New Swanage restaurant brings Dorset flavour to the Bay Area

PURBECK restaurateurs, of the newly built premises overlooking Swanage Bay, are aiming to create a relaxed environment with local produce at the centre of their smokehouse-inspired menu.

Jordan, Julia and Matt Tillman, the brains behind Crab Apple Catering, will be joined by Jordan and Matt’s sister Sarah in this separate venture.

The new restaurant will be called Smoke on the Water, and is set to open at the end of April 2024, in time for the busy summer season.

“It’ll be a smokehouse and a taphouse,” Matt said. “Half will be a bar area, with big communal tables, local craft beer, and an outside terrace. The other half will be more of a restaurant.

“We’ll smoke our own meats in a house rub and the food will be served in American-style trays, which groups can share.”

Previous offerings from the team at Smoke on the Water

Purbeck residents will be familiar with the Tillmans, who have a long connection to food service in the area.

“Sarah’s always been front of house,” Matt said. “I used to work for our dad who owns Swanage Dairy, and then for the Italian restaurant in Swanage.

“Jordan used to work for Crab Apple, and in 2020 the owners decided they wanted to sell the company.

“He phoned me and asked if I wanted to take it on with him, so we did.

“That was March 1, 2020. Three weeks later we had to shut everything down.”

But they’ve come back strong, catering for weddings, events, schools – they even have their own food truck and campsite café. Their restaurant will be situated in the brand new building at the old Pierhead site, and will also offer takeaways.

On the Crab Apple Facebook page, they posted an announcement of their new restaurant – it received almost 600 likes. Matt believes this is a testament to the strong reputation they’ve built up over the years.

“I think a lot of people around here know us and like to see local businesses do well.”

One user commented “Well done and congratulations, you cooked my daughter’s gluten free primary school lunches for years and she was very happy with them, don’t forget us gluten free peeps please.”

The site of Smoke on the Water, overlooking the Swanage Bay

The site of Smoke on the Water, overlooking the Swanage Bay

Inclusivity for customers with different dietary needs is very important to the caterers. Speaking on if they’ll continue providing gluten free options, Matt said: “Absolutely – we know a lot about allergies, a lot of our food is gluten free anyway. It doesn’t affect the flavour.”

READ MORE: Festive food to tickle tastebuds at Athelhampton House Christmas Fair 

And are any more restaurants on the horizon for the Swanage-based family business?

Laughing, Matt said “Definitely just the one for now. A key part of our business is making sure one of us is always there. We’re not interested in just sticking a manager in and leaving.

“We’re going to need to hire staff for the front of house and other areas, but one of us will always be there.”

Smoke on the Water, overlooking Swanage Bay, is set to open at the end of April 2024. 


  1. Marie-Françoise Baker-Madec Reply

    Lovely idea of business! Will definitively visit you once you open! My sons, both at uni in 3rd and 2nd year have already worked at Swanage from June until September last year: lots of customer service experience! Happy to send you their respective CV if you are looking for staff. Thank you

  2. Chris Barrett Reply

    I have known these guys pretty much all their lives. They have a can do attitude and a strong work ethic. I wish the every success. I’ll be supporting them for sure

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