated parking on site? What is the general ambiance and atmosphere? Are the chairs and table comfortable and in keeping with the aesthetic?

Quality Of Food

Is the food all homemade? Are the ingredients sourced locally? Is there a menu based on seasonal availability? Are the dishes made from scratch on-site? Are fresh ingredients used? Does the menu change over the course of a year? Does the chef design the menu themselves? Is the seafood sourced from local fishermen (Swanage is a seaside town after all)?

Variety On The Menu

Does the restaurant provide more than one type of food? Can the restaurant cater to groups of people wanting different levels of taste, spice, textures, etc? What courses does the restaurant supply? Does the restaurant supply light bites? Are large meals also on the menu? Is there a range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic, hot and cold drinks available? Is there more than one vegetarian/ vegan option on the menu?

Restaurant Accessibility

Is the restaurant wheelchair accessible? Does it provide disabled toilets? How easy is it to get to and move around in the restaurant? Are lifts provided for accessing different levels? Are the staff trained and readily willing to help those with disabilities? Do the doors allow push-button access? How close to the restaurant can a car ‘drop off’? Is there disabled parking available?

Family Friendliness

Are children welcome in the restaurant? Are there any facilities on hand to entertain younger customers? Does the restaurant allow push chairs and buggies? Are high chairs easily accessible? Can the restaurant heat baby milk? Are there baby-changing facilities on site? What happens if I breastfeed in the restaurant? Are dogs allowed? Is there a specific children’s menu? Does the restaurant cater for celebrations such as birthdays? Can it cater to ‘fussy’ children?

Catering Suppliers

Does the restaurant use local suppliers? Are the suppliers specially selected by the chef? Does the catering team have a good relationship with their suppliers? Where are the suppliers sourcing their food from? Is the restaurant regularly supplied with fresh ingredients?

Dietary Needs, Allergies, and Intolerances

Does the restaurant cater to a variety of ingredient exclusions/ inclusions? Are there gluten-free, lactose-free, and nut-free dishes? Does the restaurant pride itself on offering a variety of vegetarian and vegan meals? Are these meals well thought out in terms of quality and quantity?

Restaurant Adaptability

Can dishes be changed to suit the customers’ needs by the chef? Can parts of the meal be swapped out for other options? How good are the staff at clearly understanding and fulfilling customers’ dietary needs? Is the restaurant willing to move tables and chairs around to accommodate?

Ethics And Eco-Awareness

What is the carbon footprint of the food being served? Are vegan options available? What is the credibility of the restaurant suppliers? Are healthy options available on the restaurant’s menus? Does the provide ‘doggy bags’ to cut down on food wastage? Are takeaway containers recycled/ compostable?

It is clear that the human element adds many more layers to “The best restaurant in Swanage” debate. These aren’t necessarily considered when looking at search engines or review directories.

human element in choosing best restaurant in swanage

The Evolution Of a Restaurant In A Small Seaside Town

A restaurant can be looked at as an evolving organism, comprising the factors mentioned above. The management, staff, chefs and their experience and ethos, the location, menus, and food all come into play to make the “Best restaurant in Swanage”.

If it is too niche, stuck in the mud, only open during peak season, or ignoring diners’ needs any restaurant will not continue to grow. This is especially so in a small town with such a mass of competition. Unfortunately, we see many Swanage restaurants (as well as pubs and cafes) frequently change owners, chefs, and even business models. This regular ‘change over’ again does not allow any establishment to develop enough to answer all of the above questions positively. They will be wedged in more of an early developmental stage only to repeat the cycle shortly in the future.

Very early on in the establishment of Seventh Wave we made it one of our priorities – to humanise our process and focus on all aspects of the ‘dining experience’. We now regularly address all of these types of questions, ticking many of the boxes. We look forward to our future development with customers and their feedback in mind. This part of our philosophy allows us to grow with consideration. Consistently meeting and exceeding our customer’s needs. For our answers to these and similar questions, you can visit our FAQs page.

To Conclude – What Actually Is The Best Restaurant In Swanage?

It’s clear that the answer to the question “what is the best restaurant in Swanage” has no simple answer. It is such a subjective subject.

view from restaurant durslton castle dorset coast

You could look to the internet to provide the answer. You could take an average score from restaurant reviews and directory listing sites for guidance.

On the other hand, a more human approach can be taken. You could ask “what makes a restaurant in Swanage the best?” or “What would be the best restaurant in Swanage for my specific dining needs?”. Either way, the overall dining experience is now front and center. The dining experience can be broken down into answers to many different questions. If the restaurant you are looking at answers those that are important to you positively you have just found the best restaurant in Swanage (for you)!

Talking of questions. If you have any about Seventh Wave and would like to experience just how friendly our staff are please do call us on 01929 421 111