Food & Drink

Published: June 26, 2022 | Updated: June 27, 2022

“This feels like a big moment” says Keri as her meat-free business launches its very first diner

Keri Astill-Frew, Owner and Head Chef, V. Dorset Delivery, inside her new diner in Parkstone, Poole. Picture: Dorset Biz News.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

Saturday June 25 was a big day – and Keri Astill-Frew couldn’t have been happier.

Four years after founding V. Dorset Delivery, her meat-free business launched its first diner.

The restaurant, at 121 Ashley Road, Parkstone in Poole, officially welcomed its first paying customers.

For Keri, Owner and Head Chef, it wasn’t a moment too soon.

She said: “We actually took it on in September and would have planned to open a lot sooner than this.

“We’ve had a stop-start journey, juggling with our existing business and I’ve been working as well.

“But I’m so happy with it now.

“You forget how much work you’ve put into it but when the first customers come in and the food goes out, it’s an amazing feeling.

“There’s nothing like it.”

Keri founded V. Dorset Delivery in 2018, a year after turning vegetarian.

The 34-year-old worked as a professional chef for more than a decade after training in Michelin star kitchens.

But she fell out of love with the sector and retrained as a gardener after gaining a distinction in horticulture at Kingston Maurward College.

Keri rediscovered her taste for the food sector while working as a recipe developer for Tom Amery, MD of The Watercress Company in Dorchester.

V. Dorset started small by selling its range of food at festivals, beginning with Brighton Vegan Festival.

The summer of 2018 saw Keri, and husband Dan, 35, who works at Sunseeker International, attend around 20 festivals.

The food was cooked in V. Dorset’s custom-built prep kitchen at the couple’s Parkstone home with Keri using her skills and knowledge to create tasty veggie and vegan street food.

The next year – 2019 – V. Dorset attended events such as the Isle of Wight Festival involving up to eight staff and also introduced a dessert stall at the Southampton Christmas Market.

The pandemic saw off any hopes of repeating the festival success in 2020.

Instead, the business concentrated on home deliveries across selected Poole and Bournemouth postcodes.

And now, after building up a customer base running into thousands, the new diner has officially begun trading.

It offers the full menu including plant-based and vegetarian burgers, fries, salads, desserts and more.

As a Bring Your Own Bottle restaurant, diners can come with a bottle or two of their favourite tipple.

Glasses can be provided on request and a range of soft drinks are available.

Keri, who together with Dan picked up the award for Best Takeaway in the South West at the 2021 British Takeaway Awards – they’re pictured with host Paddy McGuinness – said it was an exciting moment, albeit unplanned.

She said: “It was not an ambition to have a restaurant.

“When we started doing festivals we said we’d never have a restaurant, feeling it would be too much of a tie.

“But it’s been a natural progression.

“Festivals were physically very hard work.

“Moving everything in and out of a van and setting up with very long days.

“I started to think it would be quite nice to go to one place every day instead of a different location each weekend.

“We never planned to open a takeaway but the pandemic made sense to do it.

“We’re lucky in that we’ve already got a big customer base.

“We’re not starting from scratch.

“We’ve been operating, doing the takeaway side of it for over two years now.”

The new diner can seat up to 34 people inside and out.

Initial opening hours are Fridays and Saturdays 12-9pm and Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from 5-9pm.

V. Dorset continues to offer a full delivery service across postcode areas BH1-4 and 8-16 including Hamworthy and Upton.

Keri said: “We’ve had the business now for four years and I’ve learnt from the past to do things gradually.

“Don’t commit to things before you’re ready.

“Try and build it up because there’s a long way to go.

“We’ve got a ten-year lease so there’s plenty of time to work these things out.

“But this feels like a big moment.”

  • To mark the grand opening, V. Dorset Delivery is offering a special 20 per cent off all dine in and pickup orders on Saturday, June 25, and Sunday, June 26, with the code GRANDOPENING.