Harveys, a small family run café at 292 Ashley Road, Parkstone, is a wonderful secret that deserves to be better known.

I had been aware of the place for years. Well, you can’t really escape its presence when they put the enormous ice cream licking bull outside the front door!

Last week, I was parked right outside and had time to browse the menu boards – and I’m not talking two menu boards, I’m talking five or six menu boards! There was everything from a roast dinner through meatballs and pasta, to a cheeseburger or giant hot dog (three types) – and chips. In fact, if you count the sandwiches and baps, omelettes and full English breakfasts, I doubt there is much a person could ask for (except fish – I don’t remember seeing any fish on the menu) that Frank & Sue couldn’t supply. The most amazing thing though, is the price. Most meals are priced at between £2-£3, with pretty much only the enormous full English breakfast priced at more.

It was then, that I decided I just had to call in there for lunch – and the sooner the better, because that Bacon Pudding just had to be sampled!

So hubby and I took ourselves there a few days later.

Walking through those front swing doors is like stepping back in time to the late 1950’s. I absolutely loved it – even if we did leave smelling of deep fat fryer!

The space inside is split into two areas – to the left is seating and tables, to the right is a chiller counter, behind which Frank is busy cooking and which enables him and Sue to hold conversations with their patrons. There were a couple already seated, who looked up and smiled as we came in. What a difference to the “eyes down, don’t make eye contact” philosophy of diners at one of the modern fast food joints.

We took our seats and began pondering the many menu boards. I was torn between a Roast Pork dinner, the Barbecue Pork, the Bacon Pudding that had enticed me to begin with and Faggots. I mean to say – where else would you get Faggots on the menu, these days? Apparently, they are made by the Butcher just down the road from the café – and as Frank put it, he makes ‘em, I cook ‘em!

I couldn’t resist the Bacon Pudding, however, and opted for mashed potato and vegetables with gravy as accompaniments out of a list of possibilities that Frank reeled off like the seasoned pro that he is. I absolutely loved the fact that he gave me a rundown on a) the background of the dish - it is apparently a Traveller’s dish that some passing Travellers asked for on one visit and he had made for them by the next time they came; b) what it is made of - suet, bacon, onions and seasoning and c) how it is cooked - packed into a loaf tin and steamed for two hours.

This is – of course – completely outside of what I know I should be eating (low fat) and what my current diet (low carbs) dictates I should be eating. It just had to be done, however.

My plate arrived, bearing two large thick slices of bacon pudding, along with a healthy dollop of mashed potato and some mixed vegetables and a good helping of lovely rich gravy. The vegetables had come direct from the freezer – but for £3 for the lot, you seriously cannot complain – at least they were cooked to order and not sitting stewing in some bain marie. Just the sight of the plateful made me smile and immediately took me back to childhood.

Which was nothing, compared to the first mouthful of that Bacon Pudding. Whoosh – and I was carried straight back to the 1970’s and school dinners. Not that that was a bad thing, I hasten to add, as our school dinners were immense and delicious! Seriously! The Bacon Pudding is absolutely what it promises to be – the kind of thing that would feed a huge family for next to nothing. The kind of thing that would fill hungry bellies on a cold day and leave them set up for whatever was to come. No, it’s not Michelin star cooking – but for £3? You honestly couldn’t produce the same meal for less at home. It was completely marvellous.

My only regret was that owing to the fact that I was completely stuffed, I couldn’t sample some of the Ice Cream delights that are offered. I have been bemoaning the lack of a true Knickerbocker Glory anywhere – and there it was on the Ice Cream menu.

Frank & Sue opened Harveys to fill a gap and not just a hungry gap between your shoulders and your hips, but the gap which meant that many folk would go hungry as food became so expensive and the local meals on wheels service charged more. I love their ethos of providing good home cooking for a small charge and if I ever become incapable of cooking for myself, I know where I’ll be eating – Harveys!

This place deserves to do well and to be supported by the local populace – so come on, I absolutely know there’s something there for everyone.

Jenny paid full price for her meal and the owners of Harvey's had no knowledge of this review