AN ITALIAN restaurant is believed to be the first in Dorset to install a machine for people to use the digital currency Bitcoin.

The unique ATM machine has been a talking point since its installation at La Strada, on Exeter Road, Bournemouth.

Bitcoin is an electronic currency which can be spent around the world.

The ATM at La Strada enables people to buy Bitcoins or withdraw cash, and the restaurant accepts Bitcoin payment by offering a discount to diners who use it.

John Anthony, consultant with the firm Heliopay, which supplied the ATM, said it was the first machine in a Dorset restaurant.

“Only eight per cent of the world’s currency is in hard cash. Ninety-two per cent is in electronic forms,” he said.

“This is a completely new-world technology. We’ve had a huge amount of interest.”

Bitcoin was first released in 2009, allowing users to carry out transactions electronically without an intermediary. The number of Bitcoins in circulation permanently limited to 21million to guard against inflation.

Heliopay provides Airbitz electronic "wallets" for Bitcoins. It also supports the RNLI, which is running a drive for donations in Bitcoin.

Mr Anthony said of the ATM: “We want it to be a talking point and by having the first one in Bournemouth, we’re hoping it’s going to appeal particularly to younger people who are Bitcoin-aware.”

Ami Norian, owner of La Strada, said: “Bitcoin is the way of the future. We think we’re the first restaurant in the whole of Dorset which has a Bitcoin machine for people to come and try this unique opportunity.

“They’ll want to come and invest money and to pay the restaurant.

“I’m looking forward to seeing people’s interest.”

One Twitter impressed customer posted on Twitter: “If I had to make a guess where I'd first eat that accepted Bitcoin, I would guess neither a family Italian place nor Bournemouth.”

The first retail business in Dorset to accept Bitcoins is thought to be Swanage News, where proprietor Andy James started accepting the currency in 2014.